Born: June 23, 1977
John Henry Shumate was born April 6, 1952 in Greenville, South Carolina and grew up in Elizabeth. John’s father was a hardworking minister. He and his wife provided positive reinforcement to their son and kept him from getting involved in drugs and gang life. Big and agile, John developed a love of sports. However, he was cut from the Jefferson High basketball team as a freshman.
John worked tirelessly on his game and made the varsity as a sophomore. By his senior season he had grown to 6’9” and earned high school All-American status. He received a scholarship to Notre Dame and developed a close relationship with new coach Digger Phelps. After averaging over 20 points a game on the freshman squad, John was felled by a blood clot in his left leg and missed his sophomore campaign. He survived and recovered but suffered from recurring blood clots throughout his college and pro career.
John averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds in his first varsity season. As a senior in 1973–74, he led Notre Dame with 24.2 points and 11 rebounds. He was named a first-team All-American. The highlight of the season was a January victory over UCLA, which ended he Bruins’ epic 88-game winning streak. John, Adrian Dantley and Gary Brokaw led a wild comeback in the game, with John playing great defense down the stretch against Bill Walton. He controlled a loose ball under his own basket as the final seconds ticked away. In the NCAA Tournament that year, the Irish fell to Michigan in the regional semifinal. John’s final college game was the regional consolation game against Vanderbilt. He scored 30 points in a 118–88 blowout.
John was taken by the Phoenix Suns with the 4th overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft. Despite passing the team physical, prior to the season a clot was found in John’s left lung. He missed the entire season, but was healthy for the 1975–76 campaign. The Suns had one of the best teams in the west that year, thanks in part to the play of first-year center Alvan Adams. Phoenix traded John during the season to Buffalo for veteran Garfield Heard, who helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals that spring. On the Braves, John teamed with Bob McAdoo and Randy Smith. Playing close to the basket, John finished with the best shooting percentage in the league at 56.1, averaging 11.7 points per game overall. Buffalo won their opening playoff series against the 76ers, but lost to the Celtics, who went on to defeat the Suns for the NBA title. John was 5th in the Rookie of the Year voting, with Adams finishing 1st.
John spent the entire 1976–77 season with the Braves and averaged a career-high 15.1 points and 9.5 rebounds. McAdoo was gone, replaced by John’s old teammate Adrian Dantley, but the two forward were unable to make up for the lost points and the Braves sank out of the playoff picture. Early the following year, Buffalo swapped John for Marvin Barnes of the Pistons. He played well for Detroit, but the Pistons were also a sub-.500 team.
The blood clot problem recurred during the off-season and John missed the entire 1978–79 campaign. After being cut by Detroit early in 1979–80, he found a place on the Rockets’ bench and then was traded to the Spurs for Billy Paultz. Ironically, the Spurs lost in the first round of the playoffs that spring to the Rockets. John was a bench player for the Spurs and Sonics in 1980–81, his last in the NBA. He averaged 12.3 points and 7.5 rebounds for his pro career.
John found work as a college coach during the 1980s, first as an assistant with Notre Dame and as head coach of NAIA Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, and later with Southern Methodist, where he ran he program from 1988–89 to 1994–95. In 1993, the Mustangs won the Southwest Conference Championship and earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. After his stint at SMU, John worked as an assistant with the Toronto Raptors and then for the Suns, in community relations and scouting. In 2003, he coached the WNBA Phoenix Mercury. The following season, John returned to the NBA as an assistant with the Suns.