Spending months away from home is the sacrifice most professional basketball players have to make to live their dreams. This route, while exciting, can also be nostalgic especially with having to adapt to a different culture with each migration to a new country. Luckily, 34-year-old Shamar Coombs has never had to deal with these emotions, because for him, home is where the basketball is.
“When I play basketball, it gives me a sense of home, no matter what’s going on in my life, it just gives me that sense of comfort, and home,” – Shamar Coombs
In his professional basketball career, spanning seven seasons, Coombs has played for teams in Europe, South America, and Asia. And each time he has had to pack up, and take the journey to these different continents, apart from the jet lag and the sometimes long drives, he was rarely apprehensive.
The gift of basketball
Describing his family as very athletic, he shared that both his mom and aunts played basketball and Denham Brown, Canadian basketball star, and Jana Barrett are his cousins.
When he was 11-years-old he realized that he too possessed the gift.
“I was attending Walter Perry Junior Public School, my brother was on the senior team and my coach came to me and told me ‘I think you should play on your brother’s team, because you’re good enough’,” he said.
So as a junior he went to play on the senior team, and recognize that he was ‘pretty good’
Young Coombs would once again follow in the path of his older brother and attended Birchmount Park CI a school for athletics in Scarborough, Canada. The only reason he got in was because his brother who was already attending the school. There he became a 2x Toronto East All star and was at the top of the leader board for scoring.
Coombs then went on to West Hill C.I., and played point guard on a star studded team that included Jevon Shepherd, Nathan Skinner, Dwayne Smith, and Jamar Burke that won a Scarborough City Champion in 2004.
Coombs built up his personal accolades becoming a 3x Toronto East All Star at the end of his high school career at West Hill CI. There he was recognized as one of the top guards in the country and selected to compete in the 2004 All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T-Dot national high school all star game. At West Hill is also where he met connected with his high school coach, Wayne Dawkins, a teacher at West Hill CI, and Founder of P.H.A.S.E 1 Youth Association that ran the All Canada Classic. The short time at West Hill was enough for them to both developed a mutual respect.
I first saw Shamar at Birchmount where he put buckets all over my stacked West Hill squad. I knew he was special because he is cut from the same cloth as his cousin Denham Brown who played for me earlier. – Wayne Dawkins
“Wayne was a person who was very in tuned with the game. He would help you with your personal training, he was more on court. I always respect him for that,” – Shamar Coombs
After completing high school, he enrolled in the Toronto Athletic Prep School, where he travelled and played in the United States as a part of the first ever travel prep school in Canada.
He then received a scholarship to Tallahassee Community College in Florida. Here, Coombs spent two years, and was one of the captains of the team. Coombs remembers his arrival very distinctly.
“When I first arrived to meet the team at the gym following my flight in, we all huddled up in the middle to introduce ourselves to the team. One of the first things some of the guys ask me was if there really was black people in Canada. I was like man, is this serious!?! After that day I set out to show all of them that, YES, there is and we are Canadian too! – Shamar Coombs
Matter of fact Shamar showed the whole country and went on to become a top 100 Junior College player in America, recruited heavily by mid and high major NCAA D1 schools.
Afterwards, he received a division one scholarship to Texas A&M Corpus Christi University, and although during his time the University did not win any championship, it was worthwhile for him, and added to the foundation he was building towards a professional basketball career.
Slow start to a professional career
However, this journey did not take off as quickly as he would have liked.
“It started off pretty slow. I tried out for a few teams, I went to try out for an NBA D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley but it didn’t work out,” he said.
He then moved on to playing semi pro in Dallas with the Dallas Impact ABA team for the 2012-2013 season. Here, Coombs was averaging 20 plus points per game.
After this he went back home to Canada to work on his game, and got a call to play for a team in Kosovo-KB Drita.
I remember I got a call from the team manager and I sat down with my good friend Mike at his home to Skype them and talk about my playing for KB Drita. The money wasn’t too high but it was for me to start up in Europe and sky’s the limit from there,”
Admitting that until that day, he didn’t even know the country existed, he relied on his faith, and agreed to go.
And after a slow start to his professional career, everything with this deal happened so fast. After he agreed to go, Coombs shared that he had only four hours to pack his things and catch his 10 PM flight. Regrettably he didn’t get a chance to say proper goodbyes, but he was ready to take on the new opportunity.
“ I can say I wasn’t really nervous, more like ready to go.It was very emotional I can’t lie cause everything was just so fast,” – Shamar Coombs
“Kosovo was pretty rough, half of the buildings were bombed up because they went to war some years back, it was pretty rough out there, but I had basketball,” he said.
Unfortunately, his team did not win any championships but Coombs was selected to the ETC Superliga Allstar team.
Soon more opportunities were opening for Coombs, he went to Manizales Colombia, and played for Once Caldas BC for five seasons.
After sustaining a back injury, he took a year off from the game and is currently playing for Sabios Basketball Club.
Throughout his basketball career, it comes as no surprise that his role model was his cousin, Denham Brown, with whom he shared a very close relationship.
Words can’t explain how much he helped me throughout my career! I like how he played, how he scored, and just how his mentality was. Plus he’s my cousin, and we were always together, he’s like my brother. – Shamar Coombs
After seven years and many countries Coombs has developed a simple but effective routine for his life as a professional basketball player. On game day if it is the 6pm tip-off, he eats lunch at noon, then relaxes playing video games. Then he fixes himself a sandwich and takes a nap for an hour. After recharging from his short nap he heads to the shower and plays some music to get himself in the groove to compete.
I will try to get to the gym pretty early so I can get enough shots, and listen to my music. What I listen to depends on my mood, but it is always a choice between reggae and rap music. – Shamar Coombs
Letting go of NBA dreams
Like most basketball players, Coombs shared the dream of one day making it to the NBA. Now he admits that his chances are ‘slim’ he has made peace with that.
“I know there’s a very slim chance I can make it to the NBA but, I’m alright with that, I’ve crossed the world, and I’m not done playing so there’s more parts of the world to see so I’ll be alright,” – Shamar Coombs
In the end, Coombs just wants to be known as someone who chased his dreams, and made it his home. “I have friends and people that go through processes of not getting a job, nobody calling them to play basketball, and they just quit. Sometimes you wait five months, six months, but I had faith, and I waited, and when I got the chance and went out there, I became a star,” he said.