By Mike Litos
Divide each difficulty into as many parts as is feasible and necessary to resolve it. –Descartes
Firmness in enduring and exertion is a character I always wish to possess. I have always despised the whining yelp of complaint and cowardly resolve. –Robert Burns
When time and space and change converge, we find place. We arrive in Place when we resolve things. Place is peace of mind and understanding. Place is knowledge of self. Place is resolution. –Abdullah Ibrahim
At some point, this moment had to come. I would have to open the laptop and relive Friday’s painful loss to SFA in the NCAA Tournament’s first round. (I will not abide by the NCAAs foolish round nomenclature. It isn’t my problem they cannot count.) Even in distress, we must move forward. We must resolve.
You see, the way this normally works is that I pop open the laptop on the plane ride home and write out thoughts and notes from the game VCU just played. I match those thoughts to stats and the boxscore, and turn them into sentences the next day. I do this even after losses.
However it’s Sunday morning, and I can just now muster the desire to get in here and start the writing process. I kept the laptop and phone a safe distance yesterday. I wanted no part of it, save a quick phone call around 7pm. I even tried to watch the St. Louis/Louisville game but turned off the TV after five minutes. Couldn’t do it. Yeah, it was, and remains, that painful.
But even in distress, we must move forward. We must resolve.
I don’t know that we need to relive the pain in full, but on some level the words may be a salve.
VCU struggled defensively in the first half and cobbled together just enough offense to trail by a 36-30 margin. The Rams were shooting 40% and had knocked down a few threes–two by our version of Dougie Buckets. But SFA hit 15-25 shots, many of the backcut/layup variety. Ironically, that play is termed a UCLA Cut in coaching vernacular. VCU had forced just five tunrovers.
After a sludgy start to the second half that found VCU down 40-30, havoc awoke. A 24-3 blammo turned the game on its ear. It was vintage havoc, punctuated by three straight possessions in which SFA was unable to advance the basketball past their own foul line. You knew VCU was going to stroll home with this one and turn its eyeballs to the UCLA/Tulsa game. It was inevitable, only it wasn’t.
SFA went to a 3-2 zone that re-changed the game. VCU still held a 10-point lead with about three minutes to play but backed of the gas pedal and sunk into exactly the pattern a 3-2 zone asks for.
That 10-point lead became four points, and you know the rest.
My official stance: no, JeQuan Lewis did not foul Desmond Haymon, and no, JeQuan Lewis should not have put himself in that position. These kids are competitors and Lewis was competing. It’s one of those mistakes that, as Shaka Smart says, comes from a good place.
On some level you have to give SFA credit for never giving up and making the plays necessary to put themselves in that position. A lesser team folds. However I cannot escape the irony of the final three minutes of regulation being a microcosm of VCUs season-long struggles. The Rams missed free throws, played a little tentative and loose on offense, and did not grab a critical defensive rebound. The result was that we were in a game that was closer than we believed it should be.
If you ever want to know why Shaka Smart preaches the details, the focus, the little things that go into winning, you now have three minutes–and one season–that serves as the best possible example. Don’t ever underestimate the details.
Yes, that is a game we should’ve won. We didn’t. It was the absolute worst way to end a season. Looking back on this game does no more good because there’s nothing that can be altered. We talked all season long about this basketball team having guts, resolve. They will need to tap into resolve now even though the season is done.
One loss does not change the trajectory of this progam.
Even in distress, we must move forward. We must resolve.
I have so many more thoughts and words for this team and this season, but we will get to those in the coming days. There are a few platforms I want to address. Some are fully-baked, some are half-baked, and some still await the oven to pre-heat. Paul Woody’s column from today has me diving back into research mode. Stay tuned.
For now, life must move on. Nothing we say or do will change the fact that we flew home overnight from San Diego and the NCAA tournament continues without VCU. Even in distress, we must move forward. We must resolve.
But before that, there is one item that I’ve bottled up for about two years but want to get off my chest.
I’ve endured the criticism of Juvonte Reddic. Some has been warranted, but many times it’s been irrational, unfair, and stupid. Some have argued, with me in person, that Reddic didn’t make the most of his experience here, that he frittered away certain opportunities, that he “didn’t bring it every night.”
That’s your perspective of Reddic’s accomplishments, so any disappointment belongs to you. Don’t put that on Reddic. You own your own emotion.
What if Reddic’s experience at VCU was more than he ever thought it could be? What if Reddic came from a place, both experientially and emotionally four years ago, that kept him from ever believing he could get an opportunity to get a degree and play professional basketball?
What if the mentoring Reddic received from Shaka Smart and the coaching staff has blown away anything Juvonte Reddic could’ve thought would occur in his life? Smart quoted Tom Izzo the other day. Izzo said that “discipline is the highest form of love.” What if Reddic, even if he doesn’t yet fully realize it, has gained a level of discipline and a level of love in his life that hadn’t existed prior to his stepping onto the VCU campus?
What if these relationships, both with players and coaches, allow Reddic to become a positive force in the world, basketball or not, instead of drifting and wondering because he went through four years of college without any direction, discipline or challenge?
What if Juvonte Reddic leaves VCU content and thankful for his college experience, on and off the court? Is that good enough for you?
Yeah, you can curse that Juvonte Reddic did not average a double-double and played disinterested in certain basketball games. I’m going to appreciate the career of a kid I saw play mostly outstanding basketball and blossom as a human being.
Juvonte Reddic finished his VCU career top 15 in scoring. Only two players in the history of VCU basketball grabbed more rebounds. Reddic was sixth alltime in blocks and ninth alltime in steals. He is one of only four players in the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia to play in the NCAA tournament in all four years of his career. He went to a Final Four and won games in two other NCAA tournaments.
He earned his college degree and left VCU a more mature human being with better perspective and understanding, and a loving extended family that he can turn to as he grows older. He has professional opportunities either here or overseas.
And really, when you look at it, isn’t that the damned point of all of this?