Follow Jim on Twitter
Players and coaches stood on the Siegel Center floor and paid homage to a career one final time. A tribute video played on the big screens, highlighting the long-lived, illustrious career of VCU’s lone senior Bradford Burgess following an 89-77 payback-like trouncing of George Mason.
Burgess had just done what every senior college basketball player dreams of accomplishing on Senior Night: give your best performance, set career highs and dismantle on of your bitter rivals. He broke the Patriots down and attacked from every angle of the court to the tune of a career-high 31 points in front of a sold-out crowd.
“It was the Bradford Burgess show,” VCU head coach Shaka Smart said. “He was phenomenal. He led our team in every way.”
The entire time he was performing like a man possessed, Burgess didn’t even see the buckets materializing on the scoreboard due to a malfunction.
“I couldn’t tell the scoreboard was off; I was just playing,” Burgess said. “It’s great to go out like that on your senior night so I’m happy about that.”
There we other perks besides receiving a framed jersey and a pat on the back. The win over George Mason gave Burgess his 104th win, the most of any VCU player in the program’s history.
From the start, the emotions were flowing. Burgess, accompanied by his mother and father, were met at halfcourt by his teammates and coach for Senior Day ceremonies. Feelings swarmed through Burgess’ head: some good, some bad.
“Mixed emotions, a lot of things went on at the beginning of the game,” he said. “I was happy, excited, angry, but at the end of the day I just had to be focused with the game, try to play my best game my last time out.”
The anger Burgess was referring to stemmed from the George Mason players starting their warmups on the court near the end of his ceremonies.
“We noticed it and we fed off of it,” Smart said.
Burgess in particular. He played his best game numbers-wise and stamped what had to have been one of his most memorable performances in front of a home crowd.
Earlier in the week, Burgess said he couldn’t choose a moment in the Siegel Center he would call his favorite. There were too many to pick from. And Saturday night, he walked off the floor as a player one final time.
From a coaching standpoint, Smart reminisced about the days when he was an assistant at Dayton and head coach at the time Oliver Purnell would show a river of emotion on Senior Nights. Smart said he was emotional prior to the game, but quickly turned the page.
From a teammate’s perspective, it was like watching someone you looked up to move on.
“It was very emotional for us, just coming in and being here with Brad for two and a half years,” junior guard Darius Theus said. “And he has taught us a lot on the court with great leadership, great role model.”
But Burgess isn’t finished, and neither are the Rams. The CAA Tournament, and possibly the Big Dance, loom ahead, territory with which Burgess has become quite familiar. Saturday night marked Burgess’ 141st consecutive start. He played his last game at the Siegel Center, but not the last game of his career.
“We’re not done,” Smart said. “He’s not done, and we have big goals ahead of us starting next Saturday.”
Photos by Chris Conway