Glen Mills resident Tom Shivers, a former college basketball player and self-proclaimed hoops junkie, is quick to take credit for his kids’ marksmanship on the hardwood, particularly the beauty and efficiency of their jump shots.
As for their maturity and the wisdom that belies their age?
“Not so much,” joked Shivers. “They probably got that from my wife.”
His son, Cooper Shivers, is entering his senior season at Church Farm School with lofty goals, but the path that led him to basketball stardom at the private school in Exton was one that he could not have foreseen before COVID-19 upended his and everyone else’s lives.
Rewind to the spring of 2021, when his sister, Gracy Shivers, had just completed her scholastic career as the Rustin High School girls’ basketball program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. (She’s now studying pre-med at Villanova.) Cooper, a 5-foot-10 guard with a 37-inch vertical leap, had just completed a successful sophomore season as the sixth man on the Rustin boys’ team. He had grown weary of the pandemic-induced stops and starts to his education and wanted more of a challenge.
“The 2020-2021 school year was tough,” said Shivers. “We were still largely online, and it seemed like I was stuck in my house all day. The days were kind of boring. I’d be done my schoolwork by 11 or noon and didn’t really have anything to do after that.”
It wasn’t long before Shivers was contemplating what a transfer to a private school — specifically Church Farm School, where his offseason trainer, VISTA Millennial Superstar Jonathan Guarente, was the coach — would entail.
“In many respects, Cooper is a typical teenage boy,” said the elder Shivers, an Eddystone native who starred in the 1980s at Ridley High School and Ursinus College. “But he’s unique in the sense that he was able to identify that he wasn’t growing as an individual and wanted more.”
With his parents’ support, Shivers enrolled as a day student at CFS, where most students live on campus, in the fall of 2021. He quickly embraced the myriad changes that brought to his life. With students hailing from across the country and the world, and with a large Black and Latino population, CFS has one of the most diverse student bodies of any prep school in the region. As a white male, Shivers, had become the minority for the first time in his life.
And he loved it.
“I never felt out of place,” said Shivers. “After about a month in, around the end of September, we had just finished a preseason practice and were eating dinner as a team, and it all felt so normal. That’s when it hit me, that I knew I made a great decision to go there.”
CFS alumni often speak of the brotherhood at the school and how it makes a lifelong impact on them. Tom praises what it has done for Cooper.
“He’s matured five or six years in the one year that he’s been there,” said Tom. “He views the world in a more nuanced way. The conversations that we have, the growth that he’s made — it’s incredible.”
Cooper admits the hardest transition for him may not have been athletically or socially, but academically.
“I knew going in how good the school is academically, but I didn’t fully understand what that meant,” he said. “The classroom has definitely been the biggest adjustment, but I’ve benefited so much. Church Farm offers a lot of classes that aren’t traditional. One in particular, called the Great Ideas of Humanity, really captured my interest.”
After a successful first season in which he averaged 15 points per game for the Griffins, and with his senior season about to tip off, Shivers is one of just a handful of players on the Bicentennial Athletic League’s Watch List for Player of the Year.
“Cooper has made incredible strides since joining Church Farm School,” said Guarente. “On the court, his natural scoring ability is unparalleled in the league, and his defense has gone from a concern to a strength because of his work ethic, positive attitude, and willingness to get out of his comfort zone and meet challenges head-on. He’s the heart and soul of our team, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
With Shivers leading the way, the Griffins are eyeing championships at the league, district, and state levels.
“We’re focused and ready to do whatever it takes to win,” he said.