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Chris Gay: Sherrill leaves legacy at Augusta University

Posted: March 1, 2017 - 3:14am

A week ago today, Augusta University senior guard Keshun Sherrill walked off the basketball court at USC Aiken's convocation center, tears filling his eyes.

After his 33-point effort against the Pacers in an overtime victory for the Jaguars, Sherrill finally added something to his legacy beyond scoring. Augusta claimed a share of the Peach Belt Conference regular season title, their first league championship in six years. Sherrill helped bring a banner to Christenberry Fieldhouse, something that will hang proudly for years to come.

Sherrill began this season chasing Ben Madgen's school and conference scoring record. Months ago, I didn't know what to make of this. Madgen, a guard from Australia, helped fill Augusta's basketball arena with banners. With an excellent supporting cast (Tyrekus Bowman, Daniel Dixon and Garret Siler, to name a few), Madgen helped lead the Jaguars to three consecutive regular season Peach Belt titles, three consecutive Elite Eight appearances. Also, he was a conference tournament MVP, league MVP and is a member of the Peach Belt Hall of Fame. (Why Augusta still doesn't have an athletic Hall of Fame is beyond me.)

Madgen's No. 1 jersey was retired by the school just before he finished his senior season, before he went on to a successful professional career overseas. Ben was a solid player, a solid guy. And he was one of the best quotes, and when you're in my line of work you're always looking for people who deliver great quotes.

When I think of Ben, I think of two things. First, he finished his career with 2,306 career points. He could've added at least two more points in the 2009 Peach Belt championship game against USC Aiken. Instead, he made one of the smartest moves I've ever seen on the basketball court. In a battle of two top-25 programs, Augusta held a one-point lead late when USC Aiken's Cody Ballard missed a short shot in the lane. The ball went out to Madgen, who drove down the court with mere seconds on the clock.

Had he drove in for a layup, he could've been fouled. Two free throws would've given the Pacers a chance at a desperation heave to tie or win the game. Instead, Madgen drove through the lane and circled back toward midcourt, running out the clock for the victory. I can still see people like Lenny Carlson, the brilliant assistant coach and grandfather, jumping up and down on the sidelines. (If anyone at the university ever gets this Hall of Fame off the ground - I'll be glad to help - Lenny needs to be in there for all his contributions through the years.)

While Ben had his great moments, he also had trouble shooting inside the MassMutual Center, site of the Elite Eight during his run. Arena officials placed a basketball court in the middle of its hockey rink, making the sightlines different than the ones at cozier settings around the Peach Belt. Ben never could find his shot inside that place. After his last collegiate game - a loss in the Elite Eight - we spoke briefly after the recorder stopped. He shook his head and said, "I don't know what it is about this place."

Madgen had a brilliant career. When he finished with the scoring record, I thought that would be tough to break. A freshman would have to get off to a great start and then continue to have a solid college campaign. To score 2,000 points, a player must average 500 a year. In 30 games per season, that's a 16.6 points-per-game average. Then, he would have to add another 307 points to best Ben.

With that said, Sherrill is on the cusp of becoming the new record holder. He will enter Saturday's Peach Belt semifinal contest (Augusta faces Columbus State at 1 p.m. at the Finis Horne Arena in Greenwood, S.C.) with 2,265 points. He trails Madgen by 41 points. If the Jaguars win their semifinal matchup, Sherrill could go for two things Sunday: the scoring record and a conference tournament championship - something he and his teammates just missed capturing last year, falling in double overtime to Lander.

I didn't know what to make about Sherrill breaking Ben's record to start this season, because Augusta had yet to win anything during his career. Like Ben, Keshun is a wonderful person and a hard-worker. He just hasn't had the supporting cast Ben had, and that's not a knock on the current Jaguars. Ben just had the great fortune of playing with 7-foot All-American Garret Siler, who played briefly in the NBA. Keshun hasn't had that luxury.

So when he cried last week, Sherrill deserved to do so. Those tears were nothing more than sweat pouring out of his eyes, work he's put in for four years to help make Augusta great again. With a talented bunch of mostly underclassmen, Sherrill has done just that.

The Jaguars are 23-6 this season. They have a chance to add more banners in the coming weeks, add to their senior guard's legacy. Maybe one day down the road, the school will decide to retire Sherrill's No. 10 jersey. Maybe in the near future, we'll talk about his induction into the school's athletic Hall of Fame (Seriously, the school should have added this years ago.) Whenever Sherrill walks off the court in his final collegiate game - whenever that will be - he can hold his head high. He will go down as one of the greatest players in Augusta basketball history. That's something we can all applaud.

 

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