About time that another No. 44 be raised to the RC rafters
By Vinny Pezzimenti
I haven’t been inside the Reilly Center a lot in recent years. A game here and there. That’s about it.
When I am there, the action on the court naturally consumes my attention. I seldom glance up at the rafters.
That changed in December, when a boring game combined with my seating in the upper deck placed my vision in line with a hanging banner bearing the number 44.
The retired number belongs to Andrew Nicholson, of course. The 2012 grad is no doubt worthy of the honor. Still, it feels strange to me that a No. 44 hangs in the Reilly Center rafters and that it belongs in no part to David Vanterpool.
I may be in the minority, but when I think of 44 and the Bonnies, Vanterpool comes to mind first. It will probably always be that way.
I grew up on Vanterpool’s Bonnies. The knee-high white socks and cool demeanor. As a young fan who lived down the street from campus, he gave you hope.
The program’s golden years had long since passed when Vanterpool joined the Bonnies in 1991. The team hadn’t earned a winning season in five years, and new coach, Jim Baron, had a challenging rebuilding job before him.
I remember speaking to Vanterpool following an alumni game on campus in 2007. He had been recruited to St. Bonaventure by Tom Chapman, but he and others remained committed to the program after Chapman was fired and replaced by Baron.
It was that sense of togetherness, Vanterpool said, that drove the Bonnies.
With Vanterpool leading the way, the Bonnies upset two nationally ranked opponents, West Virginia and George Washington, in 1993-94. Those victories set the stage for the magical 1994-95 season, when the Bonnies won 18 games and were invited to the NIT.
Even as the Bonnies defeated Southern Mississippi in a first-round NIT game at the Reilly Center – their only postseason victory since the NIT championship in 1977 – that season will forever be remembered by ‘The Shot’ against UMass.
The Shot, of course, was Vanterpool’s. Covered closely by Mike Williams, Vanterpool leaned in and fired an off-balanced 3-pointer from the corner that connected to force overtime against the top-ranked Minutemen.
The Bonnies lost the game, a fact that clearly still rankled Vanterpool in 2007.
“That’s the only thing that bothered me,” he said.
Vanterpool was blessed with a number of solid teammates on that NIT team, including Nii Nelson-Richards, Shandue McNeil, Jeff Quackenbush and a young Rashan Palmer.
But Vanterpool was the guy. Watch the game against No. 1 UMass again. The way he fights for a rebound over Lou Roe. The way he fearlessly attacks the basket against Marcus Camby. The way he finds Nelson-Richards open in the corner.
Vanterpool finished his college career with 1,474 points, 630 rebounds, 401 assists and 247 steals. He also still holds the program mark for steals in a game with eight.
It is improbable that a St. Bonaventure player will ever again accumulate at least 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, 400 assists and 200 steals like Vanterpool did.
Looking back, the early and mid ’90s were the Altantic 10’s best years, and Vanterpool was one of its best players. Five of the conference’s nine teams made the NCAA or NIT in 1995, when Vanterpool was named to the A-10 first team.
Vanterpool, that NIT team and that classic game against UMass helped entice a next wave of of great players to St. Bonaventure. Without Vanterpool there is no Tim Winn.
As Vanterpool put it: “The NCAA had to take notice again of St. Bonaventure basketball.”
Vanterpool has enjoyed success after St. Bonaventure. He played professionally around the globe and stateside with the Washington Wizards. He was a scout for the Oklahoma City Thunder and now is an assistant coach for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Canadian national team.
In recent years, Vanterpool has been a candidate for head coaching positions in the NBA. He will get his shot soon enough.
He has built a resume worthy of great recognition. He was inducted into the SBU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2006. He is one of the basketball program’s all-time greats.
Most of all, Vanterpool was a transcendent player for the Bonnies. Much like Nicholson, he led a revival. He put the Bonnies back on the map.
It has been almost 21 years since Vanterpool played his last game for the Bonnies. It is about time he takes his rightful place in the rafters.