March 10, 2014
By Josh Dempsey '16
Rural Kenton, Ohio, may not be the first place you would look for talent if you were an NCAA Division I basketball coach, but size and skill are not geographically determined. A diamond in the rough can be found anywhere - although in this case, a diamond in the cornfield might be the more appropriate phrasing.
Garrick Sherman grew up on a farm in Kenton, and he is in the seventh (yes, seventh) generation of the family to live and work on the farm.
"Living on the farm has been a way of life for my family," Notre Dame's 6-11. 255-pound center says. "It has definitely shaped a lot of my own values and affected who I am today."
A great portion of the population at Notre Dame hails from the suburban regions of Chicago and New York, but Sherman did not grow up in such close quarters.
"The closest neighbor we had was about a mile or so down the road," Sherman describes, "so it was pretty remote growing up there."
Despite the rural area in which Sherman grew up, his journey began where most collegiate athletes begin their careers: in the driveway.
"I started playing basketball when I was young," Sherman says. "I can't recall an exact age, but my dad, my brother, and I would all play in the driveway. It all took off from there.
"I started playing AAU, and basketball became more of a full-time thing for me. I wasn't able to work on the farm as much, and I was playing basketball year-round."
Although farming ran in the family, collegiate athletics did not exactly have six prior generations among the Shermans.
"I was the first member of the family to play college basketball," Sherman says. "My dad and my uncle both played in high school, but I was the first one to make the jump to college."
The numbers that Sherman was able to produce in high school are what put him on the map of some of the biggest basketball schools in the nation. He is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder at Kenton High School and is the second leading rebounder in history of the state of Ohio. As a senior, he averaged 23.6 points and 15.8 rebounds as a senior at Kenton, Ohio and earned first-team all- state honors.
Feats like these are what originally put Sherman at Michigan State, playing with the Spartans in the Big Ten. Irish head coach Mike Brey and his staff heavily recruited Sherman out of high school, but could not land the highly-touted high school prospect the first time around.
"Coming out of high school, Notre Dame was my second choice because I really wanted to play in the Big Ten," Sherman recalls. "I started off at Michigan State because they were in the Big Ten and they were also had a College of Agriculture which was a big plus. I wanted to pursue an agriculture degree so when my basketball career is over I can get back into farming."
Following his sophomore year at Michigan State, Sherman decided that he wanted to transfer to another top-tier basketball program.
"When I began looking to transfer, my two choices were to come to Notre Dame or go to Butler," Sherman says. "Fortunately, I got a second chance to come to Notre Dame and I've really enjoyed it."
Sherman's career has allowed him to play in three of the top conferences in the country: the Big Ten, the BIG EAST and the ACC.
"It has definitely been an advantage for me," Sherman explains. "I've been a lot of places and taken a lot of road trips. It's been a long career, and I've had the opportunity to play in a lot of different gyms, but I wouldn't change anything. I've enjoyed it and learned a lot from it."
The fifth-year senior is having his best collegiate season to date as he is averaging career-bests of 13.6 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds. Sherman has netted 20-plus points five times this season, four of those in ACC games. And is six career double-doubles, all have come this season. His 49.2 percent shooting percentage ranks second in the ACC, while his 7.1 rebounds per game are 10th best in the conference.
Heading into the season, Sherman had only scored 20-plus points once during his career. In 2013-14, he netted a career high 29 points and finished with nine rebounds against Iowa. In a tough 77-70 loss to North Carolina in Notre Dame's second-ever ACC game, he netted 21 points and grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds. The 18 boards were the most by an Irish players since Jack Cooley's 18 versus Rutgers on Feb. 15, 2012. Sherman also scored 20 or more points in consecutive games for the first time in his career when he tallied 21 and 20 versus Florida State (Jan. 21) and Wake Forest (Jan. 25).
While this year has seen Sherman flourish statistically, Irish fans will long remember the 17 points (in 22 minutes) coming off the bench against Louisville in Notre Dame's thrilling 104-101 overtime win against the Cardinals that marked the longest game in the history of Purcell Pavilion.
Sherman, who has started all 30 games he has played in this season, missed Notre Dame's final regular-season contest against North Carolina (in Chapel Hill) after pain from the chipped bone in his finger (an injury suffered against Clemson on Feb. 11) made holding and catching the ball extremely difficult.
Although he's been on quite the journey throughout his basketball career, Sherman wishes to bring the trip full circle and one day end up back on the farm.
"I'd like to play basketball for as long as I can, maybe three to five years or wherever the opportunities take me," Sheman says. "It might be Europe or maybe the NBA if I can get there, but my goal has always been to get back to the farm, start working, and eventually take over the family business. It was my goal growing up, and it's been the goal all along."
Whether it is in the Big Ten, the BIG EAST or the ACC, a roaring gym filled with thousands of fans has its appeal for many, but for Garrick Sherman it might be life on the farm that suits him best.