Photo courtesy of St. Joseph’s University Athletics
By David Cordova
For those that follow basketball in New York City, many know that it is an hub for guards. In a place that in which the presence big men are scarce in the present day, the point guard and the two-guards have taken over in the Mecca of Basketball.
On the college level, you see plenty of guards from the Big Apple doing it big. Shavar Newkirk is one of those. The 6-foot point guard out of St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia has plenty of razzle-dazzle moves, but is one player that can definitely lead a team.
On Valentine’s Day, February 14th, Newkirk had a very good homecoming as St. Joseph’s came to the Bronx to play Fordham in Atlantic-10 action and when all was said and done, he left the Rose Hill Gymnasium with 19 points, seven assists and six rebounds and helped the Hawks beat the Rams, 71-55.
When asked what motivated him to be successful in the game of basketball, he replied, “My supporters. Today, I got play a home game in front of my family and friends, like 50 of them came to support, and I did it for them.”
The Harlem native started playing basketball at the age of five and his father, Sharried, handed him the ball as a way to keep him occupied and keep him out of trouble.
Also, when asked about being that popular section of Manhattan, he replied, “Being from Harlem, it’s a culture of swagger and confidence, and I just try to bring that everywhere I go when I play.”
In his younger pre-teen days, Newkirk played with both the New York Gauchos and the Riverside Hawks, both prominent programs with a long, rich history in the Big Apple’s basketball culture. “I first started playing ball for Gauchos. I played on the B team, then I got good and tried to play on the A team with Tommy [Swinton], because he said he had enough guards. That’s when I moved to Riverside, they taught me how to play basketball, and it took off from there.”
Then in the seventh grade, he went on to play for Team SCAN (now the PSA Cardinals), in which he was one of several players from the original group of players that would eventually play Division I basketball.
When asked about his days at Team SCAN, he replied, “Team SCAN, Munch is a great coach. He taught me about hard work, and going at everybody that was higher than me in rankings at the time, and he’s just a real good dude to have around, he’s just a big supporter.”
Newark first started out high school at the now-defunct powerhouse, Rice High School, which was in Harlem, where he played on their freshman team. Unfortunately, he would never get to play on their varsity squad, because in the spring of 2011, Rice would close, due to declining enrollment and financial woes.
When asked about Rice, Newkirk replied, “Yeah, basically, we was Cardinal Rice, that’s what they was trying to call us, because the last of my freshman class all came to Cardinal Hayes and stayed together. Rice didn’t die, we’re each alumni [of Rice].”
He then transferred across the Harlem River to Cardinal Hayes in the South Bronx, where he was a three-year varsity starter and led the Cardinals to a 75-14 record in that span. As a senior in 2013-14, he led the Cardinals to a 26-2 record and a CHSAA Archdiocesan title, their first since 1974. That year, he averaged 17 points, seven assists and four rebounds per game for Hayes, and won the Daily News Bronx Player of the Year award, and was named All-City three years in a row.
“The Hayes experience was great. Coach Lods was great. He pushed me to play hard, put the ball in my hands to make opportunities, and I took them to the semifinals, I wish I could have gotten a championship, but he got that later on,” said Newkirk about his days at Hayes.
In high school, Newkirk held offers from schools such as Hofstra, Florida International, Manhattan, Iowa State, Iona, UMass, and Providence. But in July 2013, he committed to St. Joseph’s University.
When asked about why he chose the school in Philadelphia, he replied, “The lady standing behind you, my mother. She liked what the coach had to say, she liked the campus and she said, ‘Shavar, this a must-go.'”
And he also got a chance to play for a legendary coach in Phil Martelli, who has led the Hawks to eight NCAA Tournament appearances and a 425-303 record in his tenure. He has also produced six NBA players, including Delonte West, Jameer Nelson (Detroit Pistons), Langston Galloway (Detroit Pistons) and DeAndre’ Bembry (Atlanta Hawks).
When asked about playing for Martelli, he replied, “Phil Martelli is great. He loves guards, he loves people that have confidence in themselves and want to score the ball and win games, he’s all about winning and if he sees that [in you], he’ll push you to be great.”
As a freshman, he averaged 3.3 points and 2.3 assists per game. But then as a sophomore, he stepped up his play and averaged eight points and 2.6 assists per game, as he led the Hawks to a 28-8 record, an Atlantic-10 Conference championship and a second-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Things were going good in his junior year, as he averaged 20.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game in non-conference play, until the first Atlantic-10 Conference game on December 30th, 2016, when he suffered a torn ACL injury, which would end what was a spectacular season for him.
“It was a humbling experience, because I always thought I couldn’t be injured, because I never had an injury,” said Newkirk about the injury. “That was my first injury, but I learned a lot on the sidelines, I got to learn the game more, study the game more, watch more film, I saw how effective I could be when I did play.”
The previous season, St. Joe’s struggled with an 11-20 record. This past season, with Newkirk back on the court, they finished 16-16 and made it to the Atlantic-10 Conference semifinals, where they would lose to Rhode Island.
Newkirk had a swan song for the ages as a senior, averaging 17.4 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game for the Hawks in his final collegiate season and made the Atlantic-10’s Second Team All-Conference list.
When asked about how he wanted to be remembered as far as his legacy at St. Joseph’s, he replied, “I just wanted to be considered as one of the great point guards along Jameer Nelson, Delonte West and Langston [Galloway]. I just want to solidify myself as one of the greats of all-time.”
Newkirk will graduate from St. Joseph’s on May 19th with a degree in Sports Marketing. What’s next for him in the future is uncertain, but one thing that is certain is that with his 1,193 career points (38th on the school’s all-time scoring list) and 333 career assists, he will definitely be a part of the all-time greats list at St. Joseph’s.
Highlights of Shavar Newkirk:
Courtesy of Frank Dehel.
Courtesy of From the BComm TV.
Courtesy of FromTheBottom2TheTop.
Courtesy of FromTheBottom2TheTop.
Courtesy of NCAA March Madness.
Courtesy of Stadium.
Courtesy of AJ Buono.