nick sherod illustration

Three generations of March Madness

March 21, 2022


Last week, Nick Sherod joined the elite group of basketball players who have appeared in the NCAA basketball tournament. But Sherod’s lineage is even more selective — one made up of his grandfather, father, and him, who can now all point to a showing at the Big Dance.

The moment nearly didn’t happen.

Sherod tore his left ACL at the start of his junior year season, followed by his right ACL the following year. He returned for 2019-20, only to have the season end early with the onset of COVID-19. 

“I put some of those dreams on the shelf,” Sherod said.

Until last Sunday, that is, when the sixth-seeded Spiders beat the top seed Davidson to win the Atlantic 10 tournament, and secured their path to the NCAA tournament.

Sherod’s grandfather, Ed, was a junior at VCU in 1980 when the Rams lost to Iowa in the first round. The next year, Ed was back when the Rams beat Long Island in the first round before falling to Tennessee in the second.

Sherod’s father, E.J., made his first showing at the Dance as a sophomore in 1995 when Old Dominion University beat Villanova in the first round. Like Ed, E.J. was bumped in the second round with a loss to Tulsa. He returned his senior year but lost to New Mexico in the opening round.

“It was like … a culminating thing because, as a senior, you want to go out in the tournament,” E.J. said in a recent article for the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

On Thursday, the Spiders upset Iowa, the same team that knocked his grandfather out of the tournament 40 years ago. And Sherod can finally compare notes with his family.

“The game is a lot different,” he says. “We played in front of 16,000 people. Everything is elevated from a normal game.”

Though they never wore the Spiders jersey, Ed and E.J. know the feeling of walking onto the court in the big dance. They cheered Sherod on in Buffalo, with the same advice they’d been giving for two generations. 

“They told me to take in the moment,” Sherod said. “This has been such an amazing experience. It’s one of those things I’ll be telling my grandkids about one day.”