COLUMBIA, S.C. — On a stage full of potential NBA draft picks against a program that thinks national championship from the first day of practice, Vinnie Shahid wasn’t fazed. The guard for North Dakota State's men's basketball team, in fact, was the best offensive player on the floor in the first 20 minutes.
The outcome didn’t end well for the Bison, who gave Duke all it wanted in the first half before falling 85-62 in Friday night's NCAA Tournament game. Shahid hit 7 of 14 shots and led the Bison with 20 points.
He also left Colonial Life Arena with a nice compliment from Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“The kid, Shahid, is a dominant leader and he played so well today, especially in the first half,” he said.
When told of Krzyzewski’s comment, Shahid said “it means a lot.”
“A lot of it has to do with my teammates,” he said. “They give me confidence. They trust me with the ball. But it means a lot to hear that.”
The loss ended a season of growth for the transfer from Western Nebraska Community College. He became almost an immediate team captain over the summer, but the year was one of stages.
It took awhile to figure out how the Bison practice. It took a few games in non-conference play before he started clicking. It took one run through the Summit League before he got acclimated to the conference.
He turned it up another notch in tournament play, leading the Bison to the Summit title against Nebraska-Omaha. The Bison defeated North Carolina Central in the “First Four” game on Wednesday night.
Shahid, from Minneapolis, went against former summer basketball teammate Tre Jones, a one-on-one matchup that was on display most of the night. NDSU guard Jordan Horn, from St. Paul, also played with Jones and Shahid back in their prep days.
Shahid and Horn were the only Bison to score in double figures. After the game, when both teams were shaking hands, those three were more about a hug.
“Those guys are really tight,” said NDSU head coach Dave Richman. “Vinnie Shahid is like a Pied Piper in the Twin Cities. Everybody knows Vinnie. Same with Jordan. They’re at every open gym. Whether we play somebody from Omaha or somebody from Denver from the Twin Cities, everybody knows those two guys. So it was a cool experience for them.”
Jones, from Apple Valley, Minn., was more effective on the defensive end finishing with five points. He left the offense to teammates like Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
While the point totals were good, the floor game had its challenges for Shahid. He finished with five turnovers and no assists against a taller and longer opponent.
Navigating around the 6-2 Jones was no easy task. But then Shahid has known that for a long time.
“You grow up with somebody playing on the same team as them,” Shahid said, “and then you compete with them again through high school and then you see them on the biggest stage there is in college basketball in March Madness, it’s very exciting.”
An exciting night that ended a productive season. And a compliment from a legendary coach.