In terms of pure shooters, Dennis Shaffer is on the short list of the greats to pass through the halls of Mason City High School.
His shot helped the Mohawks to two straight state tournament appearances in 1970 and 1971, and it helped him star at NIACC and beyond.
Even in the days before the 3-point line was in use, Shaffer was in a league of his own.
“Most of my shots came from out there,” said Shaffer, who averaged more than 29 points per game as a senior. “I talked to a few people and they said if there was a 3-point line I would have averaged about 40 per game.”
For Shaffer, who will be inducted into the Mason City High School Athletic Hall of Fame at the end of August, his time as a Mohawk meant the world to him.
Playing under coach Dick Garth, who, like Shaffer, is in the Iowa High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Shaffer didn’t get his first taste of varsity basketball until his junior year. Even then, Garth was hesitant to play him.
“Jay Benn was kind of the star of the team when I was a junior and coach Garth never liked playing younger guys, so I sat on the bench,” Shaffer said. “When Jay got hurt, it gave me an opportunity to play.”
Benn, an all-stater in 1970 as a senior, and Shaffer helped guide the team to its first state tournament appearance in nine years in 1970, then the next year, Shaffer blazed his own trail.
Shaffer went on to enjoy a huge season for the Mohawks, averaging 29.5 points per game and splashing in a total of 732 points over the season, including a 51-point performance in a game against Charles City, as Mason City returned to state.
The 732 points in a season is the third highest total in school history — Dean Oliver scored 741 in 1997 and Jeff Horner matched that total in 2002.
It was Shaffer’s work ethic that got him to that point, he said.
“I played all the time,” Shaffer said. “At least four to five hours a day, and I played against older competition in Jay and Brian Lockwood. Brian took me under his wing and really helped me, especially as a sophomore, and we became really close.
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“I just strived to beat those guys.”
After high school, the decision to continue his career was an easy one because freshman weren’t allowed to play on varsity team at Division I schools, which made JUCO the way to go. In his two years at NIACC, Shaffer said the competition level in Iowa was “unbelievable.”
As a basketball player, he continued to grow.
He scored 734 points as a freshman, including a 51-point game and 50-point game, at NIACC and finished his career with 1,463 points in two seasons. Along with Terry McKissick, the duo provided the Trojans with quite the scoring threat. Shaffer provided the shooting and McKissick was more of a slasher.
“That was a really good run,” Shaffer said of his time at NIACC. “We worked so hard and so diligently every day.”
Part of that had to do with the man coaching the team, legendary coach Herb Konigsmark.
“Herb, he was a character,” Shaffer said. “He was really demanding, but I was really blessed to have those two coaches in my life. They cared about us, they were firm and demanded a lot, but also gave you thanks for working hard, too.”
Shaffer went on to play at Minnesota, where he said he didn’t have such a great experience. After that, he played several years in the professional basketball summer league in Los Angeles and eventually signed with the NBA’s Seattle Supersonics before being released due to roster restrictions.
Shaffer currently is the owner of Dennis Shaffer Painting in Newport Beach, California.
As he gets set to join the school’s athletic Hall of Fame, Shaffer said Mason City will always have a special place in his heart.
“It’s a special moment,” he said. “I grew up there, still have a ton of friends there and my brother is still there. It was a great part of my life and I’ll forever be grateful for it.”