Everyone in the McPherson College Sport Center Saturday night was waiting with great anticipation.
It wasn’t a matter if Samson Shivers was going to break the Bulldogs’ all-time career basketball scoring record, but when.
The magic moment came with 12:07 left in the first half when Shivers drilled one of his patented 22-foot 3-pointers, which gave him 2,003 points, eclipsing the former record of 2,000 held by Kenny Romero, who was in the house and led the cheers once the feat was accomplished.
Ottawa, the Bulldogs’ opponent, must have been aware of Shivers’ impending record. The Braves’ Bryan Newton started out playing airtight defense on him and Shivers’ first shot didn’t come until nearly eight minutes gone in the game, a 2-point basket that tied the record.
But it was only 14 seconds later that Shivers made the prettiest rainbow you’ll ever see for the record and he scored again moments later to complete a personal 7-0 run.
He would go on to finish with 18 points to sit at 2,016, though the Bulldogs were edged in the game, 91-88.
And it’s a record that could have some staying power. Shivers is an anomaly in this day and age in the KCAC, a four-year standout. The conference trend in recent years is to bring in two-year players from the junior college ranks and develop the freshmen the first couple of years before they’re ready to play.
Shivers, though, has been a vital Mac contributor since he first stepped foot on the court after coming here from Houston, Texas. While he’s known as a streaky shooter, when he gets hot there’s nobody that can stop him. For four years he’s been among the most dangerous 3-point shooters in the conference.
McPherson College coach Tim Swartzendruber would like to have a team of Shiverses, as he’s meant a lot to the program and to the school.
“Since he arrived, Samson has always been a tremendous shooter,” Swartzendruber said. “Very streaky, but never lets a miss bother him. What people don't realize is how much he has improved in other areas of his game. He has become a very good defender and better ballhandler. He has learned to get points in other ways than just spotting up and shooting. Especially this year he has been better about shot faking and/or driving to basket and getting to free throw line."
The Bulldogs were sensational as a team the first two years Shivers was here, including a 2012 Final Four appearance at the NAIA National Tournament.
“His first two years he was blessed to have Aaron Frazier (an All-American point guard), which allowed him many more spot-up opportunities, but last year and this year he has had to work harder to get points because most teams don't help off him which makes it tougher for him to get open,” Swartzendruber said.
Even though the Bulldogs struggled during the regular season last year, Shivers helped lead a magical run through the KCAC Postseason Tournament. The Bulldogs, the No. 8 seed, won three straight road games, two of them in improbable fashion, to continue their unprecedented run of making nationals. The Bulldogs again are looking at a low seed, but you never know when a team can get hot.
Swartzendruber said Shivers is the type of student-athlete the KCAC should shine its light on. Before Saturday's game, Shivers was the recipient of the annual Pat Noyes Award, which goes to the Bulldog who best exemplifies the leadership and character of Noyes, a former Bulldog who later went on to work for Oklahoma State in an administrative capacity before tragically dying in the school's plane crash in 2001 that killed 10 members of the program.
“Samson has excelled in the classroom here having over a 3.0 cumulative grade point average,” Swartzendruber said. “He has spent considerable time in the McPherson school system working with kids. He is always extremely positive and accepts coaching. He works hard every day. The conference has some extremely talented players this year, but most of them are transfers. What sets Samson apart is the fact he has been a Bulldog for four years and has bought into the basketball program and school. To score over 2,000 points in a career is certainly an amazing accomplishment.”
Shivers was ever so humble after the game. He first gave praise to Swartzendruber and his teammates before talking about the record, saying without them it wouldn’t have been possible.
“Even though we didn’t come out on top tonight, our team made a lot of shots,” Shivers said. “That’s what I like about this team. If I can’t get anything going, I’ve got different teammates that can get shots and make shots.”
Shivers’ streaks are a sight to behold. In Thursday’s game at Kansas Wesleyan, he buried eight 3-pointers, including three in overtime against his favorite team, as he averaged 31 points in the two games against the Coyotes this year.
"Sometimes as a shooter that as soon as it leaves your fingertips you know it's just in," Shivers said. "It's just a good feeling."
Shivers will not only leave Mac as its all-time leading scorer, but as one of its all-time leading ambassadors.
"I pretty much get along with everybody on campus," Shivers said. "They like me and I like them. I can't say enough about how the team and the coach have helped me through my four years, not just basketball but in the classroom. I just want them to remember me as a good guy."
I couldn't have said it better myself.