By Evan Nicely & Andy Lohman
Initially, Sydnei Archie wanted to go somewhere new for college. Every year, students across the country embark on journeys to new places to continue their education, gaining freedom away from home. As a Division I basketball prospect, Archie had a great opportunity to do just that.
Going into her ninth grade year, she had offers from multiple big-time schools in addition to her hometown school, VCU. Archie ended up visiting Michigan State, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, and Georgia among others.
But after tearing her ACL in high school, many of those schools backed off their recruitment while one of the schools that stuck with her from the beginning held firm in their commitment, VCU.
“That was a big thing for me,” Archie said. “I was recruited by a lot of major teams and when I tore my ACL a lot of them dropped off. But VCU always believed in me and that’s important because when you have to spend four years and a lot of time with a certain group of people, you have to know they’re not going to give up on you, and continue to believe in you.”
VCU was already a familiar place for Archie, a Richmond native. Her parents met at school when her father, Torrance, played on the men’s basketball team, and her mother, Seatra, was a team manager. Torrance led the Rams in rebounding during the 1997-98 season with 6.5 boards per game.
“It made me very familiar with VCU, but almost in a negative way,” Sydnei said.” I didn’t want to go to VCU, I wanted to go somewhere different. But I changed my mind and eventually realized how close I am to my family and that I didn’t want to go far.”
She got her start in basketball early and her older brother, Torrance, Jr., would play intense one-on-one games in their back yard. When he joined the Air Force and moved away, she reevaluated where she really wanted to be and spend her college career. Ultimately, she decided there was no place like home and to follow in her father’s footsteps by donning the Black and Gold.
A common bond, basketball helped strengthen the relationships between father and daughter. Torrance served as Sydnei’s AAU coach through most of her prep career. But while coaching as a parent can often add extra pressure to the child, Torrance never had that problem with Sydnei.
“I don’t think it was harder because Sydnei was one of those kids who knew what was expected of her. I didn’t have to bear down and make it harder for her, she made it hard for herself. She’s one of the most competitive young ladies I’ve ever seen, and not just on the basketball court,” Torrance said. “Coaching her was pretty easy, I was able to give attention to the other kids because I didn’t have to go ‘okay you’re the coach’s daughter, make sure you’re going hard.’ She was always going hard, she was the example in everything I coached for her.”
Torrance played for the Rams before the Siegel Center was built, competing at the Richmond Coliseum at the same time the East Coast Hockey League’s Richmond Renegades shared the venue.
“It was freaking cold,” he laughed.
But since then, Torrance has been impressed with the strides that VCU has made as an athletic department.
“It’s unbelievable the transition and transformation they’re making over there on Broad Street,” Torrance said.
Not only did Sydnei’s father lace up for VCU, her high school head coach at St. Catherine’s, Ed Sherod, is a member of the VCU Athletics Hall of Fame for his basketball career. Those influences helped guide her through the recruiting process.
“When you have injuries, the recruitment process isn’t so fun,” Sydnei said. “They helped me through and made me understand it and navigate it. They kept me centered and made sure I kept my options open. It was really beneficial to have.”
“I [initially] was having fun on my visits and told myself ‘distance doesn’t matter to me,’” Sydnei said. “But I had to get real with myself.”
She officially singed her NLI with the Rams last November during the Early Signing Period. Now, just a year later, she’s playing at home in front of her parents and VCU family. She knocked down two free throws in her collegiate debut against Norfolk State on Nov. 12 and has become a featured member of a youthful VCU squad.
“I think [my dad] was super proud. He got there early, he was so close. My mom had a shirt with my whole entire body on it,” Sydnei laughs about her parents. “They were super proud.”