What was left of the opening-night crowd at the Prudential Center on Nov. 10 let out a half-enthusiastic roar when Jordan Walker hit a three-pointer to give Seton Hall an 86-63 lead with 3:10 remaining. The game had been decided and the outcome of the final few minutes seemed fairly insignificant.
That was not the case for walk-on guard Shavar Reynolds, who got the call soon after that to check in for the first time in his Division I collegiate career. Halfway across the world in Greece, Reynolds’ father, Reynolds Sr., a master-of-arms chief in the United States Navy, listened attentively to an audio stream of the game at 3:30 a.m. local time.
Stepping on the Prudential Center court that night, to both Reynolds men, was not about the impact the younger Reynolds would have on the game, but the achievement of a nearly lifelong pursuit, which began in Pennsylvania and had stops in Virginia, Maryland, Japan and New Jersey due to his father’s military deployments.
“I don’t even know how to explain the excitement that I have,” Reynolds Sr. said. “I am so proud of the work he put in to get where he’s at right now, because, he has kind of made the full commitment to be the best that he can be, and to make it in basketball.”
Reynolds played sports throughout his childhood, always picturing himself reaching the highest possible level. However, throughout most of his upbringing, as much of his time was spent in the backfield as the backcourt, hardly the blueprint to reaching a Division I, nationally-ranked college basketball program.
“Here is the funny thing, at first I was a football player,” Reynolds Jr. said. “I wanted to go to the NFL. But as time goes on, like Japan, Japan is when I really started playing basketball a lot. So that’s where I started to fall in love with it. Then I came back to the states, and I was like, ‘I think I’m going to do this basketball thing instead of football.’ And that is when me and my dad started really getting in the gym.”
Reynolds Jr. has two siblings, both sisters, and one of them is a top-ranked high school basketball player in New Jersey. It is no coincidence given the work-ethic and determination of their father, that both are succeeding playing the sport they love.
“My motto was always, ‘Anything we’re going to do we’re going to be the best at it,’” Reynolds Sr. said. “So, we kind of took that route for basketball.”
Despite the frequent flier miles, Reynolds Sr. was able to be with his family for most of his career in the service. That all changed towards the end of 2015, Reynolds Jr.’s senior year in high school, with the beginning of Reynolds Sr.’s current stint in Greece. During this period, Reynolds Sr. was able to visit the family home base in Manchester Township for only a short period each year.
“It’s definitely a challenge,” Reynolds Sr. said. “Trying to still be a part of everything they have got going on here; trying to make whatever difference I can from afar. Not be a part of everything physically, but mentally, emotionally, spiritually.”
He has one year remaining in Greece, and only one month to bridge the gap between this past stationing which he just finished and the one that awaits him in 2018. But he is making the most of his time back with his family, and made quite the entrance this past week, when he surprised his son by arriving a few days earlier than expected at one of the team’s film sessions on Dec. 1.
“My wife kind of set it up,” Reynolds Sr. said. “[She] talked to [Director and Basketball Operations] Kyle [Smyth]. She just asked about it, if it was possible to try to surprise Shavar. He didn’t know exactly what day I was coming home. So, we wanted to surprise him, especially since I was flying into Newark, and it was pretty close to the school.”
Reynolds Jr. did not know how to react when his dad became visible through the windows of the team’s film room. He knew something seemed suspicious about the way the film session was being conducted, as it was more drawn out than usual. Still, Reynolds Jr. was left in shock when the mystery was finally solved with his dad walking through the doors in full uniform.
“I had a feeling, but I didn’t really know,” Reynolds Jr. said. “When he came around the corner, I couldn’t really react. I was just shocked, like, ‘oh snap, he’s right here.’ That was why I didn’t really cry or anything, because I was just in shock.”
Now back home, Reynolds Sr. will have a chance to see his son play in person. Listening seven hours ahead in Greece, Reynolds Sr. was able to hear his son drain a buzzer-beating shot in that season-opening win against Fairleigh Dickinson, as well as a fall-away shot versus Vanderbilt right before the clock hit triple zeroes on another win on Nov. 25.
Listening to his son’s debut was certainly special, but seeing him play in the blue and white for the first time will be a level above that.
“There was so many people that said that he was good, but, not that he would be at the level he is at right now,” Reynolds Sr. said. “No one gave him any chance to make a division one level, Seton Hall level basketball program. Everyone told me he was a lower mid-major player, but he didn’t take that.”
Seton Hall will play three games at home in the next few weeks, at Walsh Gymnasium on Dec. 12 against Saint Peter’s, and at the Prudential Center on Dec. 20 and 23 against Wagner and Manhattan. While there is no guarantee that Reynolds Jr. will step foot on the court in those games, do not bet against another trademark end-of-game shot to send the master chief into euphoria.
James Justice can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JamesJusticeIII.