Ronshad Shabazz was the last to get his name called on Saturday, and rightly so.
The Appalachian State guard was one of seven seniors being recognized before the Mountaineers’ final home game of the 2018-19 season.
His accomplishments reverberated through the Holmes Convocation Center, echoes of one of the best basketball careers in Appalachian’s history:
- He’s never missed a game, starting 123 of 124 during his four years in Boone.
- He’s App State’s leader in career field goals, a milestone earned during a 47-point performance against UL Monroe on Feb. 28.
- And lastly, he’s one of two players to score more than 2,000 points. He’s only the ninth guy to do that in Sun Belt Conference history.
Shabazz stood on the court as the cheers grew louder before he finally had a moment to wave and smile.
“I don’t really think of it or think about it that much,” Shabazz said about his career after a 78-71 loss to South Alabama. “When they were talking about it and naming things off, I was like it’s just a blessing to be here.
“It’s been a journey because when I first got here, I didn’t know what to expect like I said. You know, all the hard work pays off is what I really see. And just believing. It’s pretty good to hear the things — looking back to when I first got here — it’s good to hear I came a long way.”
Signed before the 2015-16 season, Shabazz brought promise to a fledgling program. He was the jewel of the signing class, coming from West Virginia’s Huntington Prep School, and was expected to impact the program immediately.
Shabazz turned that into a career that featured double-digit scoring every season. And his production grew as he continued forward.
He averaged 11.9 and 16.7 points in his freshman and sophomore campaigns, respectively, before averaging 18.5 these last two seasons. Shabazz’s field goal percentage has crept up every season, converting on 44.2 percent of his shots this season. That includes a 38.2-percent clip from 3-point range.
Coach Jim Fox said watching Shabazz work every day, he sometimes lost sight of the guard’s long-term improvement. Then a fellow Sun Belt coach would talk to him about Shabazz, and it’d reopen his eyes to the work that had gone into crafting such a high-volume shooter and scorer.
“When we got him . . . we were just starting here,” Fox said. “So he really put a lot of faith in us.
“And he really developed himself into a heck of a player. He works religiously at it. He’s an example for other guys to see.”
Coming into his senior year, the Mountaineers looked encouraging. They went 15-18, the best record under Fox, and returned a large chunk of last season’s production. But as the season took a disappointing turn — including an 0-6 start to Sun Belt play and an 11-20 overall record by Saturday — the fun story line that emerged was Shabazz’s case for the career scoring record at App State.
Shabazz moved to second place all-time in January, looking up only to Donald Sims. Sims — a guard from 2007 to 2011 — was the 2010 Southern Conference player of the year, known for his slicked-up black hair and his unlimited range.
Saturday did not feature a great performance from Shabazz. In his final game in Boone, he went 5 for 17 with 16 points. That output brought his career total to 2,056 points, which is 129 behind Sims (2,185).
Shabazz has at least one game left. The Mountaineers clinched the final spot in the Sun Belt Conference tournament, which starts on Tuesday. Barring some chaotic run with more Shabazz’s explosions, he will finish just short of Sims.
But his career brought excitement to a program that is still trying to establish itself among the best in its conference. Shabazz saw only nine wins in each of his first two years.
He saw App State basketball at its lowest point. And even though wins were hard to come by this season — the Mountaineers lost their 20th game on Saturday — he mentioned how happy he was to leave Appalachian with the program in a better place.
“It’s been a long four years,” Shabazz said. “It’s been exciting. We’ve had some ups and downs.
“... The culture has changed. People want to win, want to get better, be in the gym.”