As J.C. Cavin gets set for workouts as a member of the Charleston Southern basketball team for the first time this week, it’s easy to look back at his path and wonder how in the world he got there.
With few intriguing options after graduating from St. James High School in 2012, the Greenville native endured a two-year gap before even getting a shot at college basketball.
“It’s definitely the path less traveled,” said J.C.’s father, Scott Cavin, who coached his son at the Grand Strand-based Sports Academy of South Carolina for one year after his high school graduation.
Following his time at the Sports Academy, J.C. Cavin spent a year studying at Coastal Carolina University while hoping to earn a shot as a walk-on with the basketball team. That never came to fruition, but he soon would catch the eye of Columbia International University coach Kyle Mendenhall at a local showcase for prep school and junior college athletes, leading to a scholarship.
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He would always show up no matter what, whatever team we played. He’s just a competitor. I think once he left the Sports Academy and got on with CIU he brought that same competitive edge and that’s what got him [there].
Socastee JV coach Brad Houck
Cavin played three years with the NAIA Division II Rams, whom he left being among the career leaders in scoring, assists, rebounds and steals, Scott Cavin said.
“I was super excited. I was glad that all the hard work had paid off – all the hours in the gym and everything,” said Cavin, who wound up participating in a few events for the track and field team at CIU as well. “Just going through the route that I did, it was just awesome the way everything was laid out and everything that God did for me was awesome to – I wouldn’t say the end tale, because I had a year of eligibility to transfer after that – but it was good to see that I was there and I made it to the college level.”
I enjoyed it. I learned a lot. … I was just able to learn new things, become a better leader. I was captain two years at CIU and so that just helped me because I want to coach Division I in the future. It was just a great stepping stone for me to play and be a leader on my team and just learn the ins and outs of college basketball – just how it works, you know, the film, the practice, the weight room, the workouts, all that stuff. So I just tried to absorb as much information as I could from my coaches.
He isn’t done. His progress at CIU led to him getting a chance this winter to play as a walk-on at Charleston Southern.
13.4Cavin’s points per game during the 2016-17 season
“For him, it’s never been ‘I have to play Division I basketball.’ For him, it’s been ‘I want to get my degree. I want to become a coach and this is my goal. And I want to become a Division I coach,’ ” Scott Cavin said. “So he set the goal and he said, ‘You know what, I’ll see what offers I have after I graduate.’ ”
The Buccaneers coaching staff was already familiar with Cavin, who scored 22 points against CSU during the 2015-16 season. In fact, Cavin and Co. played against Charleston Southern in each of his three years with the Rams.
After Cavin graduated with a degree in Business Organizational Leadership and Bible and one year of eligibility remaining, CSU seemed a logical place in which to play one final season as a graduate transfer.
Scott Cavin, who has been coaching some 30 years, knew Buccaneers coach Barclay Radebaugh and assistant B.J. McKie, and he and his son approached them about the prospect. After discussing J.C.’s desire to play and learn in his pursuit of a coaching career, both sides agreed the 6-foot guard would be a great fit to walk on to the program.
Cavin moved in over the weekend, has started summer classes and is eligible to start NCAA-permitted limited workouts with the team this week.
“I’m super, super excited. It’s always been a dream to play Division I basketball and I’m just ready to see what the future holds with everything,” J.C. Cavin said. “I’m just ready to go out and work hard and see what happens.”
5.3Cavin’s assists per game during the 2016-17 season
That’s the type of attitude that has allowed the undersized and wiry Cavin to succeed in a game that mostly features bigger and bulkier players, according to another one of his former coaches.
“He’s a big underdog, but I think he’s one of those underdogs that will come over the top,” said Socastee JV coach Brad Houck, who worked with Cavin as an assistant at St. James and later as a member of the Sports Academy coaching staff. “I think if the coaches give him an opportunity [to play], he’ll take full advantage. He’ll do what he does best and compete. He’ll go out there and show what he has to give to the game and I think that’s what surprises coaches and guys that see him play. He’s not the most athletic person. He’s a skinny little guy, but he works hard and he fights.”
What I see now is not surprising. J.C. has been undersized his entire life, but he’s always played with the older guys. He’s always been the younger kid, and then last year as a senior at CIU – because of his first year playing with us at the Sports Academy and then going to Coastal Carolina – he became the oldest guy on the team. It was funny. His roles completely changed as far as the aged leader when he was there at CIU.
Simply becoming a college basketball player was perhaps the biggest battle for Cavin, but he says that during the journey he never lost faith.
“I never got to the point to where I didn’t think it was going to happen,” he said. “I knew that like if I kept pushing myself I would eventually put myself in the right situation and I would be able to land somewhere and play college basketball because there’s so many opportunities out there to do it – whether it’s the Division I level, Division II, Division III, NAIA, whatever it is. I knew I could play college basketball [when I was] in high school.
“My dream was to play college basketball so I continued to push and pursue it.”
He’s not your typical athlete by any means, but he does give you 100 percent in what he does. He lays it all on the line. He’s a coach’s player. He listens. He does anything that you ask him to and he lays it all on the line. He gives you his heart.
Socastee JV coach Brad Houck
Cavin will be working toward an MBA in Leadership at CSU this fall in addition to continuing his on-court career.
“As a dad and a coach, I couldn’t be more proud, because what more can you ask for from a guy?” said Scott Cavin, who said the Sports Academy is currently in flux because of the financial demands to run it and the fact he’d like to have time to watch his son play at CSU. “He’s a great student. He’s a great citizen. And he’s a really, really, really good basketball player.”
It got me used to the college level, I would say, because we were playing against Division I-level kids that didn’t have the grades or just didn’t have the offers they wanted out of high school. So I got to play against some real good competition during that and travel and be on the road – kind of get my feet wet in college-level playing.
J.C. Cavin, on playing at the Sports Academy of South Carolina
As a walk-on at the Division I level, getting playing time could be a challenge for J.C. Cavin. Either way, this opportunity is about the present and the future.
“Hopefully he’ll get some playing time, but if not he’ll learn a lot from those guys mentoring him into the coaching ranks,” Scott Cavin said. “They were really excited to help him move into that arena and open the door for him, so it worked out pretty well.”