For much of the last decade, Samme and Shannon Givens have been a common commodity in the Philadelphia area college basketball circuit.
Both Shannon and Samme started at Drexel University, where they had some success. Samme came to the school in 2008 and made an impression on the Drexel fan base immediately. In freshman year, he averaged 20 minutes per game, 5 points, and nearly 7 rebounds. The next year, his brother Shannon joined in.
Shannon was coming off an impressive season at Fels High School in Philadelphia, where he was named first team All-Public League and averaged more than 23 points per game.
“My brother and I always had a dream of playing basketball together,” Shannon told The Empire. Thanks to hard work and chemistry with his brother, Samme upped his points per game to 7 and his rebounds to nearly 8. Shannon contributed only 2.7 points per game, but shot a strong 43% from the field and 45% from three in about 10 minutes of play. However, the team was mediocre and had struggle winning. They finished with a 16-16 record. Despite the up-and-down season, Shannon still remembers some good memories.
“My fondest memory was when we played against Kentucky,” reminisced Shannon. “We lost by 44 points that game but the experience to play against the best team in the country with a sold out arena was electrifying. Kentucky had 7 players that went to the NBA that year and I’m pretty sure 4 of them were only freshmen. Also I can say that my brother and I held it down for our team with 12 points for Sam and 10 points for me.”
But that was Shannon’s last season, as he departed for West Chester University, where his father, Kevin Givens, had played basketball. He is the school's all-time leading scorer.
“I decided to transfer from Drexel because after my freshman season there. I felt that I didn’t fit the style of play that coach Flint had for us,” added Shannon. “Also, with me not being happy on the court I thought I was bringing my brother down in terms of him worrying about me.”
Maybe Shannon was right. The next season was a strong one for him and his brother. Shannon averaged nearly 10 points per game and started majority of the season for West Chester. He also tacked on many explosive games, including 27 points at Gannon and 9 assists at the University of the Sciences.
As Shannon was thriving in his new setting, Samme was becoming one of the best players in the Colonial Athletic Association. He helped the Dragons to a 21-10 record and averaged a double-double. Samme was one of the most efficient players in the conference, shooting 52% from the field. But it wasn’t enough to lead Drexel, as they didn’t get out of the CAA tournament and were often plagued by a plethora of turnovers.
The next season was Drexel’s best in some time. Behind the guidance of then senior Samme, the Dragons went 29-7 and earned themselves a bid to the NIT tournament. After opening the season 2-4, Drexel won 23 of their next 24 games prior to the conference tournament. But they were once again eliminated out of the CAA tournament by VCU. The season wasn’t ruined though because they earned themselves a chance to play in the NIT, where they won two games.
Samme continued his success, averaging 11.6 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, and 1 block. He stayed consistent shooting from the field 52% and upping his free throw percentage to north of 70%. No wonder it was such a successful season for Drexel.
On the other hand, Shannon did not play the 2011-12 season. The West Chester basketball site described his absence as a “one year hiatus”. The next year, Shannon’s junior season, he averaged 8 points per game and had 40 steals. Although he made only 1 start, he played in 28 games and was a common commodity off of the bench. WCU had a strong season behind Shannon’s guidance with a 20-8 record. But the next year was even better.
In 27 games during the 2013-14 season, Shannon averaged 12 points, including 6 games with 20 or more points. His quickness also paid off, averaging 1.2 steals per outing. West Chester went 20-10 and earned themselves a trip to the NCAA DII National Tournament. The team was eliminated by Indiana University (PA) despite Shannon’s 18 point, 6 rebound performance.
Samme, in the meantime, was in the Netherlands for the 2012-13 season. He was playing with Leeuwarden and was a dominant force. Shooting 65% from the field, Samme averaged 17 points per game and 8 rebounds. A year later he moved on to France, where he averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds, shooting 50% from the field. He started 4 of their 49 games.
Last season he bounced to Germany, but didn’t have his best year, averaging 9 points and 6 rebounds in 16 minutes of play. Although his PER was higher than the year before and he contributed when he could, he just couldn’t find consistent minutes. The man continued to do what he has done since Drexel however, shooting 54% from the field. Now he is on his way to Maccabi Raanana in Israel.
As for Shannon, he is now two years out of West Chester. “I’ve been keeping myself busy with basketball,” he said. “I’ve been on tour in Mexico playing in the top league, I’ve coached an 8th grade AAU team [called] Renegades, and I played for the Schuylkill Firedogs, a semi-pro team in the Eastern Basketball Alliance league. Also I assisted at Academy of the New Church this past year with my dad and Jeff Lytes, and their boys basketball team.”
But don’t think this is the end for Shannon and Samme. Still good friends, Shannon says he is “going to Israel” with his brother to tryout for a few teams to try and start his career overseas.
Maybe they will join forces again? It’s a possibility.
-Drexel ends season with 80-70 loss against James Madison in first round of CAA tournament