Shaka The World at the CAA Championship: Drexel Vs. VCU

As Drexel guard Frantz Massenat's three point attempt clanged off the rim on it's way down from a high-soaring bounce off the back rim, the crowd erupted.

Virginia Commonwealth was back in the tournament with a 59-56 win, and this time, as the CAA champion.

Much can be written about the game itself. VCU took a commanding 35-19 lead into halftime, pressing and squeezing the Dragons to the max. Drexel fought back and gave itself a chance, a great chance, to tie the game.

Massenat's shot looked good from the release, and had he shot it about an inch or two shorter, it would have been.

It was a thrilling game, a classic that the CAA has gotten used to seeing. The conference has had two at-large berth teams make the final four in the last six years.

The fantastic game was fantastic. The level of competition was at its highest, a sticking point to the prevailing wisdom that says there's high quality basketball being played all over the map these days.

Yes, it was all those things and more.

Somehow the 'more' was even better.

The old Richmond Coliseum housed the event for the 22nd consecutive year. And boy, is it old. To give an idea, Dr. J once played home games for the Virginia Squires there. Even though the old building lacks, well, just about everything, it certainly still knows how to hold a basketball game.

What's even better for the Rams is it is right down the street. VCU played home games at the Coliseum until 1999, and the gym isn't far from the school's campus.

As fans packed the seats, the band played loudly. They did what every college student always longs to do: They showed up and got ready for a party. Two hours of yelling their brains out. Forget the books; watch some ball.

Drexel brought a pep band, but it was substantially less than the fans in gold and black. The pep was there, but the numbers weren't. The sea of Rams fans drowned out all noise from those in the 'Year of the Dragon' t-shirts.

The old building echoed cheer after cheer and made it seem like it would collapse into dust on top of everyone inside.

And when the game's final dust cleared, the VCU students rushed the court. They weren't arrested, pepper sprayed, or pushed away. With dancing shoes on, they took the floor.

They celebrated with their fellow students, and yes, that means the players, too.

When CAA tournament MVP Darius Theus sat down to do a postgame radio interview on press row, he joked, laughed, and smiled with some fellow students. It was clear he didn't know the kids, but he soaked in the moment with them; not as a superstar athlete having praise heaped on him, but as a colleague.

It was something that embodied the spirit of the madness and what collegiate athletics are supposed to be about.

No security officers surrounded the team. They got down off the presentation podium and wandered to the basket to cut down the nets. Fellow students stood near them, gave them their space, and enjoyed the moment.

As the VCU coaches took their keepsake, guard Bradford Burgess stood alone by the hoop. Fellow teammates joked around, talked about the game and the tournament.

They joked, laughed, and smiled.

Burgess stared into the air, holding the gigantic CAA tournament trophy with a piece of net hanging out of his championship souvenir hat.

The team's lone senior snapped out of his dream state in an instant to answer a question or two.

"Man, it's amazing," he said. "One of our goals is to make it back and we did.

"We didn't get to play Drexel at home during the season, so we treated this like a home game; the crowd was sold out. Now we'll go on to the tournament, and just play our game."

After he said what he could about a moment that clearly left him nearly speechless, he did something that spoke volumes. The well-spoken young man juggled the trophy and offered his hand for a handshake.

When the handshake was complete, Coach Shaka Smart finished cutting down the net at the hoop where Massenat's shot almost fell.

A CAA staff member instructed the players it was time to head to the locker room. As Burgess held the large wooden trophy and wandered aimlessly behind his teammates, a fellow student shouted his way.

'Burgess, how about a quick picture with the trophy?!'

Without hesitation, he posed with the kid. After the photo was taken, he walked off the court.

Though he held the trophy, the CAA was forever behind him; the senior was now onto his final Big Dance.

For the first time in four years, Burgess walked out of that old, dusty, decrepit building a champion with his peers surrounding him as a champion.

It was the type of moment that was clearly etching itself as a memory that Burgess will never forget. Because of his kindness, neither will the student who got that picture with him.

The person who he offered his hand for a handshake certainly won't forget, either.

Isn't that what it's all about?

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