John Shurna — whose 2,038 points are the most in Northwestern men's basketball history — has never played a NBA game. But, as a New York Times article published Saturday details, he, and his facial hair, served as the catalyst for the incredible 28-game winning streak his Spanish Liga ACB team, Valencia, recently concluded.
When Shurna's team upset Real Madrid 88-82 on the road back in October, the former Northwestern standout and Glen Ellyn, IL native decided not to shave until his team lost again. Turns out Valencia, in both Spanish and Euroleague play, wouldn't drop another game until this past Tuesday in France against Limoges CSP, after which he spent over a half-hour shearing off the now adored beard.
The article focuses on how Shurna's winning streak beard, which surprisingly lasted three months, became, in the words of the Times' Sam Borden: "the unofficial mascot of Valencia's winning streak, a lucky charm that inspired everyone around it." Here's a full excerpt from the feature:
The beard, otherwise known as the unkempt, untamed, unruly thicket of wires located on the cheeks and chin of forward John Shurna, became the unofficial mascot of Valencia's winning streak, a lucky charm that inspired everyone around it but â unlike most other furry mascots â also seemed to grow like virulent kitchen mold.
"He looked like Shaggy from ‘Scooby-Doo,' but on steroids," said Luke Sikma, one of three American players on the team. "The hair was everywhere, the beard was everywhere."
It's a nice return to so-called glory for Shurna, whose Northwestern tenure featured four consecutive NIT appearances but no above-.500 Big Ten records.
Since his time in Evanston, Shurna, after two failed attempts to latch on with a NBA team, played in France, Spain and Turkey for a year apiece before signing with financially troubled Valencia this past offseason. With his beard, strong play and the team's success, Shurna has become beloved in Spain, even if locals won't be able to immediately recognize him without the "unkempt, untamed, unruly thicket of wires located on [his] cheeks and chin."