On March 25, 2011, Terrance Shannon was on the losing side of a Bradford Burgess game-winning layup in overtime of the Sweet 16 in San Antonio. Two years and 241 days later, the Forsyth City, Ga. native will suit up for the VCU Rams against his former team, Florida State University, at the 2013 Puerto Rico Tip-off.
In his own words, Shannon acknowledged he is now playing for the enemy and admitted the one-point NCAA tournament loss to VCU haunts him every day. He still can’t stand seeing the black and gold 2011 Final Four T-shirts, he said, but don’t let that be misconstrued.
Now in his last year of NCAA eligibility, Shannon has overcome a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a scratched cornea, a neck strain, a torn labrum and three knee scopes to join a nationally-ranked basketball team in Richmond. And no grudge is going to prevent him from helping the 2013-14 Rams reach their maximum potential.
“I feel like coming here, bringing that leadership, making sure we’re all on the same page, we got that strong bond,” he said. “I feel like nothing can tear us apart. The only thing that can stop us is us.”
His journey began on the neighborhood basketball court in a small city of less than 4,000 people in central Georgia, where Shannon played through sprained ankles and jammed fingers with regularity. His daily trips to the local court were a learning experience, he said, and they helped him accomplish something many people from that area haven’t been able to.
Less than 14 percent of Forsyth City, Ga. residents 25 years or older have a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007-11 American Community Survey. But Shannon’s perseverance enabled him to use basketball as a means of overcoming that statistic, he said.
The multi-sport athlete dropped football around eighth grade when a couple of varsity basketball letters helped him craft his focus. At 6-foot-4 and roughly 15 years of age, Shannon began to realize that his size, athleticism and determination could help him earn a college education.
Several Southeastern Conference schools, including Auburn University and the University of Georgia, heavily recruited him, but Shannon chose Florida State, and moved from a city of 4,000 to a university of more than 40,000.
“At the time, FSU was the right place,” he said. “It felt like home. A couple of guys that were on the team I had played AAU basketball with. I had a good relationship with all of the coaches there and I loved the environment when I visited. It’s one of the best conferences; you got the Dukes and the Carolinas. Everything felt right.”
The good feelings continued at FSU when a surprise decision to start sophomore Shannon against then No. 1 Duke University paid off for head coach Leonard Hamilton in 2011.
Shannon learned of the coach’s decision less than five minutes before tip-off, he said, but Shannon helped spark the Seminoles’ upset of the previously undefeated (17-0) Blue Devils. He contributed six points and four rebounds in 14 minutes of FSU’s 66-61 victory.
Just when his confidence peaked, seven games into an optimistic junior season, Shannon received another setback in the form of a torn labrum. The injury kept him inactive for seven months and forced him to redshirt his third year at FSU. Conditioning became a factor after the surgery, he said, and Shannon weaved in and out of the FSU rotation upon his return.
Experiences like these are what Shannon says will help him provide integral senior leadership for a young VCU team. With only two other seniors on the 2013-14 VCU roster, Shannon hopes to offer equal value on and off the court.
“I can give them feedback on my personal injuries and situations that can help these guys when they’re feeling down or need someone to come to,” he said. “I can also bring energy to the table and a physical presence in the post. (I’m) a guy that’s willing to be coached.”
Coaching him now is Shaka Smart, and the rapidly rising household name was one factor among several personal reasons Shannon said brought him to Richmond for his final year of eligibility. VCU’s basketball-centric environment and up-tempo style of play also enticed the fifth-year player to join the Rams in 2013-14.
The transition appears to be mutually beneficial: VCU adds experience and front-court depth to an undersized roster, while Shannon has the benefit of joining the nation’s 14th-ranked team for his final year of NCAA eligibility.
Whether it’s a starting job or a role position off the bench, Shannon is comfortable with whatever the coaches ask him to do, he said. There is reason for optimism with this year’s team, Shannon said, but he knows that VCU basketball is larger than the 15-man roster.
“We’re not playing for us,” he said. “We’re playing for other people as well. We have to stay hungry and humble.”
Shannon’s past should help him stay true to those principles. After escaping the constraints of an underprivileged city, his current pursuit of a master’s degree in homeland security is just one element that speaks to Shannon’s ambition.
Shannon isn’t one for individual awards or personal milestones. He doesn’t measure success with statistics. His ability to overcome odds can be traced throughout the entirety of his 23-year history, and Shannon says he’s simply satisfied to be in Richmond with a chance to play.
“It’s been a tough journey,” he said. “But I’m still standing.”