DENNIS PUNZEL For State Journal
Paul Pavan admits there are times when he has to take a step back and just say “wow” for some of the spectacular play Trinity Shadd-Ceres has played on the volleyball court.
“Oh, all the time, all the time,” says Pavan, who has coached Shadd-Ceres for three years with Kitchener-Waterloo Predator Volleyball Club in Ontario. “Constantly we coaches just looked at each other and said it was quite an athletic move.”
Pavan has no doubt that the University of Wisconsin volleyball coaches, players and fans will say the same in a few years when Shadd-Ceres joins the Badgers as a member of the 2024 recruiting class.
“He was probably the most athletic kid I’ve ever coached,” Pavan said. “I think the upside is very, very high. He has all the qualities needed to be a great volleyball player.
“His ability to get on the air, his athleticism, the way he sees the game, there are so many positive qualities there and he’s just starting to take advantage of them. He’s got two years now to put it all together, and our goal is to get him into the Wisconsin program and hopefully contribute soon.”
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Pavan knows a thing or two about talented volleyball players. He coached his daughter Sarah, who is one of the greatest players in NCAA history, a four-time first-team All-American in Nebraska that led the Cornhuskers to a national title in 2006, earning the National Player of the Year and the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award. His other daughter, Rebecca, plays in Kentucky and is a member of the Canadian National Team.
For all his volleyball attributes, Shadd-Ceres, 16, is best known in Canada for his track and court exploits. He is one of the nation’s top track and field athletes as a long jumper and sprinter. His personal best long jump was a 6.47 meter (roughly 21 feet, 3 inches) jump. It was the best not only for his age group but also for the U-18s and U19s. It ranks No. 1 in the world for U17 and second for U18.
But Shadd-Ceres has turned his attention to volleyball and will prioritize the sport going forward after spending the summer focused on track and field.
“Volleyball is my passion,” says Shadd-Ceres, who started running when she was 8 and volleyball when she was 11. “I think it’s because it’s a team sport. Track is very individual and in yourself. I am a perfectionist, and as a perfectionist you get thoughts in your head. Volleyball is more of a team sport and you can rely on your team to encourage and support you. It’s much more fun.”
Shadd-Ceres hasn’t played volleyball since April when he devoted his summers to the sport, but that hasn’t stopped a college volleyball coach from signing him.
With the college coach unable to speak to potential recruits until June 15, Pavan took it upon himself to tell the coach about Shadd-Ceres. He targets top program coaches, sending statistical information and videos.
“I haven’t contacted any of the top coaches in years about my athletes,” Pavan said. “When Trinity came along I thought this was what I was going to reach for. I very rarely reach from top athletes to top coaches. They noticed and we started communicating and talking about some of the numbers, his ability to get on the air, his athleticism.”
It turned out that the coach he spoke to the most was Kelly Sheffield of UW, who he had known for the 20 years since Sheffield coached at Albany.
“I think Kelly believed what I told him because of some of the players I’ve sent to America in the past, including one of the greatest players in NCAA history,” Pavan said. “Kelly is doing her homework and confirming that this is someone who will be able to compete at the Top Ten level.”
Even though Shadd-Ceres is only about 5 feet 11, he is more than that with his jumping ability. He touched 10-foot-7, a figure that even surprised Pavan, during testing with his club last winter.
“I know he jumps a lot higher than anyone else,” he said. “When he jumped 10-7 I made him do it again because I thought something was not right here. Then he uncorked again 10-7. And he might have a little bit more in him when he starts training hard.”
Shadd-Ceres said he heard from about 30 schools but quickly narrowed it down to three. She benefited from being guided in the process by her mother, Crystal Shadd, a standout athlete in her own right who twice qualified for the Canadian Olympic team in the triple jump and competed on track and field in Eastern Michigan and Arkansas.
Shadd-Ceres has only made two campus visits, coming to UW for Marquette and High Point competition. He said he really liked the coaches and felt welcomed by the current players, including fellow Canadian Anna Smrek.
“I don’t know him, but I know him,” said Shadd-Ceres. “Watching how he played before he went there and how he developed, it really opened my mind about how good their school is.”
He also got to meet former Badgers like Dana Rettke and Sydney Hilley, who were there to receive their championship ring and be part of the banner-raising ceremony.
“It was shocking, to be honest,” Shadd-Ceres said of the experience. “In Canada, sport isn’t really what it is in America. Seeing the support system, the fans, the noise in the stadium, it’s real. (Former Badgers) are the nicest people ever. Because of how nice they were, I thought maybe their attitude would be different. It looks like they can get athletes who take me to the next level, so they have a really good program.”
Shadd-Ceres visited Kentucky the following weekend when the Badgers play the Wildcats there, but his mind was quite mature at the time.
“I wanted to compare it to Kentucky and experience it too,” he said. “But I think it’s always Wisconsin.”
Shadd-Ceres, who has spoken in the past about wanting to create a Canadian Olympic team in 2024, said he had no plans to compete on track and field at UW. And that would definitely be secondary to him over the next few years.
“For sure, being on the Canadian National Team for volleyball is a goal,” he said. “For the track now, I’m trying to figure out if I want to do it as a sport or just off-season training.”
Pavan encouraged him to devote his summer to track exploits and believed that competing in different sports had helped make him a better athlete. And with his focus shifting to volleyball, he saw his skill level increase. He said he was already a good passer and could get even better. He would also further develop his attacking skills.
“But he had two years to put it together,” he said. “Now that he is concentrating on the game, I don’t see that being a problem at all.”
Shadd-Ceres is desperate to get his game started, and he has lofty goals for his UW career.
“I feel like Wisconsin is a school that made me a better person,” he said. “So as the best player I can be both a person and the best person I can be. And I would say winning a national championship would be great. I just really wanted to see my full potential, and I think Wisconsin is a really good school to do that.”
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