Grant Golden ’16 has earned numerous accolades and has climbed statistical leaderboards for the Richmond Spiders throughout his career, and he’s not finished yet. Grant recently announced he will return for a sixth season, taking advantage of an NCAA decision to grant an additional year of eligibility to student-athletes competing in winter sports due to the impacts of COVID-19. He will join teammates Jacob Gilyard and Nathan Cayo
in one final attempt to win the Atlantic-10 (A-10) championship and an NCAA tournament bid.
After averaging 12.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game this season, Grant was named Third Team All-Atlantic 10, becoming first player in school history to earn All-Conference honors four times. He finished the season as the sixth-leading scorer (1,739) and fifth-leading rebounder (792) in Richmond history, now with the chance to move up the ranks next year.
Richmond had finished the 2019-2020 regular season with a record of 24-7 and a second-place finish in the A-10, looking at a sure spot in the NCAA tournament before it was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“At the end of the regular season last year, in the locker room after that last game was special because we were all really proud, especially after having two losing seasons before that,” he said. “For us to stick it out and get to that point, that was one of the best moments of my career regardless of how it ended.”
After a challenging and uncertain season, the Spiders finished this
year 14-9 and played in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT), not the tournament Grant was aiming for, but he said he still felt grateful to play postseason basketball when many teams did not have that opportunity.
“It’s been a tough year in a lot of ways. We were able to have a season, but it was very different,” Grant
said. “Our team had to get shut down three different times because of COVID and go into isolation. It's certainly not the way we envisioned it but looking back later down the road we’ll be grateful for the fact that we got to play.”
At 6-foot 10, Grant plays center for the Spiders and was one of 20 players named to the watch list for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award, given to the nation’s top center. Basketball has changed over the years with more versatile play expected from big men.
“At Saint James, our coaches expected some of those things from me, and I definitely started really handling the ball, making decisions on the perimeter, shooting threes, and stuff like that,” Grant said. “I think a lot of what I did at Saint James certainly prepared me for how the game has changed and what you’re seeing more of from bigger players."
The road hasn't always been smooth during his career at Richmond. During his freshman year, Grant collapsed during a game early in the season while playing Texas Tech on national television. He missed the rest of the season after undergoing a cardiac ablation procedure for an accelerated heart rate and was granted a medical redshirt by the NCAA.
"It's obviously not what you want at 19-years old to have to get an ablation, but it was a problem that was able to be taken care of and I haven’t had any issues since then. So, I’m lucky and thankful," he said.
Grant is actually a third- generation college athlete. Both of his grandfathers played college football and his father Craig (who is also 6-foot-10) played basketball at Fairfield. Now, he and his brother Bryce ’18 (Butler University) are carrying on the family tradition.
Grant said he was introduced to basketball by his father around age four and has been playing for as long as he can remember. The two brothers had many one-on-one contests growing up.
“We were always battling. Lots of bruises, scars, and tears probably,” he said. “People getting in trouble. There were some battles, but I never took it easy on him.”
The Goldens were living in Charlotte, NC when he joined his first travel basketball team at age eight.
"They took it very seriously. My mom and I talk about it all the time. We were having two-hour practices and conditioning,” Grant said. “At that point, I wasn’t sure it was really what I wanted to do because I felt like it was a little much at 8-years old. But ever since then I’ve been all in.”
Grant and Bryce arrived at Saint James in the fall of 2014, prior to Grant’s fifth form year. Former coaches Dan Prete and Don Shopland had reached out and encouraged them to apply after watching the brothers at an AAU tournament.
“My dad was sick at the time so there was a lot of uncertainty for us on what we wanted to do, especially to go off to boarding school,” Grant said. “But after some thought and consideration, we thought basketball-wise and academically it would be the best thing for us, and it ended up being one of the best decisions we ever made.”
Grant excelled while at Saint James. He was named the Washington County Co-Player of the Year as a sixth former after averaging 17.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. The team won IPSL and MAC championships. When the Saint James Invitational Tournament (SJIT) was re-launched in 2016, Grant helped lead the team to a third-place finish and was named to the All-Tournament team.
“We heard so many stories about what the tournament was and how big it was before they stopped running it, so the fact that Coach Prete was able to bring it back was awesome,” Grant said. “It was special for us to be the first group to play in it after they brought it back.”
Grant started getting recruited by colleges the summer before he arrived at Saint James. While he said there were some pressures, he tried to keep the perspective that he was very lucky to be in a position where schools were offering him a scholarship to play basketball. Grant was born in Richmond, and
said he knew if the university offered him, it would be something he’d consider.
“Out of all the schools I was considering, I felt like Richmond was the highest level of basketball with the best possible education,” Grant said. “It’s a great school, super hard to get into, and I felt like to be able to play basketball at a place like that and take advantage of the education would be huge for me.”
He believes that the structure of Saint James and the supportive environment with teachers being accessible on campus set him up for success academically.
“When you’re coming to college from a place like Saint James, you know how to take free time and use it productively,” he said.
Grant earned his undergraduate degree in Communications and is now working on a graduate degree in Human Resources, which was a factor in his decision to return to Richmond next year.