Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Vermont’s Matt Sheftic

February 10, 2004 Columns No Comments



Sheftic Returns Quietly, But At the Top

by Phil Kasiecki

When Matt Sheftic got up to check into Sunday’s game at Northeastern, a big section of the crowd erupted in applause. The Vermont fans were elated to see the 6’8″ senior big man in his first action of the season. He played just six minutes, not scoring and picking up two rebounds, but that’s just a small part of the story.

The story begins in 1999, when Sheftic began his college career, but it’s not until nearly two years later that it becomes a roller coaster ride.

In January of 2001, his sister, Lauren, suffered a brain aneurysm. She went into intensive care for several months after it, while Matt was busy in the heat of the college basketball season. Her illness took a toll on the entire family, and especially on Matt as the season went along. He felt he needed to spend more time with them instead of playing basketball, and decided after the season to take the next year off.

The next academic year, things got more trying for him. Lauren passed away in December, and that came just three months after 9/11, which made for what he described as “a somber time” since he had been (and still is) in ROTC. He knew then that his military work would not just be at peace time.

Inspired by what his sister went through, as well as how fortunate he was to play Division I basketball, he decided to return to the team for the 2002-03 season. Sheftic continued his improvement, boosting his numbers slightly over those of two seasons ago, but he saved the best for last. The Catamounts won the America East Tournament to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their history, and Sheftic was the Most Outstanding Player with a career-high 23 points in the championship game, two games after a previous career high of 22 points on 10-10 shooting.

But he didn’t stop drawing from his sister there. After tearing the ACL in his right knee in August, the outlook was bleak for this season and it looked like another low point on the roller coaster. As much as before, he still looks at what she went through and how she persevered before passing.

“I say a prayer and ask her to give me the strength that she showed when I play games, and especially now when I’m trying to get back from a knee injury,” Sheftic said. “It’s 7 in the morning, and we’re going to do rehab; it definitely hasn’t been an easy process to get through. But by the same token, I always think about how a knee injury is not even a comparison to the kind of rehab that she did.”

The injury came as he was looking forward to a big senior year, one where the Catamounts would be sure favorites to return to the NCAA Tournament. But like other things he’s experienced, it helped him put his life into perspective, as he knew he had gone through more difficult times. It helped him move to get the surgery done and work as hard as he could on his rehabilitation, even though it looked like he would not play this season and return next year if the NCAA granted him a sixth year of eligibility.

Sheftic’s circumstances led the NCAA to grant him the sixth year in November, when another important life event occurred. He learned that he had been awarded his first request for assignment – military intelligence – and had to make a decision. He could defer his compensation and play next season, taking the risk of likely getting an assignment other than the one he wanted, or he could try to return for some of this season and take the assignment he got. It gave him some mixed emotions at the time.

Working in the FBI or CIA being a lifelong dream of his, and it had a large impact on his decision to accept the assignment and attempt to return this season. He talked with many people, but in the end the assignment was one he couldn’t pass up for the sake of his future.

“I had always wanted to get into either the CIA or the FBI, and when I got military intelligence, it was an unbelievable stepping stone to get into one of those organizations,” he said. “It was too good to turn down.”

Head coach Tom Brennan, who speaks very highly of Sheftic on and off the court, has played no small role in things as well. When Sheftic posed the decision he was faced with to Brennan, the coach figured there was only one decision to make.

“When I told him I got my first choice and if I don’t accept it, I probably won’t get it next year, he said, ‘Well, it sounds like it’s not a choice, really,’ ” Sheftic recalls. “That kind of support really helped me and motivated me to get back this year.”

That support was one more example of what he has found throughout his time in Burlington. Like many who have played at Vermont, as well as Brennan, he speaks fondly of how tight-knit the community is, from the support he got while his sister struggled to survive to the everyday life of a college student. It’s all helped transform him into a different young man than he was when he first arrived on campus.

“The college life has been unbelievable, especially at Vermont, because we have so many people who care about us,” he recalls. “I think I’ve learned a lot, and when you couple that with the life experiences with my family, staying at school and going to Vermont has been an unbelievable and rewarding experience for me.”

Sheftic realizes he has been blessed with many opportunities in life, from playing Division I basketball to his upcoming opportunity in the military. His days on the hardwood are drawing to a close, but he has a bigger calling ahead. In May, he will graduate from the university with a degree in Business Administration, then should be called to duty and begin on his path to helping others have the same freedom and opportunity that he has had. He’s at one of the peaks on the roller coaster ride, but this time it may last a little longer.

     

Comment on this Article:







Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville

Advertisement


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a bizarre finish to an early-season tournament game, the Pac-12’s early struggles, Florida teams going in different directions and two northeast teams trending less relevant even as they excite fans at a famous arena.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 22, 2017

November 22, 2017 by

In our pre-Thanksgiving podcast, we look at a key injury that is likely to be devastating for his team and an under-the-radar 4-0 week, then move on to some early SEC impressions and a couple of teams that just continue to win.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 9, 2017

November 10, 2017 by

The season is almost here, and we take a look at some of what to expect this coming season. We have preseason polls, conference changes, a look at some conferences and some matchups to start the season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – October 2, 2017

October 2, 2017 by

The FBI has zeroed in on college basketball in a big way, and what has happened may be the beginning of a massive hit to the sport. We discuss what we know thus far in our latest podcast.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – August 17, 2017

August 18, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we check in with some good news from a few teams overseas after a big scare, plus a big addition for a championship contender, a conference on the rise, and a great coach thinking about a return to the bench.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.