Shurna thing

By Emily Fasold

by Julius Rea, Contributing Writer

John Shurna. The name resonates all over Northwestern University and with anyone attuned to college sports.

In the hours leading up to the Wildcats’ Feb. 29 loss to the Ohio State University Buckeyes, reporters from The Daily Northwestern, North by Northwestern, Scout.com, Comcast SportsNet Chicago and local newspapers and TV stations gathered and waited for Shurna at Welsh-Ryan Arena, 2705 Ashland Ave., Evanston, Ill.

The basketball venue, decked out in Northwestern’s signature purple, was quiet. Athletic Director Nick Brilowski walked out with the stack of athletic newsletters in hand.

As players slowly started filtering onto the court to warm up, Shurna walked in. The two looked at each other and nodded. They both knew why the reporters were there.

The 6-foot-9 forward became the all-time scoring leader for Northwestern men’s basketball on Feb. 18, making him and the Wildcats an NCAA sensation.

Josh Walfish, Daily Northwestern sports reporter, described the record-breaking game against the University of Minnesota Gophers as “pandemonium.” After hearing a loud roar through the stadium, he tweeted, “SHURNA HITS A 3 AND WITH THAT BECOMES THE ALL-TIME LEADER IN POINTS!”

With that shot, Shurna set the record for all-time career points at 1,902, a number that continues to grow.

“Every single bucket, it got louder and louder,” Walfish said. “When he finally broke it with that [3-point shot], it was a fun atmosphere to be in.”

With all of the hype surrounding him, Shurna had little to say.

“I’m just happy continuing to work hard,” he said. “I’m very fortunate and blessed to be in this situation that I am: going to Northwestern, receiving an outstanding education and playing in the Big Ten Conference.”

Walfish said Shurna usually gives these short, honest quotes and doesn’t care about the record.

“And when he said after the game against Minnesota—when he broke the record—that the only thing that mattered to him is that they won the game,” Walfish said. “He truly believed that the only thing that mattered was that they won the game.”

Head Coach Bill Carmody said the whole team is buoyed by Shurna’s refreshing, boyish personality, especially when he’s “feeling good and smiling out there.”

“I always tell him to do that,” Carmody said. “I said, ‘Even if you don’t feel it, it’ll help the other guys.’”

Assistant Coach Ivan Vujic said Shurna is a humble kid and, like all of the players, is a great student and role model who works hard during practice.

“We all come like one team, and there’s a great chemistry on the court and off the court,” Vujic said. “He’s one of our best players, if not the best player.”

He said while getting into the NCAA tournament would be a great way to finish his college career, Shurna is needed to simply

shoot the ball and lead the team.

“I think people trust me,” he said. “I think that comes from my parents and how they raised me.”

Despite all of the media attention and fans rooting and relying on him on game day, Shurna does things college kids do, like watch Will Ferrell movies and get lost in his iPod playlists, most of which he does under the radar.

“I feel as though the name itself resonates on campus,” Walfish said. “To call him a superstar is a little too much because if you see him on campus, not a whole lot of people would actually know that’s John Shurna.”

When he’s not breaking records, he relaxes by hanging out with friends, listening to music and watching some of his favorite movies like “Good Will Hunting,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and “The Lion King.”

Playing ball seems to be just another one of Shurna’s pastimes, one which he has been doing his whole life.

“If you go about it and you’re not nervous about it, you know what you have to do,” Carmody said. “He’s been doing it all of his life, playing ball. All the guys have.”

He also said he thought Shurna didn’t feel pressured during the Feb. 25 game against the Pennsylvania State University Nittany Lions, when he hit two free throws with 2.6 seconds remaining for a 67-66 win.

“I wouldn’t say I was relieving stress shooting, but I think it’s just fun to be out there with your teammates and guys you really get along with and playing a game that everyone enjoys,” Shurna said.

As the team awaits possible NCAA ticket, Shurna is just an average student with a career scoring record of almost 2,000 points.

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