OWASSO, Okla. — Shake Milton is spending time in the Owasso gym before the next chapter of his basketball story starts at Southern Methodist University.
"It went by really fast, you know? Growing up you couldn't wait to be older and now that you're here, you really want to go back," Milton said.
It's been one month since the former Owasso player graduated. His glory days in high school were impressive. He received Gatorade Player of the Year honors, a school award for athlete of the year and all-american honors.
The list continues, but Milton did not start out as strong as he finished.
"My freshman year I didn't really get anything. I didn't get any letters or anything like that, so that was something that always bothered me," Milton said.
By Milton's sophomore year, the calls came flooding in.
"You want to do things with your friends instead of being on the phone all the time and stuff like that. At the end of the day my mom told me you really just realized you're blessed," Milton said.
He is blessed to play the sport he loves every day.
"To me, basketball is everything. I love it," Milton said.
Milton said he holds onto memories of the person that taught him everything he knows about basketball -- his dad, a man who left his life too soon.
"He died in his sleep, but they said his heart was too big," Milton said.
Myrion Milton died during Milton's freshman year.
"He was like my best friend. He was a basketball nerd, too, so we would just sit there and watch basketball together," Milton said.
When his father was gone, Milton said basketball was therapy for him. It was how he handled his grief.
"I remember just telling my mom I was going to the gym. Coach would unlock it and I'd just be in there for hours on end," Milton said.
He said he practiced everything his dad taught him.
"My dad used to make me put these goggles on where I couldn't look down at the ball and made me dribble over and over again," Milton said.
The experience created a humble but confident force to be reckoned with. Milton said his father would repeat one message to him.
"Every time you walk out on the floor, you have to know you're the man and that no one else can stop you and no one else can play with you," Milton said.
Milton said he kept pushing himself to get better and stronger, knowing his dad is still cheering him on.
"I know he's looking down and he's proud of me. I just try to put my head down and keep moving forward," Milton said.
Now he's heading to college, but those moments of suiting up for the Owasso Rams aren't just memories.
"I'll never really forget where I came from so wherever I go, Owasso will always be on my back," Milton said.