Yale men’s basketball forward Brandon Sherrod ’16 toured the world last summer with the nation’s oldest a cappella group, the Whiffenpoofs, and visited 26 different countries. That number now represents another unique milestone for the Bulldog big man.
In the midst of his senior campaign, Sherrod needs just one basket to tie the NCAA Division I record for consecutive made field goals, which currently stands at 26. The six-foot-six Bridgeport native is a perfect 25–25 from the field in a streak that extends back four games to Yale’s Jan. 16 Ivy League opener against Brown.
To expect Sherrod to be on the verge of matching, and potentially breaking, an NCAA record might have seemed far-fetched a season ago, when he could only watch as a spectator. But Yale head coach James Jones believes the time away was formative in his development as a player.
“His experience with the Whiffenpoofs has helped him out tremendously,” Jones said. “That experience of learning about cultures, traveling all over the world, seeing how different people live. There’s some people that would take that opportunity and not do anything with it but Brandon learned from it and he has come back a more mature and better man.”
Although silenced now, there were question marks entering the season as to how Sherrod would fare in his return from the Whiffenpoofs, and just how well the former starter would fit back into the lineup.
Sherrod’s original class of fellow recruits graduated last year on the heels of Yale’s co-Ivy League Championship and one-game playoff loss to Harvard.
“Obviously that’s not my original class, [but] we are close off the court. Throughout the year, we’ve definitely progressed in our relationships with each other and that translates to the court,” Sherrod said of his fellow four starters. “I know where Nick [Victor ’16] is going to be in the corner, I know where Jack [Montague ’16] is and when he’s going to shoot, I know that Makai [Mason ’18] is going to use a ball screen a certain way so I have to roll or pop based on his actions, and I know Justin [Sears ’16] is going to have a tendency to roll sometimes or pop. We’re on a string, and that helps a lot.”
While on tour, the Tenor II managed to keep himself in shape through workouts with fellow a capella members and pickup basketball games around the world.
According to Whiffenpoof Justin Young ’16, Sherrod and some fellow Whiffs found ways to train whether that meant running in Tanzania, finding dirt-floored gyms in Cambodia or playing basketball against members of the Ecuadorian navy in the Galapagos Islands.
“We had to improvise way of staying in shape,” Young said. “[Sherrod] was always watching videos and professional basketball, just any way he could stay connected to basketball.”
Sherrod, who carried a basketball with him through customs on his travels, admitted that it was difficult at times to find a basketball court. But sometimes they turned up where he may not have expected.
Once while running in Istanbul with fellow Whiffenpoofs, Sherrod “ditched” the group when he spotted a court, where he played basketball with a group that included multiple players competing in international professional league.
But it was not just basketball that broke barriers overseas.
“Music is an international language in itself. We’ve jammed out with people from all over the world, without having the ability to speak with them in their language, but being able to play,” said Sherrod, whose 17-year-old sister Chynna Sherrod is currently among the final 51 contestants in this season’s American Idol. “That’s just unreal. It’s the same with basketball. You don’t really need to converse on the court, especially if you’re paying pickup, but everybody knows the ball needs to get into the basket and that you need to dribble. Those two worlds are very similar, in a lot of ways.”
Unfortunately for Sherrod, though, those worlds did not often collide last season. Only able to attend three of Yale’s away games, and none at home, Sherrod could merely watch from the stands as his team earned its first share of a league championship since 2002.
Leading up to that title run, Yale defeated the then-defending national champion University of Connecticut on a game-winning three-pointer in a game that Sherrod called “bittersweet” as he watched from the nosebleed seats.
“I wanted to be a part of that. As much as people say, ‘Oh yeah you’re still a part of it,’ like no, I wasn’t on the court,” Sherrod said. “I was there in spirit, I was there as a fan.”
Motivated by his time away from the team, Sherrod has put together the best stretch of basketball of his collegiate career.
Not only has Sherrod been perfect from the floor during much of Ivy League play, but the Elis have been perfect as a unit — they are 4–0 and tied for first place in the conference. Sherrod has been a major contributor, leading the team with 18.8 points per Ancient Eight game after averaging just 9.1 during the non-conference portion of the season.
Not long before the streak started, there was a string of games in which Sherrod struggled to consistently perform on the offensive end. In seven games between Nov. 22 and Dec. 13, the forward reached double figures just once and made just 19 of 50 shots from the floor.
Sherrod pointed to foul trouble — he fouled out twice during that stretch — and a passive offensive mentality as reasons for the inconsistency.
“Foul trouble is huge … Another thing is just being a little more aggressive and looking to score,” Sherrod said. “There were some games I was a little passive, had some opportunities and passed them up, and there were games where I missed some point-blank shots. That could’ve messed up the statline a bit, but it is what it is.”
Sherrod began the 14-game tournament, as the Ivy League regular season is known, with a modest 13-point effort against Brown, but exploded for 24 points on 9–9 shooting in the teams’ second meeting. Combined with two consecutive 19-point performances against Penn and Princeton this past weekend, Sherrod has now been selected as the Ivy League Player of the Week for the second time in as many weeks.
Though this recent stretch has brought added attention to his ability to score, Sherrod has long made his mark as a defensive presence and effective rebounder for the Elis. This season, he is averaging a team-high 7.6 rebounds per game, fifth-best in the Ivy League, which includes 3.6 offensive boards per game, which is good for second-best in the conference.
Beyond the statistics, Sherrod has assumed the role of a leader and calming force for the Elis, both on and off the hardwood.
“He’s the same guy all the time,” forward Blake Reynolds ’19 said. “He’s always walking around with a smile on his face, wanting to lift people up. That happens on the court and in the locker room. He’s always offering good advice, whether it’s life advice, or in the classroom or on the court.”
According to Reynolds, that advice can sometimes take the form of the popular DJ Khaled quotation, “Another One,” which Sherrod himself appears to have taken to heart. With another one basket, Sherrod can write his name into the record books.
Sherrod will put his hot shooting streak on the line this Friday when the Elis host Columbia, also undefeated in Ivy League play, at 5 p.m.