RICHMOND, Va. – Although Terrance Shannon shared the Alamodome court with Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic that night in San Antonio, he does not share their cheerful recollection of the evening’s events.
It was March 25, 2011. Brandenberg and Reddic were freshmen on a VCU team in the midst of one of the NCAA Tournament’s most memorable Cinderella romps to the Final Four. Shannon, meanwhile, was on the opposing sideline of that Sweet 16 matchup as a member of a favored Florida State team. Those final moments are permanently pressed into the psyches of all three players; the Joey Rodriguez-to-Bradford Burgess inbounds play for the winning score in overtime, the Brandenberg blocked shot at the final horn that clinched a 72-71 VCU win and set Rams’ play-by-play broadcaster Robby Robinson on hyperbolic repeat.
Although it was nearly three years ago, Shannon hasn’t shaken the feeling.
“Here I don’t talk much about it because still to this day, I get mad every time I see a Final Four shirt or the picture of the 72-71 score in the coaches’ office,” he says through a disarming grin.
Today, Brandenberg, Reddic and Shannon comprise VCU’s senior class. After completing his undergraduate degree in four years at Florida State, Shannon transferred to VCU this summer. Brandenberg admits he wasn’t ready to let Shannon join the team without some good-natured ribbing.
“I was teasing him a little bit when he first came here,” he says.
But while they’ve given Shannon ample grief for being on the wrong side of VCU history, his teammates are thrilled to have him. A 6-foot-8, 240-pound stockpile of muscle, Shannon’s arrival immediately changed the complexion of VCU’s roster for the better.
A fifth-year senior battle-tested in the ACC, his presence gives Coach Shaka Smart and the Rams a second veteran post player to compliment Reddic. It’s an area where the Rams have been inexperienced the last two seasons. But Smart, who may use more lineup combinations than any coach in the country, now has another active, athletic post player at his disposal. On paper, it seems like an ideal fit.
Although Shannon was limited to 72 games in four years at FSU due to a myriad of injuries, there’s no denying his on-court value when healthy. The Forsyth, Ga. native averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in 21 minutes per game last season for the Seminoles. He was statistically Florida State’s best defensive rebounder last year, good news for VCU, which ranked in the bottom third nationally in that category.
Reddic, who was often the Rams’ only true post player on the floor last year, welcomed Shannon’s addition to a frontcourt that also includes the emerging Jarred Guest and freshmen Mo Alie-Cox and Antravious Simmons.
“I love it when we put in a big lineup,” Reddic said. “We have an advantage when we play with Tre [Graham] at the four. There’s a lot of mismatches. But I think playing big is going to help us out a lot, having those big guys on the frontcourt banging some of the other big guys on the other team, having a huge presence in the post.”
On some level, it seems a little odd, that a player would wear the uniform of the team that dealt him possibly the most heartbreaking defeat of his career, but like most elements of Shaka Smart’s widening VCU Basketball universe, it all comes down to Havoc.
Havoc, Smart’s frenetic basketball paradigm, is a style similar to Florida State’s style as much as Miley Cyrus and Metallica are similar musicians. VCU rarely plays too fast for Smart’s liking, and the Rams’ wide-open attack on both ends of the floor often resembles feeding time at the piranha tank. Under Leonard Hamilton, Florida State is very much a halfcourt team built around length and bruising defense. The Seminoles ranked 208th last year in adjusted tempo, while VCU was 74th.
Shannon says when he was looking to transfer, two factors weighed heavily. He wanted to play at a basketball school, and he wanted to play in an up-tempo system. At VCU, he found both.
“Watching them over the years…I like how they get after it. It’s a lot of scrappy guys. Honestly, that’s my style of play, so I fit in good here,” he said.
But enjoying the Havoc aesthetic and actually becoming an agent of it are very different things. Shannon says when he arrived on campus this summer, he needed to shed 20 pounds he packed on while recovering from a neck injury last season, and needed time to process the way the Rams operate.
“He was like a deer in headlights,” Brandenberg said of Shannon’s first days as a Ram. “Just the pace, from lifting to conditioning working out, even shooting with the graduate assistants, he just wasn’t up to the speed that we like to work out. Obviously that’s how we play, so everything we do we do fast.”
But in time, Shannon says he learned to keep up. He certainly looked comfortable at VCU’s Black and Gold Game on Oct. 13. Shannon was often the best player on the floor that night, scoring 16 points while grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots.
“One thing I’ve learned here is you just have to embrace being fatigued, embrace being tired because you’re going to be tired,” Shannon said. “The more you fight through it every day, the more in-shape you’ll get, the better you are, the longer you can withstand it throughout the game.”
In many ways, Shannon sees this season as an opportunity to write a new, shared history that he can also bask in, rather than yearn to forget. Around campus, reminders of that Sweet 16 loss to the Rams in San Antonio are never far away.
“At the same time, it’s motivation,” he said. “I just hope we can match or exceed those expectations.”