HOOVER PREPARED TO PASS TORCH TO HURT

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Kelly Hoover averaged 15.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assist per game during her VCU career from 1985-89.

RICHMOND, Va. – Kelly Hoover’s tenure atop the VCU career points list is all but over, but she’s enjoyed the ride.

Hoover has held the Rams’ scoring mark for 23 years. She piled up 1,750 points for VCU from 1985-89 and passed Becky Crow during her senior season to become VCU’s all-time leader. Chances are good that she’ll pass to torch to current Ram Courtney Hurt Thursday when VCU hosts Drexel at the Verizon Wireless Arena at 7 p.m. Hurt, who is averaging 23 points per game, needs just five to make the record hers.

While she’s proud of the record, Hoover, who also ranks second in school history with 431 assists and seventh in career steals, has no problems surrendering the throne.

“My family is a little sad, but I think it’s exciting, for her, the team, for her family,” Hoover said

A native of Staunton, Va., Hoover has resided in Richmond since graduating in 1989 with a degree in criminal justice. She worked for UPS for 17 years before leaving three years ago to start her own landscaping business, Premier Lawn Care. She says she also dabbles in real estate.

Owning her own business has kept her busy and away from the Siegel Center in recent years, but Hoover says she plans on being in the arena Thursday to watch Hurt break the record.

Hoover played her games at Franklin Street Gym, but today her No. 20 jersey hangs from the Siegel Center rafters. It was retired three years ago, a moment she holds dear.

“It was pretty exciting,” she said. “It was one of those wow moments that you’ll never forget. It’s nice to be recognized. I’m very honored. Any time I walk in there I look up and think, ‘Wow, it’s really up there.’”

In addition to Hoover’s scoring mark, the 6-foot-1 forward is closing in on the Rams’ record for career rebounds. A retired jersey is likely in Hurt’s future as well, where it would hang alongside Hoover’s. It would be nice to have company, Hoover says.

“I can’t complain. Hopefully she’ll get her jersey retired down the road. Records are meant to be broken.”

DYKSTRA BLOG: TRAINING DAZE

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By Andrew Dykstra

I am now down in Sarasota, Fla. and training with my MLS team. I still don’t want to say who I’m with in the event that I am not given a contract or I choose not to sign. My mother has not been able to contain herself, and she has already blabbed to the neighbors about my current team. So if you know her phone number, she has all the details for you!

The weather here is beautiful. It’s sunny, clear skies and there is a refreshing chill at night. I am dreading any potential mid-day heat. I should be grateful that pre-season is not in the summer. Tomorrow we have a team breakfast at 8 a.m., leave for training at 10 a.m., will train for 1 hour and 30 minutes, and back for lunch at 2 p.m. We leave for our second session at 4 p.m., have another full practice and back again to the hotel for dinner at 7 p.m. We typically repeat this routine until the coach decides we need a break. “Breaks” typically mean a weight lifting session to change routine, or maybe limit our practices to one a day.

They now make players wear heart rate monitors to monitor their heart beats during practices. The purpose is to make sure that a player’s heart beat is not above the average. When that happens, it indicates that the athlete’s body is fatigued and trying to compensate. Coaches will pull out single players from practice whose heart rate is too high to allow him to recover. If too many players are above the average, that’s when you see the coaches change the day’s routine to keep us fresh. Unfortunately, goalkeepers don’t have heart monitors, so we still live by the old school methods!! When you puke or pass out, you’ve probably had enough.

I will do what I can to keep my faithful readers (all three of them, ha) up to date with what’s going on. I can’t wait to share some stories. Hopefully an enjoyable pre-season will allow for a few.

Andrew Dykstra was a four-year starter in goal for the VCU Men’s Soccer Team from 2005-08. He spent two seasons with the Chicago Fire of Major League Soccer and played the 2011 season with the Charleston Battery of the USL.

TOWSON NOTES: SUPERBERG SUPER AGAIN

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Rob Brandenberg knocked down 6-of-11 field goals Wednesday and finished with 16 points

TOWSON, Md. – The Rams were in good spirits after coasting to a 67-42 win at Towson Wednesday night at the Towson Center, but probably none of them was as happy as sophomore Rob Brandenberg.

After nearly a month of rough nights, Brandenberg broke out of an extended shooting slump against the winless Tigers. Brandenberg scored VCU’s first eight points and finished with a game-high 16. The 6-foot-3 guard knocked down 6-of-11 field goals, including 3-of-7 from 3-point range. He also provided four steals.

“It felt good,” Brandenberg said. “I’ve been struggling the last few games, everybody knows. It just felt good to get in the swing of things and just knock down shots and get back to the type of basketball I play, which is making shots, attacking the rim.”

Entering Wednesday’s game, Brandenberg was 8-of-45 (18 percent) from the field in the last eight games, including 3-of-24 (13 percent) from 3-point range.

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KNOW YOUR ENEMY: TOWSON TIGERS

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2011-12 Record: 0-21 (0-9 CAA)
2011-12 RPI: 304
Player to heckle:
Robert Nwankwo, Sr., F (11.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.6 bpg)

The skinny: As I watched Towson last season, I thought, this is definitely rock bottom. The Tigers were well on their way to a 4-26 record, including 19 straight to end the season. They were the first winless team in CAA play, ever. If Pat Kennedy’s career as a college basketball coach wasn’t over before the 2010-11 season, it certainly was afterwards. It’s as if he took a stack of resumes, poured lighter fluid on them, lit them on fire and then ran over the flaming pile with a dump truck.

It wouldn’t be fair to blame the totality of Towson’s struggles on Pat Kennedy. His seven years atop the program didn’t get the Tigers any closer to respectability, much the opposite, in fact, but Kennedy’s sins were just the final blow in two decades of bad decisions.

In order to fix the program, Towson had to blow it up, strip it down to the foundation, essentially start over. So that’s what they did. New coach, new roster, new athletic director, new arena on the way. But it had to get worse before it got better, and it has.

The Tigers, who returned one player from last year’s 4-26 debacle, are 0-21. Their losing streak has reached an NCAA Division I record 40 games. I don’t say this pile on. I take no joy in Towson’s struggles. They’re just the facts.

While today’s reality is bleak, the future looks promising. New Coach Pat Skerry has managed to put together a recruiting class many have hailed as the CAA’s best. The new arena, set to open in 2013, looks great. There are better days ahead for Towson.

This year’s squad has continued to play hard despite the losing streak. The Tigers rebound the ball reasonably well and have a legitimate center in senior Robert Nwankwo, who doesn’t get much attention due to the Tigers’ struggles. Junior College transfer Marcus Damas has range out to 20 feet and is athletic.

Towson’s on-court issues are many. The Tigers are shooting a dreadful, nearly inconceivable, 56 percent at the free throw line. They also average 18.7 turnovers per game, a statistic that will have guys like Briante Weber chomping at the bit.

This game is not a guarantee for VCU. Towson has played George Mason and Virginia tough. The Rams also have a big road game at Georgia State on Saturday. If VCU shows up focused, talent alone should win out, but if they’re looking ahead, watch out.

Fast fact: VCU is 16-1 all-time against Towson. The Rams’ lone loss in the series was a 59-57 defeat during the 2005-06 season at the Towson Center.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: BENEDICTINE U TAKES OVER THE WORLD

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Judging by this awesome recruiting video, I’d say it’s just time for us all to pack up and go home. I mean, they have a volleyball player who can spike a ball literally straight to China and some guy blew up the moon. I, for one, am prepared for the new supreme rulers of Earth, the Benedictine Eagles.

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P.S.: Is it bad that I knew this song was Joe Satriani’s “Surfing with the Alien” without looking? Is that weird? Nobody even knows who Joe Satriani is.

CAA MIDSEASON REPORT

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VCU-HOFSTRA HIGHLIGHTS

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CLA MEREDITH, RECONSTRUCTED

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Cla Meredith pitched for the Baltimore Orioles in 2010, but injuries cost him the entire 2011 season.

Former Ram Cla Meredith is finding the positive where it not might be obvious.

Sure, he couldn’t play baseball last summer for the first time since he can remember, and his livelihood has been threatened following three surgeries in 18 months, but he’s found it’s not all bad.

“I probably had the nicest lawn on my block last summer,” he said.

Meredith, who spent the majority of six seasons from 2005-2010 pitching in the Major Leagues with the Boston Red Sox, San Diego Padres and Baltimore Orioles, missed the 2011 season after a series of injuries to his right elbow and shoulder. He signed with the Washington Nationals prior to the 2011 season, but blew out his elbow in Spring Training and was released.

Rather than wallow in self-pity or brood over the prospects of his uncertain baseball career, Meredith, 28, came home to Richmond to his wife Natalie and daughters Adellyn, 3, and Harper, 1.

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RAMS SIDESTEP A TRAP: HOFSTRA NOTES

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Briante Weber has 58 steals this season, tied for eighth-most in school history.

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU avoided the proverbial “trap game” Monday night, using another stout defensive effort on the way to a 61-49 victory.

It wasn’t always pretty. The Rams committed a season-high 17 turnovers and were 12-of-21 at the line, but they also forced 18 Hofstra turnovers and completely locked down the Pride offense in the second half. Hofstra was 4-of-20 from the field after the break, including 0-of-5 from 3-point range.

As has been a reoccurring theme this season, VCU was able to use its intense defensive pressure to wear down the Pride in the second half.

“Sometimes it feels like they’ve got seven or eight guys out there,” said Hofstra Coach Mo Cassara.

The Rams led 35-32 at the break but took command with a 6-0 burst early in the second and never looked back.

VCU, which has won four straight and 13 of 16, was coming off an emotionally-charged win over rival Old Dominion on Saturday. The Rams were also playing their third game in five days, but managed to avoid a letdown and grind out a choppy win.

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KNOW YOUR ENEMY: HOFSTRA 2.0

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HOFSTRA FLYING DUTCHMEN PRIDE (7-13, 1-7 CAA)
2011-12 RPI:
253
Player to heckle:
Mike Moore, Sr., G (19.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg)

The skinny: VCU topped Hofstra 80-63 Jan. 2 in Hempstead, N.Y. behind 15 points from Troy Daniels and 14 points and 7 assists by Darius Theus. The Rams also limited Moore, the CAA’s leading scorer, to 14 points on 4-of-14 shooting and forced 21 turnovers that night.

Hofstra has shown promise in wins over Cleveland State and Iona, but has also lost to struggling teams Rhode Island and Florida Atlantic.

The Pride finally got the CAA gorilla off its back with a 71-69 win at fading James Madison Saturday, their first road win of the season (1-6).  Hofstra has also lost close league games tO Delaware, UNC Wilmington, Northeastern and Drexel. The Pride are dangerous.

The Rams hope to break out of their offensive slump tonight. VCU hasn’t broken 70 points since its win in Hempstead three weeks ago. It was also the last time the Rams topped 40 percent from the floor.

Quick hitter: The Pride are 0-8 all-time at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Spent part of last night trying to watch “The Wall” on Palladia. I’m convinced you just can’t do it with a sober mind. It’s just not possible. Anyway, the Rams haven’t shot better than 38 percent in their last six games. The good news is that VCU’s defense has been outstanding. Just don’t be surprised if it’s another rock (brick) fight.

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