The open gym led to the meteoric rise of Shavar Reynolds Jr. from Seton Hall.


Shavar Reynolds Jr. sat behind the riveted bench in Seton Hall. He loved the way the pirates played.

He was drawn to their strength, tenacity, and the physical style in which they defended. He didn't have to wait. He told his trainer Ian Turnbull that he had made up his mind. He wanted to go to school there.

"Well, Seton Hall has to recruit you," Turnbull replied.

Back then it was a fantasy, a fantasy that somehow became reality. The 6-foot-2 Reynolds turned an open gym workout into a walk-in place and a year later into a Big East Scholarship. Now he is in the rotation of trainer Kevin Willard, the first guard from the bank for a team that is in 16th place in the country.

"That's what I've learned the most – you can't be afraid to fail," said Reynolds, a two-time member of the Big East All-Academic team

He received no scholarship offers from the Manchester Township High School on the Jersey Shore. He played for Turnbull at Covenant College Prep (N.J.) to try to improve his options instead of playing at nearby Division III Stockton University, the other option he was considering. Reynolds did well in prep school, but the Great East was a long shot. He had little interest in Division I and there were no offers. But Reynolds stuck to his dream. He never stopped talking about it.

Shavar Reynolds Jr. has become a defensive force for Seton Hall.
Shavar Reynolds Jr. has become a defensive force for Seton Hall.AP

"The boy just has a dogged determination about him," said Turnbull, who credited it to his parents. His father, Shavar Sr., is a U.S. Navy Master at Arms who is back in the United States after being overseas. His mother Teekemia is a social worker. You instilled in him this belief.

Reynolds was still looking for a school after he finished prep at Covenant College, and he kept asking Turnbull about Seton Hall in need of a walk. Turnbull had discussed it with the coaching staff as a possible fit for this location and taken him to an open gym.

During the training session, Reynolds impressed the Seton Hall players. Angel Delgado loved to play with him. Reynolds continued to run with him and raised the tall man. Afterwards Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington Willard raved about him. His toughness, a hallmark of Seton Hall in this last run of NCAA tournament berths, was remarkable.

Reynolds didn't play much that first year. He was in 19 games, mostly in the mop-up service, and scored a total of seven points. But it didn't change the way he worked. He was adamant and had the same determination he needed to get on the team. He was one of the toughest pirate workers and always spent extra hours in the gym. After that season, Willard called him to his office. He provided him with a scholarship. But he didn't give him anything.

"He deserved it," said Willard. "His attitude was phenomenal. Whatever we asked of him, he accepted the challenge and never complained. I loved having him with me. "

"I will always appreciate Coach Willard because he believed in Shavar when nobody else did," said Teekemia.

Shavar Reynolds Jr. (right) celebrates with Sandro Mamukelashvili after Mamukelashvili Summer-Beater Seton Hall has defeated Butler.
Shavar Reynolds Jr. (right) celebrates with Sandro Mamukelashvili after Mamukelashvili's summer beater Seton Hall won over Butler.AP

His first big moment was last year at the Big East Opener after some high profile appearances during the non-conference season. Seton Hall was early behind local rival St. Johns and collected at one point in the last minute. Reynolds was inserted into the game's last possession, Sandro Mamukelashvili drove and found him on the right wing. He sank the competitive game-winning 3-pointer and was immediately swamped by teammates. The crowd, which included 11 family members, went wild.

“When this ball went in, we cried and jumped and screamed. It was incredible, ”said Teekemia. "We were so proud."

But Reynolds didn't stop there. He continued to make progress and put in extra time. He spent long nights when he was at home working on his game at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, where he had a key card thanks to his father. This year it has become a vital reserve – an average of 4.0 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 15.6 minutes per game. Reynolds is often on the ground and closes games, thanks to his defense, which has relieved pressure on the starting point keeper Quincy McKnight.

Even now that he's built a role on the Big East's top team and has become one of the players Willard trusts the most, Reynolds doesn't think he has achieved anything. He cannot forget what brought him to this point.

"It drives me to this day, despite everything that has happened," said Reynolds. "I still feel that I am so walkable that there are doubts. Every time I exercise, I think about it. It keeps me hungry." It reminds me of where I could be if I quit working. "