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A biracial man with an African name, an African father, a white mother and a passion for academics and basketball has taken the nation by storm with an underdog chance of defeating two strong opponents to become a national champion. No this is not Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign but Shaka Smart’s 2011 VCU Final Four run.

Shaka Smart was born in 1977 to a white mother and an African father who gave him his name, Shaka, after the South African warrior. Smart was a stand out basketball player and student in Oregon and turned down both Harvard and Yale to attend Kenyon College due to his relationship with the coach, his mentor, Bill Brown.

At Kenyon, Smart was named a member of the 1999 USA TODAY All-USA Academic Team and studied race consciousness and social issues. He would later rejoin Bill Brown as an assistant coach at California University Of Pennsylvania, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Social Science.

Smart would later be an assistant coach at Clemson and Florida, before becoming the head coach of Virginia Commonwealth University in 2009, who he would take on a Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2011.


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