He lost a season to injury. But with Shearer back, Chambersburg is 'shocking everybody'
In August 2020, Eli Shearer suffered a torn meniscus, putting an end to his junior season before it even started.
“The entire knee just blew up…” Shearer said. “It was bad.”
But 16 months later, the Chambersburg point guard had the chance to get back on track, but even that wasn't easy.
Setbacks, including an elbow injury, almost delayed his return, but he was able to take the floor at the Franklin County Tip-Off Tournament in December.
“We weren't sure if I was even going to play in the Tip-Off tournament,” Shearer said. “That was my first live game in a long time. So I was worried about what would happen, and there were people questioning around town what was going to happen.”
“But I think I got it done.”
He came back with a vengeance, as the Trojans rolled by Waynesboro and James Buchanan to win the tournament. Shearer scored a combined 41 points in those games en route to being named tournament MVP.
He now averages close to 19 points a game, helping lead Chambersburg to a 10-1 start.
To the casual fan, this performance might appear out of nowhere. He was a reserve player in his sophomore year and missed the entirety of his junior year.
But Shreffler saw what type of player he could be, which made the timing of the injury even more painful.
“He was driving all over the place, playing pickup games, getting the guys together, going to different communities and playing. He was playing at a really, really high level,” Shreffler said. “So it’s disappointing to know where he was at that moment and what he could have done last year.”
His teammates, including senior James Lilley, saw the talent that he had and wished he had the chance to show it off.
“Seeing him in the initial stages was devastating for me, and it didn't even happen to me,” Lilley said. “I know what he does every single day to try to be the best player he can be. So I know it had to affect him.”
Even though Shearer couldn’t be on the court, he still made it a point to be with the team, as painful as that was for him.
“I was at [physical therapy] like five days a week. I was lifting all day long. I mean, it sucked to come to practice and watch, it was awful. I'm not gonna say it was good,” Shearer said. “I had some ball handling stuff but I was out for like nine months. It wasn't fun.”
His presence did have a positive effect on the rest of his team, however. It showed everyone just what kind of teammate he was.
“To see him still there cheering us on, it meant a lot, because he had physical therapy to go to,” Lilley said. “He had other things, but he chose to stick with the team and be dedicated to the team even though he wasn't playing, which was really an awesome thing to see.”
Shreffler attributes his constant presence with the team as one of the reasons he’s in the position today.
He was able to grow as a leader while watching and learning about his teammates and competitors.
“Eli's a team guy,” Shreffler said. “His teammates selected him as captain, so they really believe in him and trust him. And a lot of that came from, even though he was hurt, still being there, still doing what he could.”
Even though Shearer provided a lot off the court, his presence is better felt on it. And he’s not surprised by how well he’s playing.
“I knew this would happen,” Shearer said. “This was going to happen last year, but that was cut short. I've been waiting for this.”
Lilley wasn’t surprised either.
“He wants it. He's truly dedicated,” Lilley said. “He's getting his body right physically in the gym. And he's very mentally strong as well.”
That mental aspect is what Shreffler is most proud of, because he views that as the toughest part of this process.
“From a confidence standpoint, it's hard to come back,” Shreffler said. “Even though someone says you're healthy, in the back of your mind, you're still not that confident to where you are physically, and then he had some minor little setbacks and things like that which were difficult to overcome too. So, mentally, he had to really overcome I think as much if not more than what he had to work on physically.”
He thought that it might have taken Shearer some time to get to where he wanted to be, but he didn’t need that much time at all.
“He wouldn't come back if he wasn't ready to go 100 percent,” Shreffler said. “Once he felt like ‘Hey, I'm ready to give it everything I've got’, you saw that when he stepped on the floor. There wasn't a whole lot of rust. He was ready to play and ready to compete.”
Chambersburg is competing in the Commonwealth Division, putting itself in a position to contend.
To some, the Trojans have come out of nowhere in the league. Last year, they started 0-12. They've come a long way since then, and Shearer thinks it’s time for people to keep an eye on them.
“To start like this, we're shocking everybody right now,” Shearer said. “We need to be talked about a little bit more.”
Shearer wants a league title and a run at districts. Maybe if he was healthy, they could have contended for that last year.
But to him, it’s better late than never.
“I put in the work,” Shearer said. “I've been waiting a long time for this year.”
Dylan Jacobs is a sports reporter in Franklin County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DylJacobs.