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.

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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“…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.

THAT’S WHY I’M LIKE, SCOREBOARD, MAN

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Yesterday, we dropped by the Siegel Center to check on the installation of the new centerhung scoreboard and the sound system. Things are progressing nicely. Check it out.

THE MISSING (BASKETBALL) LINKS

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Shaka Smart is 137-46 in five seasons with VCU.

Shaka Smart is 137-46 in five seasons with VCU.

Lots on tap today for VCU fans. You’ve got volleyball in St. Louis for a pivotal match, plus women’s soccer and field hockey on the road for important A-10 matches. But I know a lot of you out there are juiced about the start of basketball practice today. I offered some notes from VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Shaka Smart’s Wednesday press conference yesterday, but there’s certainly more to it than that. Scott Day was nice enough to compile a list of links that will interest you hoops junkies:

Get ready, folks. The Black and Gold Game is just 23 days away. Hopefully, this clip will remind you why you enjoy this time of year so much.

 

WITH TOUTED FRESHMEN ON BOARD, SMART PREACHES PATIENCE

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Shaka Smart is set to open his sixth season as VCU coach.

Shaka Smart is set to open his sixth season as VCU coach.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart understands the hype around his freshman class. He did recruit Justin Tillman, Jonathan Williams, Michael Gilmore and Terry Larrier, after all. But he’s also seen enough freshmen struggle to know that caution is often the best path.

“We have four freshmen who have done a really nice job since they got here in June,” Smart said Wednesday. “Right now they’re going through the typical freshman fall ups and downs and transitioning to getting physically ready for real college practice and the competition that comes with that every day.”

Smart will get a closer look at his freshman class’ transition soon. The Rams kick off full team practices Friday, six weeks prior to their season-opener on Nov. 14 against Tennessee in Annapolis.

No VCU recruiting class has garnered as much attention as this far-reaching quartet, which Smart and his staff tapped from Detroit (Tillman), New York (Larrier), Jacksonville (Gilmore) and Richmond (Williams). ESPN rated the class No. 14 in the country last year. Larrier, Gilmore and Tillman were all ranked in ESPN’s Top 100 players.

Larrier has received the bulk of the preseason hype. A consensus four-star and top-50 recruit, Larrier’s choice of VCU over UConn was seen by many as a coup for the Rams. A 6-foot-8 guard, Larrier possesses an advanced offensive game, as well as the length Smart covets in his high-energy, full court press.

“He’s going to help us a lot this year,” Smart said. “I think he’s going to have a big role. I would say similar to a Treveon Graham, a Melvin Johnson did as freshmen. Maybe a little bit more if he can put it together. It’s always interesting to see how freshmen are able to deal with everything that goes into being a freshman, and he’s just getting started with that.”

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TOP-SHELF FISHER, REDDIC IN ITALY

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A couple of weekend videos worthy of sharing. The first comes from VCU Men’s Soccer’s win over Northeastern on Friday, in which Devon Fisher buries a perfectly placed shot from 35 yards out. This goal is pretty awesome.

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Today’s second video, and congrats to those Internet sleuths monitoring Italian basketball airspace, is Juvonte Reddic’s introductory presser with Victoria Libertas. Most of this 38 minute video is in Italian, but it does include Reddic, who presumably does not speak Italian, responding to questions in English.

THE RISE OF SHAKAVISION: VCU BASKETBALL SCHEDULE RELEASED

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tumblr_mt9eusr6Tn1ryw6edo1_500Shaka Smart’s “Havoc” is must-see TV. That’s what the networks are saying, it seems.

The full VCU Men’s Basketball schedule was released Wednesday. We’ve known the non-conference slate for weeks and the home/away A-10 match-ups for months, so this was really about filling dates and setting DVRs.

In case you were stuck in a mid-afternoon meeting, here it is:

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Really, today’s news is really all about what we didn’t know before, television. Seventeen of VCU’s 18 Atlantic 10 Conference games will be nationally televised, seven by ESPN networks, including four in a row at one stretch. As of today, and there’s still time for the network to add games, VCU will appear on an ESPN network – not including ESPN3 – 11 times. I’m not even go to bother to look this up, but I’m going to say with a degree of certainty, that’s a program record. In all, 23 of VCU’s 31 regular season games are currently scheduled on a national carrier (ESPN2/U: 11, CBS Sports: 9, NBC Sports: 2). That surpasses the program mark of 21 national broadcasts, set last year.

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