A lot of things were running through Vinnie Shahid’s mind when he walked his mother, Riva, to center court as part of senior night festivities last week with the North Dakota State men’s basketball team. Those two have held hands with Vinnie’s career since the day Riva made him dribble two tennis balls when he was 5 years old.
It was a challenge.
Up the sidewalk. Turn the corner. Turn another corner. And back to the house. Over and over until young Vinnie mastered the craft.
“We gradually increased the ball size,” Vinnie said. “Eventually I was able to do it with two basketballs.”
Eventually, Vinnie became a name in Minneapolis basketball, a journey that took him to Hopkins High School and a Minnesota state title, to Western Nebraska Community College as a junior college All-American and to NDSU, where he has led the Bison to the No. 1 seed in the Summit League tournament that begins Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D.
NDSU plays No. 8 Denver at 6:30 p.m. at the Denny Sanford Premier Center. When this two-year ride with the Bison ends, it’s not as if basketball will end for Shahid. There will always be a spot in the game — whether he plays professionally or gets into the game in some other form — for a man with the charisma and leadership of Shahid.
Bison head coach Dave Richman once called him the “Pied Piper” of basketball in the Twin Cities because everybody in the game knows Vinnie.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where that came from. Like mother. Like son.
“She’s a very caring person, always puts others before herself and she taught me to do that at a young age,” Vinnie said. “Just some of the leadership qualities I have in myself is something that I learned from her growing up and watching how she would do things.”
Things like coaching Vinnie’s youth basketball teams from when he was in elementary and junior high. Those teams were no slouch, with players like former Minnesota Gopher and current Los Angeles Clipper Amir Coffey and Denver forward Ade Murkey.
Saturday will be the last time Shahid and Murkey will be on the court together, albeit for different teams. Back in the traveling team days, they were roommates on road trips.
“That relationship is a lot deeper than basketball,” Shahid said. “Inside the lines, he’s one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever seen. Like me, he doesn’t want to lose and it trickles down to our team.”
Riva Shahid played basketball in high school and was good enough to play in college somewhere until life took her a different direction.
“She got pregnant with my sister,” Vinnie said. “So I think her way of living her dream is kind of through me and so it’s probably a blast for her to come to my college basketball games and see me have fun doing it. And to see her having fun watching me play, it keeps me going.”
Vinnie said his mother did an incredible job raising him from a young boy. She must have been a pretty good coach, too.
He’s one of the most explosive players to the basket in the Summit League. At 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, he plays with the strength of a bigger player, especially around the hoop. The Bison have been blessed with outstanding points guards in the Division I era from Ben Woodside to Lawrence Alexander.
Add Shahid to that list.
He went over 1,000 points in his two seasons, only the second player in program history to do so with only two seasons of eligibility. The other was NBA draft pick Lance Berwald from 1982-84, who did it after transferring from Nebraska.
Shahid joined Woodside, Taylor Braun and Paul Miller as the only Bison to score at least 500 points and record 75 assists in a Division I season. Shahid (18.1 points per game) and Tyson Ward (16.5) are on pace to become the first Bison duo since Woodside and Brent Winkelman in 2008-09 to average over 15 points in a season.
There’s been plenty to discuss with mom.
“I talk to her before and after every game,” Vinnie said. “She can sense when I feel like I’m struggling. She’ll tell me, ‘Rough one?’ You’re better than that, I know you can do better than that and you know you can do better than that. Just get to the next one. But definitely, she can sense those things and she helps and guides me through when I’m having tough times.”
There haven’t been many tough times. The Bison reached the NCAA tournament last year when Shahid, after an average start with the adjustment from junior college ball, was the point man in the tourney run.
He's been a fan favorite. After NDSU's last regular-season game against Nebraska Omaha last Saturday, Shahid gave his basketball shoes to a little boy. The video was captured on social media, with the kid's eyes as big as tennis balls.
In that sense, his career has gone full circle. It started with tennis balls on a sidewalk in Minneapolis with his mother watching over him.
“I was 5 years old,” Vinnie said. “She’s been there the whole way with me.”