People started calling him “Big Shot” years ago, but now maybe Bradford Burgess will actually feel like one.
That’s because on Feb. 21 prior to VCU’s game with UMass, the Rams will retire Burgess’ jersey.
Appropriately, a likeness of his No. 20 jersey will hang not far from the Final Four banner he helped deliver.
Burgess will become the fifth VCU Men’s Basketball player to see his jersey retired. He’ll join an elite group that includes Eric Maynor, Calvin Duncan, Kendrick Warren and Gerald Henderson. It’s lofty company.
Although he was recently passed by Treveon Graham on VCU’s all-time list, Burgess still ranks fifth on the program’s career scoring chart with 1, 684 points. He is one of just three players in school history – joining Warren and Charles Wilkins – to score at least 1,600 points, grab 700 rebounds and hand out 200 assists. Burgess also started 146 consecutive games for the Rams.
Burgess’ credentials are outstanding, but the case for his jersey retirement is about a lot more than points or starts or his 231 career 3-pointers. Burgess’ jersey will hang from the Siegel Center rafters because he won – a lot. The beauty of Burgess’ career is that his game often felt unassuming, until the Rams were headed home with another win.
He became the first VCU player in 25 years to appear in three NCAA Tournaments, including – and this is going to be a theme, that 2011 Final Four. He helped lift the Rams to a pair of CAA Championships and six NCAA Tournament wins.
But Burgess cemented his place in history with one incredible month in 2011. In nine postseason games in March of that year, Burgess averaged 16.0 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting 55 percent (23-of-42) from 3-point range. He scored 19 points in the CAA Championship Game in a loss to Dominion. Two weeks later, he dropped 23 as the Rams shredded Purdue – a top 10 team that season – to send the Rams to the Sweet 16 for the first time. The next game, he hit six threes and scored 26 points to push the Rams past Florida State and into the Elite Eight. He added 15 points and nine boards in the National Semifinal against Butler.
VCU graduated four of its top five scorers from that Final Four team, and Burgess promptly led the Rams to a conference title and the NCAA Tournament Second Round the following season.
He didn’t really need any help securing his legacy, but Burgess’ jersey retirement will be a way to ensure future VCU fans learn and appreciate it. He’s the only player from VCU’s Final Four team to have his jersey retired, and that alone should speak volumes about his career.
Burgess’ career is 146 games full of unforgettable moments. Here are my favorites.
5-Spoilermakers (March 20, 2011): VCU was already a compelling storyline on the heels of NCAA Tournament wins over USC and Georgetown when it met Big Ten juggernaut Purdue in Chicago. The Boilermakers spent the majority of the year ranked in the top 10 and boasted the Big Ten’s best defense, which meant precisely nothing to the Rams. Behind 23 points by Burgess (on 8-of-12 shooting), VCU torched Purdue for a season-high 94 points and a Sweet 16 berth.
4-Shocking Wichita State (March 15, 2012): When VCU reached the Final Four in 2011, Burgess was surrounded by a senior quartet of Joey Rodriguez, Jamie Skeen, Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell. But in 2011-12, the Rams were very much Burgess’ team, and a 62-59 upset of fifth-seeded Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was the perfect cap to his season as The Guy. Trailing 59-57, Burgess buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:29 remaining to give the Rams a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. He finished with 15 points.
3-A Star is Born (Dec. 13, 2008): Burgess’ reputation as a clutch playmaker began just nine games into his career. Locked in a tie game at the Robins Center with rival Richmond, Burgess buried a go-ahead 3-pointer with 48.7 seconds left. VCU would hold on for a 77-76 win.
2-You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry (Feb. 25, 2012): Burgess rarely showed much emotion on the basketball court, and he even played with the sort of take-it-as-it-comes style. This is, until George Mason made him mad. The Patriots, whether they intended or not, took the floor during Burgess’ Senior Day ceremony and began their warm-ups, a serious breach of basketball etiquette. Burgess promptly eviscerated Mason with a career-high 31 points on the way to an 89-77 win. George Mason Athletic Director Tom O’Connor later apologized for the incident.
1-The Inbounds Play Heard Around the World (March 25, 2011): Of all the big shots Burgess hit during his VCU career, none was bigger than this one. Trailing Florida State 71-70 in overtime of the 2011 NCAA Southwest Regional Semifinal, Joey Rodriguez, triggering an inbounds play from underneath the basket, found Burgess for a go-ahead layup with 7.1 seconds remaining. VCU won 72-71 and beat Kansas two days later to reach the Final Four.