BAYVILLE, N.J. – Kemari Reynolds has played a lot of basketball. The Manchester Township High School (N.J.) junior point guard is a 1,000 point scorer and has been a key piece of a program that’s reached new heights over the last three years, including its first ever Shore Conference Tournament title and Group II final appearance this year.
But her father, Shavar Sr., hasn’t been able to watch most of Kemari’s greatest moments on the court. At least not in person.
That’s because Shavar is in the U.S. Navy serving overseas as a master at arms. He’s been able to watch a handful of games that have been streamed or various highlights online, but otherwise, he’s missed a lot of her high school career.
So that’s why Shavar made a point to catch up on lost time and attend some games during this historic Manchester season. Now on leave, Shavar surprised Kemari and was in the building on Tuesday at Manchester Township High School when the Hawks captured their third straight sectional title and on Thursday at Central Regional when they punched their first ever ticket to the Group II final.
“It’s very important that he’s here, and it makes me so happy because he’s been gone for three years, and he’s only seen me play in recorded games online,” Kemari said after her team’s 64-48 over Manasquan in the Group II semis. “Him being here in person and seeing him in the stands cheering for me, it’s amazing. My heart is so full.”
Shavar, whose son, Shavar Jr., is a Manchester alum and current freshman on the Seton Hall University men’s basketball team, returned home Monday night. Kemari saw her father sneaking back into the house late in the night and was amused by her family’s attempt to surprise her.
“They snuck him in late at night, I guess they thought I was sleeping,” Kemari said. “I was like, ‘I see you, that’s you right there.’ It was a great moment. I dedicate everything to him.”
Not wanting to affect her play on Tuesday with the emotional shock of the reunion, Shavar decided to make his presence home known well before opening tip. For the father that’s been gone for so long, this week watching his daughter play has been a thrill for him.
“When you’re in the military, you travel a lot, so you have to be gone, so every time you get the chance to be there for your kids, it’s that dream come true kind of thing,” Shavar said. “This is what I do as a father. Everything goes well for them or everything goes bad for them, I want to be there and support them.”
Once word got out that Shavar was home, the Manchester Township community wanted to make the family reunion even more special. For Thursday’s game, the student section decided on a strict dress code. It was red, white and blue in honor of Shavar’s service to his country.
“That’s why I love my school,” Kemari said. “They support my whole family.”
Shavar said he’s going to be home for some time. He has to return to Virginia to tend to his military obligations, but he’s hopeful he can witness firsthand Manchester’s quest to capture its first ever Tournament of Champions berth with a win on Sunday against Lincoln in the Group II final.
“For him to be able to make it and for her with the joy that she has and to play as well as she did, it makes it that much more special,” Manchester Township coach Dave Beauchemin said. “To share one of her memories that way, you see the joy it gives her.”