The calls would come in almost nightly.
“I think your boys are fighting,” neighbors would say.
“No,” Maureen McTavish, the mother of five supremely gifted athletes would reply. “They’re just playing basketball.”
Her boys, Ryan and Gavin, separated by three years and maybe an inch, took to the hoop at the end of the street every day after school. They would play one-on-one to the soundtrack of leather on pavement until the sun set and the flood lights were the only thing lighting the court.
“Oh, yeah, a lot of hours on that hoop,” Gavin said.
Those long nights going at it in the street resulted in some grumpy neighbors who wanted a little shuteye and, eventually, a pair of Division-I caliber basketball players, and a very happy South Carroll High School coach in Doug Goff.
“I need a couple more,” Goff joked after his Cavs beat Urbana last Friday. “I’m just privileged to have the chance to coach some guys that love basketball and have some talent and want to play not only at the high school level but at the next level.”
In less than a month, Goff, for the first time in six years, will be without a McTavish to lean on — although the girls team does have freshman sibling Keriann — no 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 gangly mess of limbs and wiry muscle to use as a crutch in crunch time.
“Hopefully they’ll bleed off and some of these younger kids coming up in my program that watched them and have looked up to them, have idolized them and will maybe become the next one,” the coach said.
Ryan, the senior of the two, was the second McTavish to enter the South Carroll pipeline. The first, older sister Brigid, now coaches lacrosse and field hockey for the Cavaliers.
Goff knew he had a gem in Ryan as a freshman, already taller than most big men, quicker than most wing players, and more athletic than much of what Carroll County’s teams could counter with. Ryan was pulled up to the varsity team during his first holiday tournament and never looked back, remaining with the Cavs top squad for the next three-plus years where he would become player of the year for both The Gazette and The Carroll County Times.
Goff also knew he had another gem to come in kid brother Gavin. By the time Gavin was in seventh grade he was tagging along to open gyms to play with the varsity team. By eighth grade, Goff was throwing him in with the starters to learn the plays — all 30 of them. The coach had come out to a few of Gavin’s middle school games; he wouldn’t be spending time on the junior varsity team.
“We’ve always played together,” said Ryan, now a sophomore at Presbyterian College where he has started 17 of 27 games this season. “We’ve always been playing together. I think when we got to high school that’s where we really figured out how we play. Even off the court we’re close, he’s my best friend.”
Ryan would be discovered by college coaches more from his time on the Amateur Athletic Union circuit with the HCYP Elite than he would from running through his Carroll County schedule, even if it did include high-caliber prospects such as Cammeron Woodyard (Penn State, now playing pro in Chile) and Devon Lesniak (McDaniel). In 2010, Presbyterian took particular notice of Ryan while he was playing in the AAU national tournament in Orlando, where the Elite would finish third in the country.
On the recruiting trail, a Presbyterian coach asked Ryan if they were to get a team on the schedule, who would it be?
He answered Duke.
“It’s Duke,” Ryan said. “Cameron Crazies. Nothing like it.”
On Nov. 12, 2011, he got his wish: the Blue Hose would be playing Duke, at Cameron Indoor, home to one of the most vocal student bodies in college basketball.
“Oh my gosh, just to see his name on the TV and the announcement, it was just, wow,” Maureen said. “It was pretty, uh, it was weird seeing him playing down at Duke. I never thought I’d see my son playing at Duke.”
Gavin did. The two grew up knowing, though not boasting, that “Oh, I’m going to play the best,” Gavin said. “When I watched him play, I was like ‘Man, this is awesome.’”
Of course, Presbyterian, a school not much bigger than South Carroll, doesn’t get many primetime slots, so Gavin watches most of Ryan’s games from the computer. And soon, Ryan will likely be doing the same for Gavin. He’s currently being heavily recruited by droves of upper and mid-division twos and a handful of prep schools and low division ones.
Dominican College is currently leading the pack, having offered Gavin his first and only full-ride scholarship offer. When a recruiter asked Gavin what team he would like to see on the schedule in college, he said, “Presbyterian, so I can play my brother.”
Shannon McTavish is the youngest of the bunch. She is just 8 years old and once made the grave mistake of mentioning that she wanted to be a cheerleader.
“We said, ‘There’s no cheerleaders in the McTavish family,’” Maureen remembered, laughing. “’Go pick up a basketball.’”