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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Matt Grace next to commit for fifth season

Senior forward Matt Grace looks for a team mate to pass the ball to.
Senior forward Matt Grace looks for a team mate to pass the ball to.

Senior Matt Grace, a forward for the University of Richmond men’s basketball team, announced on April 13 his intentions to return for another year. 

The announcement was made through the team’s Instagram, and under the post, the caption read: “Let’s run it back, Matty Big Shots #OneRichmond.” “Matty Big Shots” is likely a nickname he will carry with him for the remainder of his time at UR.  

The Canadian forward had his fair share of big shots for UR in the Atlantic-10 Conference tournament this past March, where the Spiders went on to secure an NCAA March Madness tournament bid.

These big shots were made in UR’s A-10 semifinal matchup against the University of Dayton — a clutch 3-pointer to put the Spiders up 62-59 with 1:39 remaining — and in their A-10 championship matchup against Davidson College — a momentum-shifting layup as Grace was fouled that led to a one-point Spiders lead with 19.1 seconds on the clock.

Grace gave insight into that play in the championship game against the Wildcats and said he hadn’t been having a good game up until that point. 

“Coach kind of called me out during one of the timeouts, told me, ‘Play more confident, play more aggressive,’ and it kind of worked out that last play,” he said. 

And play more confidently and aggressively Grace did. His and-one play gave the Spiders the surge they needed in the final moments to come out of Washington D.C. victorious. 

Graduate student forward Grant Golden alluded to Grace’s performance in a postgame interview on March 13 after the Spiders beat the Wildcats 64-62 to win the A-10 championship. 

“Matt Grace can do no wrong,” Golden said.

It was game-clinching plays like these that allowed the Spiders to go as far as they did, ultimately making it to the Round of 32 of March Madness, where they lost a tough game against Providence College. 

In his four seasons at UR, Grace had never been the team’s primary scorer. In fact, with the exception of two games during the NIT back in 2021, Grace never started for the Spiders. This year, he was known as the sixth man. 

However, Grace said he always put everything he had into the role he was assigned and never complained.

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“Richmond kind of took a chance on me and I’ve really given everything I could since I’ve been here,” he said. “Played the role I’m supposed to play. Not like a guy who’s getting a lot of touches, even a lot of looks and stuff like that.” 

The team’s roster will look different this coming season, as the Spiders will lose graduates Golden, Gilyard, Nathan Cayo and Nick Sherod. Junior forward Tyler Burton declared for the NBA draft on April 6. 

This will allow Grace to step into a larger role on the team he said he is excited to play for next season. 

“Richmond means everything to me,” he said. “I’ve given a lot to it and it’s given a lot back.”

Grace’s former roommate, senior Andre Gustavson, who committed to coming back for a fifth season on March 31, said Grace’s return would prove beneficial for the program.

“That’s somebody I enjoy playing with,” Gustavson said. “So I feel like getting him back was a really big thing for me going forward. I think that gives us the best chance at competing at the same level as we did this year, next year.”

No doubt, the two have the same mindset for next season: to win. 

Like his former roommate, Grace said his favorite part of the season was winning the A-10 championship, so to reach that goal again will be something they set out to accomplish as they continue to get set to start the 2022-2023 season.  

Contact news writer Jimmy James at jimmy.james@richmond.edu.

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