Local basketball fans have long known about Jordan Martin, who started for the Bordentown Regional High School boys’ basketball team for four straight years. During that time, Gavin Shiver continued to hone his game to where coach John Myers considered them equals in what they meant to the Scotties as seniors.
“Jordan was ‘The Man’ but we needed two guys to be ‘The Man,’” Myers said. “With them, it wasn’t Batman and Robin, it was Batman and Superman.”
When asked which one he was, Shiver laughed and figured, “I would take either. . . .but I guess I’ll take Batman because I like his movies better.”
He could have starred in his own highlight reel movie this past year, as Shiver became a more complete performer and one of the top players in the area. He averaged 18.6 points per game, second on the team to Martin (19.2); and was also second to Martin in 3-pointers with 57.
Hitting threes has long been a Shiver staple. He made 47 as a junior en route to a 12.8 scoring average, and had 33 as a sophomore while averaging 7.8 points. But that made him one-dimensional. This year, his huge jump in scoring came as a result of a better all-around game.
“Teams were figuring me out and guarding the three-pointer,” Shiver said. “Now they know I can get to the basket, I can pull up, shoot a three. I can do whatever. It really helped me as a player working on different skills other than just relying on my three-pointer like previous years.”
Getting to the basket opened up a whole new world for Shiver. Not only by making lay-ups but by drawing fouls and getting to the line. After making a combined 53 free throws his first two years, he drained 67 this season.
“He made himself a better finisher at the rim so he could score in more ways than one,” Myers said. “You’re talking about a kid who shoots 90 percent from the free throw line. I always said to him ‘Dude there’s gonna be a time in your life they’re not gonna just sit there and let you shoot balls. They’re gonna find you.’ That happened to him in last year’s playoff, and he came back and really had an ability to get to the rim so he could take foul shots.”
The coach noted that Shriver has that deceiving “Larry Bird quickness to get to the rim. They started putting guys on him that were longer but they couldn’t cover him on the perimeter.”
Shriver played basketball for quite a while before he decided to actually focus on it. From first grade through seventh he was also playing baseball and soccer and didn’t take hoops seriously. But travel ball started in eighth grade, and a light clicked on.
“I started seeing I was pretty good at it and could do something with it,” he said. “I started working on it and concentrating on it.”
After playing JV as a freshman (while sitting bench on varsity), Shivers got decent minutes as a sophomore on a 19-10 team lead by Jacquey Mendez and Martin. He became a regular last year and became the team’s second-leading scorer behind Superman. This season, the Man of Steel got help as the Caped Crusader swung on to the scene.
“Gavin had to work on his confidence, his willingness to figure out how to be the man,” Myers said. “Sometimes that requires you to be selfish. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s like, sometimes LeBron (James) has to be selfish because he’s the man. I think that was a really hard transition for Gavin. It’s not his personality.”
Shiver watched Mendez closely as a sophomore and learned a lot about leadership. He credited that year for giving him some confidence and helping him grow as a player, since he was going against older and stronger players. His progress continued last season, and exploded this year as he and Martin played well off one another.
“I knew Jordan couldn’t do it all himself and I knew someone had to step up so I just worked as hard as I could to get better every day and I stepped up,” Shiver said. “I think the great thing about us is we both have a really good basketball IQ and both looked for each other to get each other shots. For leadership we both learned stuff from each other and I thought that was the greatest part of us playing together.”
As Myers succinctly put it, “Without one of them, the other wouldn’t have been as successful. They needed each other.”
“Jordan could slash and make shots,” the coach continued. “What are you gonna do? Guard him and leave Gavin open? Because then he’s gonna kill you.”
The Scotties finished 17-12 in the duo’s final campaign together. Against Robbinsville in the Central Jersey Group II tournament quarterfinals, the Ravens made a furious run to tie the game before Shiver converted a three-point play to start a 10-0 run orchestrated by himself and Martin.
In the semifinals, Shiver had maybe his career game with 24 points in an 80-67 loss to top-seeded Manasquan that was closer than the final score.
“Aside from Myron Gordon, that was one of the most dominant performances I’ve seen in any of our playoff runs in the seven years I’ve been here,” Myers said. “He flat out carried us. He made big shot, after big shot, after big shot. It was as impressive as anything. Gavin was the man. He made step-back three after step-back three, floater after floater.”
In the coach’s mind, that brought Shiver full circle. Myers recalled his sophomore year in a state game against New Providence, when the Scotties were clinging to a lead.
“He made one of the biggest plays in the playoffs that year that we could ever make,” Myers said. “He went diving on the floor to save a steal when New Providence was coming back against us with a minute left. It was a huge, huge play.”
And his career ended with a huge effort in another playoff game, although this one a loss.
“My point to that is his big plays he made as a senior were different than as a sophomore because he was in a different role,” Myers said. “But he was willing to accept that role back then. But in both situations they were big plays that had to be made, and obviously he made them.”
Sadly for Shiver, his big effort at Manasquan ended in a loss, but good memories are lodged in his mind.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “I loved it. I loved the dudes I played with, I loved my coaches and all the fans who came out every game to support us. I would definitely say winning the division all four years was a highlight. Every year we won at least one or two playoff games. And scoring 1,000 points was definitely awesome.”
Shiver will continue to work on his game. He plays at least an hour of basketball every day and is preparing to play in college. Rowan College at Burlington County wants him badly and Shiver is considering going the junior college route, but has yet to make a decision.
As he leaves the Scotties program, his legacy is that of a guy who worked his way up to being great.
“It’s just an amazing thing,” Myers said. “It’s a wonderful story how he developed as a player and as a leader. He was willing to take all those big shots, willing to fight with me. The joy of playing for me is I want
your raw emotion. He really figured that out and became that much more passionate about the game. He was stunning this year.”
And Gotham City, er, Bordentown, was better off for it.