NEW LOGO IS A GO

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The new VCU logo has been chiseled into center court at the Siegel Center by the nocturnal leprechauns we keep around just for these types of jobs. Out with the old, in with the new. Meanwhile, the new corner suites should be nearing completion. Next up is the center-hung scoreboard.

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WE WERE MERELY FRESHMEN…AN OPEN LETTER

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Warning-FreshmanHey freshmen,

We’ve probably never met, but I hope you’ll soon recount to me how you learned to play the bassoon or that time you saved a gaggle of puppies from a burning building.

For lack of a better term, I’m the features writer here. For the last five years, I’ve been scribbling stories about student-athletes like you. I’ll happily write about how many goals you want to score this year, but I’d rather tell people why “Hannah Montana” inspired you practice your jump serve.

You’re more than a number on a field. That’s what I want people to know when I write about you, but more importantly, you should know it as well. I write because people are a collection of layers, not just a surface coat of athletic mastery.

I’ve never been a Division I student-athlete, unless we’re counting my MVP performance in the annual basketball game between Ohio University’s student TV station and school paper. It was my magnum opus, a display of shot-making and stunningly average defense I’ve failed to replicate in the years since. I could never hit a curveball…or much of anything else, for that matter, and my high school cross country career fizzled out in about the fourth grade.

So I’m not going to tell you how to split a double-team, unless it’s at the soft-serve ice cream machine. What I can tell you is what years of perspective have taught me, something you’d probably refer to as, “being old”.

You’ve got plenty of coaches to help you shine championship trophies. I just want to make sure the next four years are unforgettable. You’re all student-athletes, but a student-athlete is not all that you are. You’re going to do (if you’re doing it right) a lot of growing up while you’re here. Welcome it.

When I took this job at VCU, I told my wife we’d probably be here three years. This fall will mark my 10th year with this department. What began as a just a paycheck has become a life. I’m not saying you need to spent the rest of your life here, but for the next four years, embrace VCU and Richmond. I’ve been to a lot of places, and I can tell you that Richmond is a pretty cool town. See the city. Catch a show at The National, eat somewhere other than the 10 chain restaurants on campus, spend a day at the river, whatever. Just go. There’s a whole city out there that doesn’t play college field hockey, and that’s okay. Go find it.

DISCLAIMER: Make sure you go to class and practice first.

Second, this town and this school love a winner, but they love class, dignity and grace even more. Work hard, keep your chin up and your eyes open, and you’re going to be fine, regardless of what the scoreboard says.

Third, more people than you can count are going to tell you that these are going to be the best four years of your life. They’re not wrong, but they’re not right, either. The next four years will be the best four years of your life, if you let them be. So will the four after that and the four after that. But these four years will be unique. For most of you, it’s your first time out on your own, and you get to learn how to become an adult around a bunch of people, your teammates, who know exactly what you’re going through. Lean on them, and listen to them when they need an ear.

Finally, my words are just a guidebook, suggestions, really. At a distance, my college career is a hilarious dustbin collection of earnest missteps, awkward moments and well-intentioned bad ideas. I’m thankful everyday that my college career predates social media. But I also (allegedly) learned a ton, made friends for a lifetime, met my future wife and found some direction.

I sincerely hope you win a bunch of championships while you’re here. That said, championships and victories on the field can shape your college experience, but they don’t have to define it. In four years, if you emerge with a degree, seasoned and ready for the next best four years of your life, then you’re doing it right. Good luck, and here’s to the next four years.

P.S.: If you make ice sculptures with chainsaws as a hobby, come see me immediately.

SUITE-NESS; UPGRADES PROGRESS AT SIEGEL CENTER

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Earlier this year, VCU announced it would add two suites in the south corners of the Stuart C. Siegel Center as part of an overall effort to enhance the arena. It’ll be a busy couple of months for “The Stu”. In addition to the suites, a new, centerhung scoreboard and sounds system will be installed, and the court will be repainted to reflect VCU’s (and the A-10’s) new branding marks.

WHAT’S YOUR 20? VCU BASKETBALL’S BEST AT EVERY NUMBER

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VCU-20s

In basketball, we immortalize our heroes by hoisting their jerseys into the rafters. Often, we “retire” numbers, deciding that no other player is worthy to be identified by that set of numerals. It’s how we remember our favorites, and is one of the simplest ways kids can emulate their heroes. So it’s no wonder VCU fans approach the announcement of something as benign as jersey numbers with a level of excitement my wife reserves for the new season of “Scandal”. So when we released the new jersey numbers of VCU’s highly rated freshman class, it led me down the rabbit hole to questions like, “Who is the best No. 31 in VCU Basketball history?

So here we are. My ground rules were simple. First, I didn’t pick any current players. Yes, Briante Weber and Treveon Graham (and others, perhaps) certainly have arguments, but I’d like to see the entire arc of their careers before I rank them among the greats. This list is subjective, and I’d like to have as much information as possible. Second, the player needs to have worn the number for a “significant” part of his career, unless no other option was available. Therefore, I didn’t spend time considering Juvonte Reddic at No. 5 and Rob Brandenberg at No. 23, since they only wore the numbers for one season.

Feel free to berate me in the comments section.

00-George Byrd (1994-97)
Before he conquered Slamball, George Byrd was a reliable post presence for VCU’s mid-90s squads. Byrd averaged 9.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to help steer the Rams to a 1996 CAA Championship that ended an 11-year NCAA Tournament drought. Honorable mention: Johnnie Story

larry-sanders1-Larry Sanders (2007-10)
Although Bo Jones makes a compelling argument, the No. 1 No. 1 in VCU history is LAR-RY SAN-DERS, and not just because he resembles one. In addition to averaging nearly a double-double as a junior (14.4 ppg, 9.1 rpg), Sanders ranks fourth in school history in blocked shots. Also, his 17-point, 20-rebound, 7-block performance against George Mason in the 2009 CAA Championship Game should be preserved by the Smithsonian. Honorable mention: Bo Jones

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2013-14, THE YEAR IN PHOTOSHOPS

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Sure, we’re going to find time to share our favorite VCU photos from the wins, the championships and the milestones. This is not that time. This is an opportunity to revel in the joy of the oddities of Photoshop and social media that have either fallen out of my noggin or (more likely) fallen into my lap via some industrious VCU fan.

 

 

RAM REPORT: SPRING 2014

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The Spring 2014 Ram Report is now online. Plenty to digest, including features on VCU Baseball’s Seth Greene (who lost his mother entirely too young), Lacrosse’s Jen O’Brien (starting a program from scratch) and Khalid Khamis (who left his native Sudan). There are also artistic renderings of VCU’s new basketball practice facility and the forthcoming centerhung scoreboard and video boards, as well as other tidbits. Check it out HERE (or click on the big picture).

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VCU BASKETBALL PRACTICE FACILITY RENDERINGS, A COMPARISON

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VCU_2014-0310_Ext Main Entrance

VCU announced it has selected a construction firm to build its new $25 million basketball practice facility, and with that announcement came the release of brand new artistic renderings of the complex. These are going to turn a few heads. You can view the full release and gallery HERE.

In the meantime, I thought I might offer a little further perspective of the site where the Rams will build their sparkling new facility, which is expected to be completed in the Fall of 2015.

First, here’s the site the new complex will occupy on Marshall Street, between Kinney and Norton Streets, adjacent to the Siegel Center.

At the top, you can see the site, currently occupied by the Thacker-Spencer Casket Company and Vasco Auto. Below is the Siegel Center.

At the top, you can see the site, currently occupied by the Thacker-Spencer Casket Company and Vasco Auto. Below is the Siegel Center.

Here’s are a couple of comparisons from the street of present day and the future site.

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No matter how you slice it, this thing is going to be nice. Shovels should be in the ground sometime around June 2.

VCU SENIOR VIDEO

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Every year, VCU holds a banquet to pay tribute to its seniors, and Wednesday night was that opportunity. This video was one piece of the program, and a good reminder of how fun it’s been to watch this group compete.

PRODUCT OF A SYSTEM; COLLECTIVE VCU OVERCOMES INJURY

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VCU banded together to overcome an injury to Melvin Johnson and secure a berth in the A-10 Championship Game.

VCU banded together to overcome an injury to Melvin Johnson and secure a berth in the A-10 Championship Game.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Calling VCU’s style of play “Havoc” may be good marketing, but it’s no façade. There’s substance to this style.

Given its pervasiveness, Havoc has surpassed the individual star power of every Ram to play within it in the last five years under Shaka Smart – save Larry Sanders – because it’s never been about individual talents. It’s a collective, an attacking army on both ends of the floor. You cannot full court press with one player. You cannot trap alone.

It’s one of the reasons that VCU, despite yearly turnover, has been able to achieve an envious level of consistency during Smart’s tenure. It’s why the Rams, despite an injury to one of their most important players, Melvin Johnson, were able to secure a second straight trip to the Atlantic 10 Championship Game with a 74-55 win over George Washington Saturday at Barclays Center. The Rams will meet fourth-seeded Saint Joseph’s, which topped St. Bonaventure in the day’s first semifinal, Sunday at 1 p.m.

This was a sum-of-the-parts win. While VCU can certainly point to Treveon Graham’s 22 points or Briante Weber’s 16-point, 8-assists performance, blindly reading the box score won’t tell the whole story.

Five minutes into the game, Johnson, a Bronx native and the A-10’s Sixth Man of the Year, collapsed and clutched his left knee after attempting to run down a loose ball near midcourt. Johnson did not return to the game, although he emerged from the lockerroom early in the second half and sat on the VCU bench with his left knee in an inflatable cast. He will have an MRI on Monday.

Perhaps inspired by their fallen teammate, the Rams eventually overran the third-seeded Colonials in the final 10 minutes to turn a pressure-packed, back-and-forth battle into a laugher.

“I think the guys were upset, and that really motivated us,” said senior Juvonte Reddic of the Rams’ response to Johnson’s injury. “We played the second half for him. It was just all about him. A lot of the guys were just telling each other, ‘don’t think about yourself, think about somebody else’, and I think a lot of the guys did a good job thinking about somebody else.”

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WEBER’S POWER POINTS FUEL VCU

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Briante Weber scored 18 points Friday to propel VCU past Richmond and into the Atlantic 10 Semifinals.

Briante Weber scored 18 points Friday to propel VCU past Richmond and into the Atlantic 10 Semifinals.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Early in the first half of VCU’s Atlantic 10 Quarterfinal contest with Richmond Friday at Barclays Center, the league honored junior Briante Weber as Defensive Player of the Year with a graphic on the arena Jumbotron.

Below those glowing high-definition screens, Weber was already well on his way to proving he can do more than just defend. The 6-foot-3 guard scored VCU’s first six points Friday and hit his first seven shots of the game to fuel a lob-sided 71-53 victory over the Spiders. With the win, the Rams advance to the A-10 semifinals Saturday afternoon against George Washington, and complete a rare three-game sweep of the crosstown rival Spiders.

Weber scored 16 points in the first half as VCU built a comfortable 38-22 lead and finished with 18 points, five rebounds and two steals. He did it all in an efficient, game-altering 18-minute stint. Behind Weber’s offensive dominance, the Rams overwhelmed the Spiders early and were hardly threatened the rest of the night.

“I just came out with the mindset to attack, because in the prior game [with Richmond], I didn’t get to play that much,” said Weber, who came into Friday averaging 9.1 points per game this season. “So I actually wanted to play this game. So I came out with a chip on my shoulder, and I was just going to attack from the jump.”

Weber knocked down a mid-range jumper on VCU’s first possession, then ripped a steal and raced to a breakaway dunk for a 4-0 lead. A short time later, he was the beneficiary of a Juvonte Reddic offensive rebound, which he finished with a drive and floater. By then, Richmond was already on its heels. Moments later, there was a traditional three-point play, and then a layup. By the time Weber, who entered the game 8-of-37 from three this year, pulled up and hit a trey from the right wing in rhythm to give VCU a 23-13 advantage, two things became obvious. First, Weber was on his way to one of the best offensive nights of his career. Secondly, Richmond was in serious trouble.

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