By Rubin E. Grant
Will Shaver had planned to wait until his birthday in September to announce where he was going to play college basketball.
But the 6-foot-11 center from Oak Mountain High School couldn’t wait that long, especially since his dream school, North Carolina, offered him a scholarship.
So, on the second day of a two-day visit to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Shaver committed to the Tar Heels on June 2, which just happened to be his dad, Chris Shaver’s, birthday.
“It’s been my dream school since I was a little kid,” Shaver said. “Growing up, on a Tuesday night I would see North Carolina on TV playing Virginia, Miami and Duke. It captivated me as a kid and made me want to play for them.
“I never thought I’d be in a position to play basketball there. They had been recruiting me for six or seven months and offered me three weeks ago. When I stepped on campus, I knew right away it was a special place. At the end of my visit, I knew it was the place for me.”
Chris Shaver was thrilled with his son’s decision. The older Shaver played basketball at Birmingham-Southern College and is a member of the school’s sports hall of fame.
“Since I was his first coach, I’m very proud,” Chris Shaver said. “He’s gone from the YMCA hardwood to the Smith Center in Chapel Hill. It feels humbling.”
Will Shaver became the first recruit of new North Carolina head coach Hubert Davis, who succeeded the legendary Roy Williams. Williams retired at the end of last season.
During his visit, Shaver had lunch with Davis at his home and with the other Tar Heel coaches. He also met football coach Mack Brown during his visit.
“Coach Davis is a great guy with a lot of energy,” Shaver said. “He’s a family guy and a friendly guy, but I hope he coaches me hard.”
Shaver also got a chance to play some pick-up games with some of the North Carolina players.
“He played well,” Oak Mountain coach Chris Love said. “After that, he decided to commit right then and there.”
Love said Shaver is the most high-profile recruit he’s ever coached.
“In my 30 years coaching as an assistant and a head coach, I’ve never had a player to go to such a high-profile school as North Carolina,” Love said. “It’s exciting. I’m glad it worked out for him.”
As a junior last season, Shaver helped the Eagles win their first state basketball championship, averaging 14.3 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game as Oak Mountain captured the Class 7A crown. He was selected to the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s Class 7A second team all-state.
Shaver had planned recruiting visits to other schools, including Kansas, Purdue and Virginia Tech, but canceled those plans.
“There will be no more visits,” he said. “Recruitment is closed and I’m 100% committed.”
Preparing for His Chance
Shaver won’t attend Oak Mountain for his senior season. He plans to enroll in a prep school.
“I honestly think it’s the best option and makes the most sense,” Shaver said. “I will get to play against the best competition.”
He and his parents have talked to IMG Academy, the prestigious prep school in Bradenton, Florida, among others.
“We thought prep school was our next best play,” Chris Shaver said. “We’re fortunate we left Oak Mountain with coach Love’s blessing. We wanted to find a spot where Will could continue to develop.
“We talked to IMG, but we haven’t finalized anything. We’re waiting to see what develops.”
Love believes Will Shaver will flourish at North Carolina.
“One of the main things is he lost 40 or 50 pounds before last season and became more agile and more athletic and he moved his feet a lot better. He can score at all three levels, in the post, mid-range and three-point range, and he proved he can guard players on the perimeter.
“His game has really grown since he came to Oak Mountain. Plus, he loves it. He’s a gym rat. On the night he got back from North Carolina he texted me, asking me when he could get in the gym.”