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Ice Breaker: Ludington basketball star David Shillinger carving his own path

Orioles’ all-time leading boys scorer is a fierce competitor, who may next transition to dad’s excavation business.

David Shillinger has etched his name atop the all-time scoring list for boys basketball players at Ludington High School and he’s not done yet.

Sooner or later, he plans to carve his path in his father’s excavating business.

Whether or not Shillinger pursues college basketball or football upon graduation, he’ll be remembered as a fierce competitor in the athletic arena and an easy-going, kind person outside of it. Despite his 5-foot-9 frame — he claims 5-10, some say it’s 5-8 — the Orioles senior plays much bigger.

On the basketball court, the youngest of Jay and Sharon Shillinger’s three children has been competing at a high level since his freshman season as a fearless starting guard.

“I’ve been around Ludington basketball for a long, long time. It’s been since my dad was a coach when I was a little kid. It’s been nearly 50 years around Ludington basketball,” Ludington veteran coach Thad Shank said.

“It’s just rare to see a kid who can score so many ways, especially in a 5-8, 5-9 package like the kid is. He’s got a gear that’s just, you just don’t see the gear very often. We’ve been blessed to have him in our program.”

On Dec. 19 at Montague, Shillinger became Ludington’s all-time leading boys scorer. His 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:57 left in the game moved him past 1972 Ludington alumnus Mike Larsen (1,336 career points) atop the list. Shillinger finished with 34 points in the Orioles’ 65-53 victory over the Wildcats.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Nearing the midway point of his final season with Ludington, Shillinger sits on 1,404 career points.

Through 10 games, he has scored 276 points — 27.6 per game. He’s also averaging 4.3 rebounds, 2.7 steals, and 1.9 assists.

Shillinger is shooting 91 percent from the free-throw line, nearly 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, and 46 percent from the field overall.

“When he shoots the 3-point shot, you’re surprised if it doesn’t go in,” Shank said. “For a kid his size, he can get to the rim and finish under control. He plays off two feet and strong incredibly well. He doesn’t miss at the free-throw line. And then, on top of that, on defense I don’t know if we’ve had a kid that anticipates and can turn that gear on to get to balls and stuff like he does on defense and all the points that he creates on defense.”

Said Ludington senior guard Spencer Holmes with a laugh: “Every shot he takes I think is in, honestly.”

Ludington is 6-4 overall this season, in the midst of a rare three-game losing streak, but the Orioles have faced a challenging schedule. Last season, they shared the West Michigan Conference Lakes Division title with Whitehall and finished with an impressive 20-3 record.

In Shillinger’s freshman and sophomore seasons, Ludington went 13-6 and 14-9, respectively.

Shillinger is athletic and quick, and he elevates very well on his jump shot.

“He has really turned it on. There’s been a couple games where we’ve come out of the gate and we’ve struggled a little bit offensively and he’s really stepped up and just taken over games,” Shank said. “We saw it a little bit last season, but we’re starting to see it more often this season.”

Shillinger commands respect from opponents. Whitehall escaped Ludington’s Hawley Gym last Friday with a hard-fought 64-62 victory, in which Shillinger finished with a team-high 18 points, and the Vikings came away with even more respect for him.

On this week’s CatchMark SportsNet Podcast, Whitehall assistant coach Matt Shepherd tipped his cap to Shillinger for his poise and called him a “mismatch” for others despite his smaller stature.

“He does a lot of really good things with what he’s got, you know. He can shoot it really well, obviously, but it seems to me that he knows the game,” Whitehall coach Christian Subdon said about Shillinger on the podcast. “I haven’t got to coach him or anything like that, but just watching him and seeing him, it seems like he knows the game and he plays hard.

“And he plays bigger than he is. He’s not scared to drive the paint, not scared to get blocked. None of that bothers him.”

The fleet-footed Shillinger, 18, took his talents to the football field last fall. He became a first-team All-WMC Lakes Division performer at running back.

Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark

The last few years, he’s spent his basketball offseasons playing for the Bates Fundamentals EYBL/Nike organization.

Shillinger, who carries a 3.86 GPA, has opportunities to play football at Calvin University or University of St. Francis (Ind.). He’s also receiving interest from Indiana Wesleyan University’s basketball program.

It appears Shillinger is planning to stay home and work for his father’s Shillinger’s Excavation company, ultimately taking over the business one day. On the flip side, it’s not always easy for competitors to just hang it up.

“He’s just a quiet, really nice, doesn’t talk much (type of) kid. But you always know he understands what’s right,” Shank said. “He’s been parented obviously very well and he does the right things and makes the right choices in his life. He’s kind of a man built for others like we like to say at Ludington. Great kid.”

Like Shank, Holmes is impressed by many things Shillinger does both on and off the court.

“It’s awesome playing with Dave. He’s such a great teammate and just a good person in general,” Holmes said. “I mean, being on the court with him when he breaks (the scoring record), I mean, it’s an accomplishment for him but for me, too. It just feels good.”

Said Shank: “It’s obviously been a blessing to coach him. I’m glad he’s on our team. He’s had a great career and it’s not over yet.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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