Sept. 17, 2013
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RALEIGH, N.C. - NC State didn't find Ronnie Shavlik in a high school gym, at a summer basketball camp, or on a Rocky Mountain playground near his Denver, Colo., home.
Wolfpack assistant coach Vic Bubas discovered him in a Chicago newspaper story, which was how recruiters often targeted prospects in the 1950s.
"We subscribed to about 20 or 30 papers from around the country,'' said Bubas, whose eyes lit up when he read how the 6-8 center had made an All-Star team competing against older players.
After checking with coaching friends who had seen Shavlik play, Bubas called the "can't miss" prospect. Long story short, Shavlik flew in for a visit, liked what he saw -- and the rest is history.
Wolfpack coaches didn't see Shavlik play before he arrived on campus, but quickly realized the young giant had a giant's game. Between 1953 and '56, he was one of the nation's premier players who grabbed 1,598 career rebounds, still a State record.
Shavlik's life was short-circuited by cancer in 1983 at age 49, but his legacy lives. He made an indelible impact on the court and in the community, reasons he'll be enshrined in NCSU's Athletics Hall of Fame in November.
Life couldn't have gone much better for "Shav" at State. He met and married Beverly Senna while in college; he got a good education; and he made storied Reynolds Coliseum rock with a prolific scoring touch and rebounding mastery.
Unlike most of that era's bulky big men, Shavlik was a lean, long sovereign of the paint with a delicate touch around the basket and dominating grip around the backboards.
A two-time All-American, Shavlik averaged 22.1 points and 18.5 rebounds his junior season. The sequel his senior year was superb as he produced 18.2 points per game, a school record 19.5 boards, won conference Player of the Year honors and helped State capture its third straight ACC championship.
Along the way Shavlik excelled in the famous Dixie Classic holiday tournament, twice winning the MVP award. All that is why his No. 84 hangs among State's honored jerseys.
Bubas, who became a highly successful head coach at Duke, reveled in Shavlik's exquisite timing on rebounds and skill at both ends of the floor.
"He was remarkable,'' Bubas added.
Still etched in old timers' memory is Shavlik rising high to tap in a teammate's missed shot and snatching the ball off the glass to fuel the fast break that was a staple of legendary coach Everett Case's teams.
Mobile and agile for a 6-8 player, he would glide through games and stuff the stat sheets.
Rewind to 1954 when he scored 55 points against William & Mary, setting a school record that was later broken by David Thompson's 57 points vs. Buffalo.
Rewind to the '55 season when he had 49 points and a State record 35 rebounds in a victory over VIllanova. Not William, not Mary, not Villanova, not anybody, could shut "Shav" down.
Yet every day wasn't a tap in and a triumph for Shavlik. There was some pain in the game he loved.
He broke his wrist in '56 and wore a brace part of the post-season. The fracture hurt, but that hurt paled in comparison to the broken heart he suffered in a four-overtime, NCAA tournament loss to underdog Canisius which ended the Pack's national title dreams.
"That was the most sickening thing," Shavlik said in a Raleigh Times story years after the defeat. "I can still feel it. I couldn't believe we lost. We were mentally prepared to play San Francisco in the finals."
Shavlik stood tall in the eyes of many youngsters, including those around the Cameron Village Apartments where he and Beverly lived.
She recalled how he'd come home from practice and quickly eat supper so he could spend time teaching them basketball.
"Shavlik is an All-America in every respect, both on and off the court," Everett Case said in story by former State Sports Information Director Bill Hensley.
"(He) has so many admirable qualities it's hard to name them all. He always plays his hardest but he's at his best against the toughest competition. He's the only player I know who draws nothing but praise from opponents and his own teammates."
Vic Molodet, the All-America guard who formed a potent inside-outside attack with Shavlik, added to his teammate's accolades.
"Underneath he was tremendous and all his board action was phenomenal; It was a pleasure to play with him,'' said Molodet, who enjoyed Shavlik's friendship off the court as well.
"He had a wonderful personality. Easy going. Easy to get along with. I don't ever recall him raising his voice or getting mad."
LIFE AFTER BASKETBALL
After concluding his college career, Shavlik was picked fourth overall in the NBA draft and played two seasons with the New York Knicks before returning to Raleigh.
Over the next 20-plus years he was a devoted family man and entrepreneurial businessman who contributed much to the area.
He helped Beverly raise two children, daughter Kim and son, Dean, who played football for the Wolfpack. Now it's grandson Shavlik Randolph carrying on the basketball tradition.
Shavlik, who grew up with three siblings in a hard-working, athletic family, wasn't afraid to sweat. He started a commercial cleaning business in Raleigh and served as President of Carolina Maintenance and Southeastern Sales Company.
That probably came as no surprise to people who knew him in Denver. Back then young Shavlik and some friends created a cleaning business in addition to going to school and playing basketball.
Though busy running a company, Shavlik carved time for family, civic endeavors and Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.
"He had a wonderful walk with the Lord,'' Beverly said.
Shavlik's civic contributions included helping with Wolfpack Club fund-raising drives, chairing both the Mayor's and Governor's Committee to Employ Handicapped and the Wake County Shelter and Mental Health Committee.
He also started the popular Shavlik Basketball League, which gave high school age athletes an opportunity to play in the summer.
For his accomplishments Shavlik was honored in 1980 with the NCAA's Silver Anniversary citation given annually to athletes who excelled after college and contributed to society. Beverly said that was the award her husband treasured most.
In 1983 hundreds attended Shavlik's Celebration of Life service, a farewell tribute to a tall man who lived a short time, but made a big contribution in his 49 years.
By A.J. CARR, GoPack.com