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Bradford Burgess: The teammate and friend

Burgess and Rodriguez congratulate each other after defeating Kansas in the 2011 Elite 8.
Burgess and Rodriguez congratulate each other after defeating Kansas in the 2011.

When I first heard the news about Bradford Burgess having his jersey retired I was not surprised. Going up in the rafters with Eric Maynor and Kendrick Warren and the rest of the crew is the elite of the elite at VCU. If you go by points per game or single game records you might think Brad does not belong. I am not going to talk about his stats or his NCAA all time starts record, I am going to explain to you the impact he had on his teammates and people in and around the program.

I remember as a freshmen most of our team went to the Siegel Center to watch a game between the Benedictine Cadets and the Springers of Highland Springs. We all had to endure Brandon Rozzell talking about his alma mater and how the STU was “going to be rockin” in his words. He was not lieing. Brad was already committed to us and we were all excited to see this new guy that would be our teammate next year. I personally was picturing a guy that was going to destroy the competition at the high school level, scoring and just being dominate. I recall that Brad may have had 10 points and did nothing to blow you away. We all left the game wondering what Coach Grant was thinking signing this guy to join our group and boy were we wrong.

From day one of the summer his freshmen year you knew how special he was. It had nothing to do with scoring or dribble moves. It was the way he carried himself, the confidence in himself that oozed out of his body that everyone saw from the first day he stepped on campus. He was special. From the start he was dependable and hit big shots for us in a few close games and had a great freshmen year and things consistently got better. His sophomore season on the court was more of the same and he improved in every category.

His junior year was special. It started early in the season when we were in the preseason NIT. Our game against Wake Forest was huge for us. We talked about heading to MSG and playing on the big stage but something behind the scenes was also on the line. Travis Mckie was a local kid from Richmond who ended up having a great career at Wake. He would come and hoop at our open gyms and was the same position as Brad. Brandon and myself kept letting Brad know before the game that Travis was coming for him. We’d tell him Richmond was his city just to try and get Brad going. He did not say a word, just looked at us and laughed but you saw that he was going to show up just like he has done his whole career at VCU. Brad had a great night, we won the game and we were heading to NYC.

Rodriguez stairs down Burgess seconds before finding the junior guard for the go-ahead basket to defeat FSU and earn a trip to the Elite 8.
Rodriguez stairs down Burgess seconds before finding him for the go-ahead basket to defeat FSU in the Sweet 16.

Skipping ahead a few years to the sweet 16. This was the only game I had my doubt’s. How would we score? Can we even rebound with these guys? Best defensive team in the country? Of course I forgot that I had the most confident and dependable teammate I have ever played with! He absolutely carried us that night (With some help from Brandon Rozzell who was our best guard in March). OT with a few seconds left underneath our own basket, who else would I look and wait 4.5 seconds for to get a inbounds in and a date with the Kansas Jayhawks? BIG SHOT BRAD.

To know that Bradford Burgess was on your team was just like the feeling I had as a freshmen or sophomore when I felt I always had a chance with Eric Maynor running the show. Brad did it with knowing what you were going to get night in and night out. The bigger the game the more you would expect from Brad. Just like I would with Eric.

His senior year was fun to watch. He had his ups and downs. Brad was the man of the team and led them to a CAA title and the round of 32. I think sometimes us as VCU fans forgot how tough it is to win a conference championship and a game in the NCAA tournament. That was a huge accomplishment in itself.

As a friend. He is one of a kind. He is nicknamed “Juice” off the court. Fans can ask David Hinton about that nickname. With Brad you know what person you are going to get every time you talk. I am sure he had some negative things happen in his personal life that could of changed his demeanor but you would never know. He is loyal. Someone that was there for you if you had a problem or needed a favor. Even now if i am going through a tough time and want to just text and have a conversation with him about life he is there for me. One of the greatest people in the world. If you know his parents then you know why he is who he is. Two great human beings who I love seeing everytime I return to a VCU game. I am happy for them as a family knowing that there son is having his jersey retired.

All-in-all, when “Juice’s” jersey goes up into the rafters it will be special. The No.20 is going to represent his amazing college career, but for me personally, it is like our whole Final Four team is going up there with him!

Congrats Juice!

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