Surrounded by reporters in the depths of the Prudential Center on Saturday night, the attention Seton Hall guard Shavar Reynolds was receiving did not seem possible only a few months ago.
“Whoo,” a grinning Quincy McKnight screamed as he entered the room. “Superstar of the game right here,” said Myles Powell, rubbing Reynolds’ head.
While Reynolds sat down and fielded questions like a seasoned veteran, the gravity of the moment had yet to set in.
“I’m still shocked to be honest, I ain’t gonna lie,” Reynolds said. “I don’t think I really realize what just happened.”
A former walk-on, Reynolds’ story had just hit its climax. With time ticking down on Seton Hall’s Big East opener, Reynolds pulled up and drained a buzzer-beating three from the wing to give the Pirates a thrilling 76-74 victory over previously unbeaten St. John’s. After the shot went through the net, Reynolds wound up at the bottom of a dog pile, celebrating with his teammates – a far cry from the days he spent on the Jersey shore at prep school.
After graduating from Manchester high school as a three-year captain, 1,000-point scorer and career leader in assists, Reynolds had a decision to make. He could either settle for the chance to play at the Division II or Division III levels, or take a prep year in the hopes that he could play at the highest level. Reynolds opted for the latter and spent a year playing for Covenant College Prep, which has produced a handful of Division I players over the years.
Even after spending a year at Covenant, Reynolds did not find a college offer to his liking. With his desire to play against the best constantly burning, Reynolds decided to walk on at Seton Hall. Playing time would be scarce, but it provided Reynolds with the opportunity to go up against elite talent daily.
As a freshman, Reynolds was the epitome of a gym rat. Constantly working on his game in the basement of the Richie Regan Recreation and Athletics center, Reynolds improved with each passing day. He even played 11 minutes in an exhibition game against Boston College, but it was not enough to crack the rotation on a senior-laden Seton Hall team during the regular season.
Although no minutes were available for the taking, Reynolds kept his head down and continued to work. At the conclusion of his freshman year, the possibility of Reynolds seeing minutes was not an unrealistic one. Throughout the 2017-18 season, he drew praise from Kevin Willard as a key practice player for Seton Hall. However, reality soon set in, and Reynolds’ future in South Orange was in jeopardy.
Forced to pay for a year’s worth of tuition as a walk-on, there was a legitimate possibility that Reynolds would not be able to attend Seton Hall for a second year due to financial restraints. Willard was having none of that, though, and brought an end to any worries Reynolds might’ve had about being forced to leave Seton Hall. In the summer, Willard granted Reynolds a scholarship to remain at the school. Since then, Reynolds has done nothing but prove that he belongs with Seton Hall and in the Big East.
“Shavar is not a charity case,” Willard told reporters following Seton Hall’s season opener, in which Reynolds had seven points, four rebounds and three assists. “He earned his scholarship.”
Not only did Willard believe in Reynolds, but so did his teammates. From day one, Reynolds enamored them with his work ethic and dedication to becoming the best player he could possibly be.
“He gets after it. We know how he gets after it on defense,” Powell said. “Coach never would’ve moved him from a walk-on to scholarship if Coach didn’t believe in him.”
“Shavar is one of the hardest working players I know on the team…that I’ve ever played with,” said Michael Nzei. “He doesn’t give up. I feel like even if he messes up, he always wants to correct it.”
With Willard and his teammates in his corner, Reynolds’ rise from walk-on to key rotation player came full circle against St. John’s.
“It’s been a long journey. That solidifies all of the hard work and all of the hours in the gym,” Reynolds said. “That proved that it was all worth it.”
For Reynolds, support has no boundaries. He has plenty of it in South Orange, but also garners a fanbase internationally thanks to his father, Shavar Reynolds Sr. Reynolds Sr. is a Naval officer currently stationed in Italy, but he tries to listen to every game on the radio. When Reynolds hit the shot to knock off the Red Storm, the clock stood at 5 a.m. overseas, making it unlikely that his father witnessed the moment live.
“I don’t know if he knows yet,” Reynolds told Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press. “I can’t wait to tell him.”
By the time Reynolds’ dad found out about the improbable shot, his son had already etched his name into Seton Hall lore. Not bad for a kid who didn’t even have his name stitched on his jersey a season ago.
“All his hard work has given me the confidence to put him in the game in that situation,” Willard said. “It’s really gratifying. Every high school kid should understand that if you work really hard, have a good attitude, and you’re a good person, good things will happen to you. That’s Shavar Reynolds.”