VENUS — When coach Jay Underwood sized up his Venus Bulldog basketball team before the season, he saw 12 seniors and no underclassmen on his varsity squad.

But then in October, there was one more welcome addition to the team.

Sophomore guard Anton Shashirov became the only underclassman on Venus’ team when the season started in November.

And though every player that doesn’t have varsity experience has to make major adjustments as the season goes along, Shashirov’s adjustments are far larger than the ones most underclassmen have to make.

One might notice that Shashirov’s name isn’t a typical name one would find on a team in rural north central Texas.

Shashirov will be celebrating his first Christmas in the United States after moving to Venus with his mother from Kazan, Russia.

Anton and his mother came to the United States this fall so she could marry Woody Harnell. Ever since, Anton has been enrolled at Venus High and playing basketball with the Bulldogs.

He has missed one game this season, against Grandview during the Venus Whataburger Classic, to attend his mother and stepfather’s wedding earlier this month.

Of course, this move has brought about a major change of pace for Shashirov.

Kazan’s population was estimated at 1,153,000 in 2002, while Venus’ population was recorded at 910 in the 2000 census.

Not only is the disparity in population huge, but Shashirov said one of the biggest adjustments he has had to make since moving here has come with the weather.

While today’s weather will be in the mid 60s, the Christmas forecast for Kazan is not nearly as pleasant. Today’s projected temperature is 19 degrees with a chance to drop to as low as 10 degrees.

“Right now, it is below zero [Celsius] and snowing,” Shashirov said.

The population and weather are a whole new world for Anton, and one might think the basketball floor would be a familiar place for him. And while that is true, there are significant differences there as well.

According to Shashirov, the style of play is far more aggressive in Russia.

“There, they let you play more aggressive,” Shashirov said. “It is more physical there, and they don’t call as many fouls.”

But Shashirov said he enjoys the style of play in Texas more than the Russian style.

“In Russia, the teammates are very aggressive. They are not friendly. Here, the team is supportive and friendly,” Shashirov said.

Anton has a very good defensive game based on the Russian style of play along with emulating his favorite NBA player.

“I like Kevin Garnett,” Shashirov said. “He has a good shot, and he plays very good defense.”

The Russian system provided for more personal attention from a plethora of coaches, but the attention was focused solely on on-the-court performance.

“We had many trainers there, and a strict diet,” Shashriov said.

In Russia, a large portion of Anton’s diet consisted of soups and healthier food than is prevalent in the normal American diet. Anton’s favorite food so far in America is barbeque beef.

But even with the multiple coaches each focusing on specific parts of a player’s game, Shashirov says there are many perks to playing in Texas.

“The gyms are a lot nicer here, and I like that,” Shashirov said.

As a student at VHS, Anton’s favorite class parallels his work on the court, as he particularly enjoys his speech class taught by coach Underwood.

Underwood feels Anton will become a vital part of the Bulldogs’ success as his career progresses.

“Anton’s a very good defensive player with the skills he’s brought over from Russia,” Underwood said. “Once we get all the way through the language barrier, I think Anton’s going to be something special.”

So keep an eye on Shashirov and the Venus Bulldogs as their season, and Anton’s career in Texas, progress.

Josh Manck can be reached at 817-645-2441, ext. 2335, or

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