As the confetti fell around the arena after Stephen F. Austin won the Southland Conference tournament, Shannon Bogues stood looking around the gym taking in the moment thinking, “Am I really living this? Am I witnessing this?”

“It was like a ‘wow’ moment,” Bogues said, thinking back to that March 10 game when the Lumberjacks beat Southeastern Louisiana 59-55. He admitted that it took about three days for the realization to sink in.

“You really won your ring; this is what you’ve been dreaming about and you actually accomplished something,” he remembers thinking after the celebration was all said and done.

Bogues didn’t have much time to relax following the championship as he waited, along with his team, to see how the Lumberjacks would be seeded in the NCAA Tournament.

Stephen F. Austin basketball had some struggles at the beginning of the season but that didn’t distract Bogues and his teammates from their ultimate goal — a conference championship.

“At the beginning, it was rough, but we all figured out this is what we want to do,” he said. “Everybody bought in, not just for the seniors but for us, too.

“So we just dug in, fought hard every game — even when we lost we fought hard — and just stayed focused.”

A chance at the big dance has been a dream of Bogues’ throughout his basketball career, “Once we actually made it, it was like a dream come true.

“It was a blessing to have that dream come true because I always wanted to just make it and just to experience it.”

The journey to March Madness for the 6-foot-2 junior guard, who led the team in scoring at 15.4 points per game despite coming off the bench, started in Killeen at Ellison High School.

Head coach Alberto Jones Jr. continues to watch as his former player grows and sees the kind of role model he has become for his current players.

“Especially for his brother, Shamir,” Jones added, “not in a way that he has to be like Shannon, but that hard work pays off.”

Most kids in the area dream of signing directly with a Division I program, but Bogues is an example of making your own path to reach your dreams.

He has been chasing the dream of a championship ring since high school but fell short. He continued to chase that dream when he attended McLennan Community College in Waco and was still ringless before transferring to Stephen F. Austin.

“I think it sounds nice to kids, signing DI,” Jones said, “but we always tell them, take the opportunity to play the game you love and get college paid for, or mostly paid for.”

Bogues’ chase of this dream was long, but it made finally earning that ring with his Lumberjack teammates that much sweeter.

“So many people doubted us,” he said, “but then when they see us or they play against us, it’s a totally different response.

“We put in that hard work and it showed. At the end of the day, it showed.”

As he thought back on the road to this moment, Bogues laughed to himself as though he still couldn’t believe it, “I’ve been dreaming for this and it actually came true.”

Jones has watched Bogues play throughout his career and was able to see him in a conference game earlier in the season. “It’s great watching these guys go from freshmen to grown men playing college basketball.”

Stephen F. Austin was seeded No. 14 in the East Region and faced No. 3 seed Texas Tech in the first round. Bogues scored 14 points, battling cramps and SFA lost 70-60 in a bruising battle that wasn’t decided until late.

“It was a blessing to have that dream come true because I always wanted to just make it and just to experience it,” Bogues said. “I would have liked to win a game but, you know, we still have next year.”

Although the season ended sooner than his team would have liked, Bogues got a taste of the action, which was enough to make him hungry for more and determined to make it back next year.

“In the moment of the game, just seeing all those people there and not just at the game but to be on TV, with everyone supporting me. … It was just a good feeling,” he said.

A few days after the Lumberjacks were knocked out of the tournament, Bogues came to visit and made a stop at Ellison to shoot around in the gym with Shamir, a sophomore who played on the varsity this year.

“He’s a program guy,” Jones said of the eldest Bogues brother, “if I ask, he’ll come and talk to my guys.

“He bleeds Ellison green.”

As for the ring he’s dedicated his playing career to earning, Bogues knows exactly where he’s going to keep it.

“My dad has this little area upstairs in the game room,” he said, describing the place his father keeps his and his two younger brothers — Shamir and Shaheim’s — basketball gear.

There you’ll find his jersey from when he played at McLennan in the middle, with various medals and plaques around it, and later this year, a new addition will be added.

“It’ll be on display for all of us,” Bogues said, noting that his brothers and his family get very excited watching him play.

The entire experience this season with his team has given him a case of the championship bug, but it’s the postseason feeling he’s chasing, “I want that moment again, so this offseason I’ll be working 10 times harder.

“We’re striving to get there and not just get there, but win,” Bogues added, as he explained his offseason plans to get stronger, get more rebounds next season and overall be a more vocal player. “That’s my goal.”

Thinking back on that early March day as the confetti fell to the gym floor, Bogues couldn’t help but laugh remembering how emotional he was.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said, “I wouldn’t say it’s hard to explain, but the feeling is great, just knowing you and your teammates — we’ve been through so much. We said, ‘Let’s leave it all out on the floor, let’s give it our all and just do it for each other.’

“And that’s what we did.”

As his team became the Southland Conference champion, Bogues had 15 members of his family in attendance to witness, along with all those back home and in Killeen watching on TV.

“After the game I had a bunch of phone calls, messages with ‘We’re proud of you. Keep doing what you’re doing.’”

As Bogues’ offseason begins, the championship feeling — the emotions, the ring, the March Madness experience — keeps him motivated to keep on doing what he’s always done: Work hard and chase his dreams with his team. | 254-501-7562

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