RAMS, TEAM IMPACT JOIN FORCES TO SIGN MORGAN VEGA

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Shaka Smart welcomes Morgan Vega (center) to the VCU Basketball program Thursday.

Shaka Smart welcomes Morgan Vega (center) to the VCU Basketball program Thursday.

“You’re part of the team now,” VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Shaka Smart told 17-year-old Henrico native Morgan Vega Thursday afternoon.

Vega, who has battled serious, lifelong health issues as a result of cerebral palsy, was introduced as the newest member of the Rams during a press conference at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Surrounded by the Smart, the basketball team, and friends and family, Vega signed a National Letter of Intent and was was presented with official VCU Basketball gear.

“You always want people to be part of your organization who have a passion and an enthusiasm about what you’re doing. Morgan is a young man who has certainly had some adversity, but he’s got a great attitude, he’s got a great smile. He loves VCU Basketball and we’re excited to having him here,” Smart said.

Vega is a participant in Team Impact, which aims to “improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team”, according to the organization’s official website. Earlier this fall, Team Impact and VCU Field Hockey joined forces to sign 4-year-old Lauryn Lewis.

Afterwards, Vega posed for pictures with the men’s basketball team and received hugs and well-wishes from friends and family.

“I think it’s a good reminder for our players that there are a lot of people out there that look up to them, and in this case, Morgan is really not much younger than our guys. I think for our guys it’s a humbling reminder of just the perspective that’s out there and the reality that in our small world of VCU Basketball, there’s a lot of people that are watching what we’re doing,” Smart said.

To learn more about Team Impact, visit GoTeamImpact.com.

MEDIA DAY NOTES: KIKI CAN, O’BOYLE BUILDS TRUST, ROYSTER IMPRESSES

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Beth O'Boyle kicks off her first season as VCU head coach on Nov. 14.

Beth O’Boyle kicks off her first season as VCU head coach on Nov. 14.

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU fans saw an array of skills last season from then-freshman point guard Keira Robinson. New Rams’ Head Coach Beth O’Boyle believes that’s just the beginning for the Columbia, South Carolina native.

In her first season with the Rams, Robinson averaged 11.4 points per game and handed out more than six assists per game. Her 200 assists were the most ever by a VCU freshman and the third most in program history. She also led VCU with 71 steals.

On Tuesday, Robinson, an Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie Team selection last season, was named to the league’s Preseason Third Team. As a freshman, she displayed impressive playmaking skills – arguably the best by a Ram since Rochelle Luckett from 1998-2002 – in the Rams’ wide-open offense. While O’Boyle says her style of play will differ from former Coach Marlene Stollings’, the Rams will still play up-tempo. She also believes a switch to man-to-man (VCU was almost exclusively a 2-3 zone team under Stollings) and some additional full-court press looks will lead to more steals and more transition basketball.

All of that is good news for Robinson, whose length and vision allow her to see the floor and find teammates in transition. Robinson’s guidance of O’Boyle’s motion offense will be essential. The Rams will look to replace A-10 scoring leader Robyn Parks, who averaged 21.6 points per game last season.

“I think they did an excellent job of getting the ball to Robyn with a variety of quick-hitters, but with her graduation, we’re going to look at different ways to score, and I think one of the ways is through our motion. I think it’s tough to scout. I think Keira and Chadarryl Clay will be able to create scoring opportunities for their teammates,” O’Boyle said Tuesday at A-10 Media Day.

It was clear last season that Robinson had the physical tools to play the point at a high level, so O’Boyle is turning her attention to the intangibles. She’s expecting Robinson to lead the Rams with her play.

“Keira got a ton of experience on the floor last year, and her next step is taking that experience and becoming a team leader,” O’Boyle added. “When you can take that and help your teammates play better. I think Kiki is going to continue to do a lot of great things this year.”

RAMS PICKED 10TH
VCU was picked 10th in the A-10 Preseason Poll, released Tuesday. The Rams finished 22-10 overall last season and reached the first round of the WNIT, but O’Boyle says the poll won’t impact the way she operates.

“[Our players will] look and see the rankings, and I’m sure it’ll motivate them, but for us it’s not where we begin, it’s where we finish,” she said. “I hope it does motivate our players and it motivates them to work hard. But we’re just focused on the day-to-day and building our team identity.”

NEW KID IN TOWN
O’Boyle is cognizant of the fact that just one player on the Rams’ roster, junior college transfer Ashley Pegram, was signed on her watch. It’s one of the reasons she and her staff have been working overtime to build a rapport with the team.

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IN THE SPOTLIGHT: A-10 MEDIA DAY

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New VCU Women’s Basketball Coach Beth O’Boyle jumped into the fray Tuesday when she took part in the Atlantic 10 Conference’s annual media day. The Rams, picked 10th in the league following an NIT bid, will look to offset the loss of All-League performer Robyn Parks, who graduated and is playing professionally in Spain. Sophomore point guard Keira Robinson, who set a VCU freshman record for assists last season, was named to the A-10’s Preseason Third Team.

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR TEAMMATE: THE ALBRIGHT SISTERS

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First things first. I was asked to knock out the cheeseball game show intro to this video on the spot, with no notice, or I would’ve practiced my plastic smile and demanded a Bob Barker stick microphone. Also, apologies to the A-10 for the late model pullover. I hate to derail your new branding efforts, but I wear the free stuff people give me. I digress.

We’re trying to bring you closer to VCU student-athletes than ever before this year. So plan on seeing more stuff like this and the even more embarrassing “Can CK Play?” series, the “Day in the Life” photo diary, the “Mic’d Up” segment and other features that help pull back the curtain.

Today, we’re meeting field hockey freshmen and twin sisters Jamee and Alexis Albright. We’re going to learn a little more about them, but more importantly, they’re going to learn a little more about each other.

ARAGAO ‘ALL SET’ AGAIN FOR VCU

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Senior setter Cecilia Aragao has returned from a torn ACL to lead VCU this season.

Senior setter Cecilia Aragao has returned from a torn ACL to lead VCU this season.

RICHMOND, Va. – There is little evidence left of the torn ACL that derailed VCU Volleyball setter Cecilia Aragao’s junior season, other than the big, bulky, black knee brace, that is.

While the brace is hard to miss, Aragao doesn’t look much different from the player that was midway through one of the best seasons by a VCU setter before it came undone in an instant. That’s good news for VCU, which needs Aragao’s smooth playmaking skills more than ever this season.

Aragao, a senior and four-year starter from Recife, Brazil has reestablished herself as one of the best setters in the Atlantic 10 and perhaps the East Coast with her play during the first half of this season.

It’s not just Aragao’s ability to direct Rogers’ quick-set offense that places her among the best at her position. It’s that Aragao can impact nearly every facet of the match. While she’s compiled more than 3,500 assists during her career, Aragao is the first VCU setter to record more than 300 blocks. She’s also booked more than 300 kills and 800 digs.

Behind Aragao, one of just two seniors on this year’s squad, the Rams (10-9, 3-2 A-10) have won eight of 10 matches and find themselves in a position to contend for an A-10 title. But it wasn’t long ago that she wondered if she’d be able to command an offense again.

OVER IN AN INSTANT
On Oct. 2, 2013, Aragao suffered her season-ending ACL tear in a match against Hampton. While she was giving chase to a loose ball, Aragao rolled her ankle and then her knee. In 12 years of competitive volleyball, she’d says she’d never suffered a major injury. She knew immediately this time was different.

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BEHIND THE CURTAIN: SHAKA SMART AT A-10 MEDIA DAY

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Videographer Mike Voyack followed Shaka Smart around at Atlantic 10 Media Day in Brooklyn this week. He offers this behind the scenes report.

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Also, Shaka Smart’s knowledge of the 1986 World Series Champion New York Mets is pretty impressive.

BROOKLYN & BACK: A-10 MEDIA DAY

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Atlantic 10 Conference Men’s Basketball Media Day has come and gone. Here’s a sampling of the day that was at Barclays Center.

SHAKA SMART REALLY LOVES PANCAKES

THE RAMS ARE THE UNANIMOUS PRESEASON FAVORITES

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TROY DANIELS, HOTTER THAN THE SUN(S)

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This year, Troy Daniels is in the Houston Rockets’ training camp not as an unknown free agent clinging to hope – as he was last year at this time – but as a guy who has already won his roster spot and is now looking to carve out a more prominent role. Daniels appears on the right track in the early going. Although coaches love to run out all kinds of lineup combinations in NBA preseason games, the former VCU sharpshooter has managed to impress. Monday night, he scored 12 points for the Rockets in a win over the Phoenix Suns – including a floater, which somebody should tell him is only worth two points. We all know Troy Daniels has no time for baskets worth less than three points. Have no fear, he made three 3-pointers as well and is 5-of-11 from long range in three preseason games. Thankfully, the Internet is here to provide us with highlights of Daniels’ effort tonight. Thanks Interwebs!

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MICROPHONE CHECK: BETH O’BOYLE

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VCU Women’s Basketball started practice last week, and for some reason, new Head Coach Beth O’Boyle actually let us mic her during one session. Have a look and a listen at the sights and sounds from women’s hoops practice.

“…THIS FULLY OPERATIONAL SPACE STATION (SCOREBOARD)”

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The new Siegel Center scoreboard is up, and it’s glorious. Fans can have their first chance to see it up close Friday or Sunday at the VCU Volleyball team’s matches (the Rams are also home next weekend). You can also drop by the Black and Gold Game – VCU’s intrasquad men’s basketball scrimmage – on Oct. 26.

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