Persistence pays off. And it did for Columbia International University basketball head coach Tony Stockman when it came to recruiting Lugoff-Elgin forward Austin Shilhavy.
When Shilhavy was looking for a school in which to continue his academic and basketball-playing endeavors, he wanted to feel and be wanted. Stockman, a former guard who started his college career at Clemson and before transferring to Ohio State, made sure that he and CIU fit the bill in the recruitment of the 6-foot-4 Demon senior who signed a National Letter of Intent with the school at a ceremony held inside the L-E Wellness Center.
“(Stockman) was checking up on me and texting me every day,” Shilhavy said as to what went into his decision to sign with CIU. “I was always told to go where they want you so I decided to go there.”
In their first season under Stockman, the Rams fashioned an 18-16 record before losing to Grace College of Indiana in the third round of the National Christian College Athletic Association Tournament which came after CIU won the NCCAA regional tourney.
Stockman will welcome a player in Shilhavy who stepped his game up this past season in which he averaged nearly nine points and five rebounds per outing for Garrett Knight’s Demons. This came after Shilhavy averaged 2.7 points and 2.7 rebounds off the bench in the 2017-18 campaign.
“I think Austin got a little more confident. He definitely spent more time working on his shot over the summer. He also got more confident in taking the ball to the basket,” Knight said of Shilhavy’s transformation between his junior and senior season.
“He had this one move which he loved to do. He started getting to the basket and getting to the free throw line more because of it. That led to his getting more points and to his getting more playing time for him because he was producing for us.”
As a junior, Shilhavy was forced to bide his time and wait for his minutes behind a senior-heavy Demon squad which advanced into the 4A state playoffs. With L-E having lost its top three scorers from that team to graduation, Shilhavy understood the opportunity which he had to make an impact for a team which had plenty of doubters coming into this past season.
“After my junior year,” he said, “we had a lot of seniors who graduated and I had a spot to fill. I felt like it was my job to do so. I worked on my game and got a lot better and it went from there.
“I was looking forward to (the 2018-19 season) and not just because I was going to be playing more but, because people didn’t expect much from us after we lost our so-called ‘best players.’ I felt like we could still compete and that’s what we did.”
Shilhavy changed his game between seasons. Now, he is trying to transform his entire body from the player who, as a senior, weighed between what Knight estimated was “between 170 to 175 pounds” to a person who will have a new look once he arrives on the CIU campus later this summer.
“I’m in the weight room, right now. I weigh 190 pounds,” Shilhavy said. “I went from 180 to 190 so I’m gaining some weight. They haven’t said anything about my weight. I’m doing the summer workout that they sent me and getting prepared the best that I can.”
Knight, who is assistant director of L-E’s strength and conditioning program, said once Shilhavy adds muscle to his already long frame, the sky will be the limit as to what he can do for Stockman and company.
“That’s what I’m hoping. I’m hoping they pound him in the weight room and that he gets stronger because he has the shot to go with it,” Knight said. “I think it is about Austin’s getting thicker because he has the size and shot to play there. If he gets stronger, he will definitely be a threat for them.”
With added weight and muscle, Knight believes the versatile Shilhavy could even find himself playing as a hybrid power forward position if Stockman needs him to play there. Shilhavy envisions himself playing on the wing for the Rams. “I feel like I can shoot the ball pretty well. I think I can play either as a shooting guard or, small forward. I think that’s where I fit,” Shilhavy said of his future role.
What will not be much of an adjustment for Shilhavy is getting used to the Rams’ energetic and fast-paced offensive scheme. Since the Demons had more quick and rangy players than bulky post players, Knight employed an aggressive, attacking offense while the Demons’ bench boss.
“I think it’s going to be a good fit for Austin. Hopefully, he’ll be a good shooter for them. That is what they are looking for out of him,” Knight said.
“I love what coach Stockman is doing over there. They get up and down the floor and they play that four-out at one end, which we played and that we got from Newberry College. Austin understands that system.”
If Austin Shilhavy can adapt to the college game and its intricacies as quickly as he did in high school, this will be a successful marriage between player, coach, program and school.
“This is one of the best days of my life,” Shilhavy said as he was about to sign his National Letter of Intent. “I started playing basketball real late in my life. As soon as I started getting recruited by coach Stockman, it changed everything. My whole mentality changed.”