â€˜A thing of beauty is a joy foreverâ€™- John Keats
While this is one of Shaka Smartâ€™s go-to quotes, it poignantly captures March of 2011 in its entirety. For so many of us, that month changed our lives as VCU basketball fans. Some of our wildest dreams and greatest hopes for the program were realized in sudden and dramatic fashion. The crushing loss to ODU in the CAA championship game, while painful, made those blissful moments in Dayton, Chicago, San Antonio, and Houston all the more sweet.
For many of us, VCU basketball in and of itself is a thing of beauty regardless of the product on the court or the win-loss record at the end of the season. However for that one month, VCU basketball was a thing of beauty in every sense of the word to every single one of the millions upon millions who watched. For those who have followed this program from its infancy onward, that is indeed a thing of beauty and will be a joy forever.
For Shaka Smart, that quote must take on whole new meaning staring into the eyes of his first child, who joined the VCU family early yesterday morning. Â Our congratulations go out to Shaka and Maya Smart as they continue in their endeavor to build a vibrant and healthy family life.
Along with the daunting challenges of parenthood, Shaka takes on the considerable task of â€˜taking this program to even greater heightsâ€™.
While itâ€™s tough to top a Final Four, there is no doubt that he wants us to get back to the tournament and make some noise while doing it. More importantly, Shaka is in the business of building men off the court, both character-wise and in the classroom. With a young team consisting of 9 underclassmen, itâ€™s safe to say that there will be learning and growth that needs to occur in a variety of areas.
That brings me to another quote Shaka is fond of that may help me communicate what my own words fail to.
â€˜Adversity introduces a man to himselfâ€™- Anonymous
Despite whatever preseason prognosticators are predicting for this season, itâ€™s safe to say that there will be a huge target on the backs of our players regardless of who they play this season. This will be a year where VCU gets everyoneâ€™s best shot, regardless of who we graduated or how inexperienced we are.
Inevitably, there will be the baffling loss or string of losses that will have some of our fans up in arms and scrambling for solutions to questions they donâ€™t have the answer to.Â There may be personal problems, academic struggles, and all manner of other obstacles that will never come to the light of the public court. Somehow our guys will have to go out there and play VCU basketball regardless of whatever distractions they face.
It is through this adversity that a team grows stronger and learns to trust each other. The bonds of brotherhood have to run deep for this young squad to achieve their goals, and those bonds will almost certainly be tested.
This is a young team with good leadership and some very exciting talent. By the end of the season one can only hope that â€˜the whole is greater than the sum of its partsâ€™ as Aristotle would say. Indeed with all the attrition at other CAA-member institutions, the door is wide open for VCU to surprise.
The doldrums of summer are quickly drawing to a close. Itâ€™s time to wreak some havoc.