Photo By Dave Eggen/Inertia
Everyone who follows North Dakota State basketball knew Vinnie Shahid was going to be something special. Being voted a captain shortly after arriving in Fargo only affirmed that notion.
Needless to say, he proved he is far more than special, he is one of the more electrifying players to come through campus in a long while.
Yet, Shahid was able to remain confident despite his individual struggles with a Summit League run that was beyond impressive.
“Just trusting myself, trusting my work, trusting my coaching staff and my teammates. They do a good job of giving me confidence and trusting me with the ball,” Shahid said about keeping his confidence up. “When they do that, my confidence level rises. It’s really just trusting my teammates and my coaching staff to do the right thing and to keep shooting the ball and keep being aggressive.”
As for his team, they began the year 2-7, with many people giving up on them after that. Being the captain, Shahid knew this team would be able to stick together through the darkest of days. “Starting off 2-7, I mean, it’s very easy as a team to veer away from what the goal at hand is. It’s very easy to separate as a team when things aren’t going well or going right. Our guys did the right thing and we stayed together, listened to the coaching staff and what they had for us and the goal at hand,” he said. “We all had a dream, we all had a goal that was in common and that was to win the league championship. When everybody has the goal in common it makes a lot of things easier to work for, a lot of things come easier together.”
Shahid believes there are multiple instances where this team turned a corner, but he narrows it down to one moment, now frozen in history.
“I think the turning point for us this season, many would say that getting our first road win was, but I honestly think the turning point for us was the loss at home to South Dakota State. Even the loss at their place, that could have been a little bit of a turning point because ever since the loss at their place, we’ve been playing a lot better basketball,” he said. “I think the loss here was one that stung us. Even in those next two games that we lost after that, I don’t think we played bad basketball, I think we played good basketball, we were just having trouble stringing together full games, full 40 minutes games. Those games helped us to understand what we needed to do to win a championship. Once we understood what we needed to do, we did a good job of accomplishing it.”
Shahid was one of the key contributors for the Bison in that final stretch run. Averaging 13 points per game on 44 percent shooting, Shahid was named All-Summit League Honorable Mention and to the All-Newcomer Team. Thanks to his amazing performance in conference play, he was also named the Summit League’s Newcomer of the Year.
You can try and ask Vinnie Shahid about that award, but he won’t give you an answer about himself. One of the most selfless individuals, Shahid is quick to note that team awards are far more important to him. “It’s definitely a blessing to win an award. I try not to talk about it too much because our team is a family and we thrive on team accomplishments,” he said. “Winning the Summit League Championship is a lot better than getting the Newcomer of the Year Award or any other award I could have gotten. You definitely take into consideration that you see that your hard work is starting to pay off a little bit.”
Shahid was also named to the All-Tournament team and the Tournament MVP in Sioux Falls for the Summit League Conference Tournament. He scored 20 points in the second half against Omaha to carry the Bison to a conference title. In March, it seems that a player always rises to the occasion. While each member of the Bison roster rose up, Shahid seemed to be on another level. In the NCAA Tournament, he scored 14 against North Carolina Central and 20 against Duke. His incredible performance against the Blue Devils drove legendary coach Mike Krzyzewski to call Shahid a “warrior” and a “dominant leader”.
Shahid described those three days in Sioux Falls and how it felt as the clock was nearing zero. “As the clock is running down, it’s just really exciting,” he said. “It doesn’t feel real, even today it doesn’t feel real. A rush of emotions, it’s something that you’ve dreamed about and it’s coming true.
Many people and media members counted this team out after their 2-7 start. Stating that they needed to hone their young talent for a year before making a push to the top of the Summit League standings. It is clear now that this team saw a tremendous amount of growth over the course of this season. Growth is a word Shahid uses frequently when describing this team. Shahid says it was not about proving people wrong, but it does feel good to do it.
“It definitely feels good because you hear that all year. As a student-athlete, you try not to pay attention to the media, but obviously, you’re human, you see it, you hear it. I think early on in the year where we struggled before conference, it was definitely an excuse that we were young, we don’t have any experience. As we went on and grew as a team, I don’t think it was an excuse anymore. It became a different story of us growing up and maturing as the season goes on,” he said. “I mean, you look at guys Sam Griesel had an amazing performance at the Summit League Tournament, his first time ever playing at a conference tournament. Guys like Tyree Eady playing big down the stretch, Rocky Kreuser, I could go down the line, Jordan Horn playing Summit League for the first time, I could go down the line, but I think guys just matured as a whole. We matured as a group as the season went on and I think we eliminated those excuses.”
It will never be about Vinnie Shahid. For him and those around him, it will always be about the Bison. As selfless as Shahid is, it’s not a secret anymore, he is a bonafide star. Vinnie Shahid is certainly on the fast track to becoming one of the conference’s best players as his senior season draws nigh.