Devontae Shuler has embraced his new role as point guard for the Ole Miss basketball team.
The same is true off the court as he has become an outspoken voice on the skin condition vitiligo. It affects more about 1 percent of the world’s population, according to the Vitiligo Support Foundation, including 2 million to 5 million people in the United States.
Vitiligo (pronounced vit-ih-LIE-go) is a condition in which pigment is lost from areas of the skin, resulting in patches. The spots are noticeable under Shuler’s eyes, mouth and on some of his face and hands.
Shuler, the Irmo native, began noticing symptoms between his eighth and ninth grade year. He said his father’s sister had the condition as well. According to medicalnewstoday.com, the exact cause of vitiligo is unknown, but it might be due to an autoimmune disorder or a virus.
“I always talk about it,” Shuler said as spoke Thursday in Columbia prior to the team’s game Friday against Oklahoma in the NCAA Tournament. “Some people would stare or give me strange looks, or people asked if I got burned or anything. Definitely have a lot of support with it and haven’t had any problems.”
Shuler says he does his best to encourage others dealing with the condition. He recorded a video on world Vitligio Day on June 25 and gets plenty of messages on social media about advice for dealing with the disease.
“People message me and tell how they appreciate me being out on the court. … Biggest thing is to keep confidence and to not let anyone bring you down. You aren’t the only who one deals with it,” Shuler said. “God made me like this and I can’t control that. It gives me more attention than almost playing basketball. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Shuler is getting plenty of attention this week playing his first NCAA Tournament game less than a half-hour from where he grew up in Irmo. The first three questions in Thursday’s news conference at Colonial Life Arena went to Shuler and were about his return to the Midlands.
Shuler will have plenty of friends and family at the arena for the first game Friday. He was disappointed in the way he played back on Feb. 19 when Ole Miss played at South Carolina. He scored six points in the 79-64 loss to the Gamecocks.
“This a great opportunity. Not many basketball players have March Madness in their hometown,” Shuler said. “There was a lot of pressure on me the last time but I feel like it is another opportunity for me to show my family and friends what I am capable of doing and what this team is capable of doing.”
For the most part, Shuler has thrived in his move to point guard, a position he hasn’t really played since he was at Irmo. He was shooting guard at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia his senior year in high school and his freshman year at Ole Miss.
Shuler is averaging 10.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game this season. He has at least three assists in seven of Ole Miss’ last 10 games.
“He’s probably been the key to our team,” Ole Miss coach Kermit Davis said of Shuler. “We really met in the spring, and I really think he understood what we wanted. The biggest thing he’s done, he’s valued the ball. He’s a tough, competitive guard on the ball defending. He really has. Breein (Tyree) and T.D. (Terrence Davis) have had these great All-SEC years, but Devontae Shuler has been maybe our most valuable player on the floor.”
NCAA Tournament Columbia regional game schedule
The NCAA Tournament in Columbia schedule for Friday’s games (with Sunday’s second round game times to be announced).
(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) Oklahoma, 12:40 p.m. Friday (truTV)
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Gardner-Webb, approximately 3 p.m. Friday (truTV)
(1) Duke vs. (16) North Dakota State, 7:10 p.m. Friday (CBS)
(8) VCU vs. (9) UCF, approximately 9:40 p.m. Friday (CBS)