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.

TROY DANIELS IS RIDICULOUS

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Here’s Troy Daniels, you know, the former Ram, undrafted free agent rookie, scoring 17 points in the second NBA Playoff game of his life. I’m not going to say much more because I’m running out of superlatives for Daniels, other than to add, rather obviously, that he’s perhaps the best story of the first round of the playoffs. Houston’s down 3-1 in the series to Portland, so hopefully Daniels has a few heroics left in the holster so we can KEEP WATCHING TROY DANIELS BURY THREES FOR DAYS.

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HITTING MACHIN FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS

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Despite a season-ending ankle injury in 2013, shortstop Vimael Machin is hitting .325 with a league-leading 42 RBIs.

Despite a season-ending ankle injury in 2013, shortstop Vimael Machin is hitting .325 with a league-leading 42 RBIs.

RICHMOND, Va. – Considering the VCU Baseball team is hitting better than .300 combined, it’s not hard to go through the lineup and pick out a guy swinging a hot bat.

VCU entered the weekend eighth nationally in average (.311) and 10th in runs scored per game (7.2). At the heart of that lineup of heavy-hitters, both literally and figuratively, is junior shortstop Vimael Machin. On a team full of pleasant surprises, Machin has been perhaps the biggest. Through 38 games, the 5-foot-11 native of San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico is hitting .325 and is tied for the Atlantic 10 lead – with teammate Bill Cullen – with 42 RBIs.

Machin’s always been a good hitter for the Rams. He entered the year with a .282 average and has been a starter since his freshman year. But he’s ascended to another level this season. He’s on pace to set career highs in practically every offensive statistical category.

It would have been difficult to anticipate this type of success from Machin this season. On May 5 last year, in a game at The Diamond against Saint Louis, Machin was attempting to leg out a base hit when he rolled his left ankle at first base. The injury looked gruesome at first glance. Machin’s ankle was bleeding, and some, including the VCU shortstop, feared a compound fracture.

“It was pretty scary. When it happened, I thought I was done in baseball, to be honest,” Machin recalls of the moments immediately following the injury, as he lay on the infield dirt.

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VIDEO: HERE’S 15 MINUTES OF KENDRICK WARREN DUNKING IN PEOPLE’S FACES

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Kendrick Warren electrified fans and averaged 17.5 points and 9.9 rebounds for VCU from 1990-94.

Kendrick Warren electrified fans and averaged 17.5 points and 9.9 rebounds for VCU from 1990-94.

VCU fans, this is going to be akin to a fireside chat with your grandfather. You know the one, where he tells you about the old days and seems to speak in tongues, talking about sock hops and soda jerks.

The march of time and the recent success of VCU Basketball have given berth to brand new generations of Rams fans, ones who know little of the names Duncan, Henderson, Lamb, Watson and Hopkins. I urge you to learn them, know them and speak them often.

Which brings me to Kendrick Warren. There are many fans who don’t know the singular brilliance of Warren, an explosive forward who was a walking mixtape before mixtapes. Many longtime VCU fans would argue – and they’d have a really good argument – that Warren was the best or the most talented player ever to play for the Rams.

A former McDonald’s All-American in high school, Warren dunked his way to a then VCU-record 1,858 points, 1,049 rebounds and 43 double-doubles from 1990-94. He ranks second in VCU history in all of those categories. When people discuss VCU Basketball history, they often do so in these terms: J.D. Barnett’s teams from 1979-85, Kendrick Warren and then this new “golden age” since 2004. That’s because from 1986-2003, Kendrick Warren was the one shred of national relevance for a program stuck in neutral. It’s also the reason why Warren’s greatness is sometimes overlooked. While Calvin Duncan, Eric Maynor and even Gerald Henderson, to some degree, were the stars of successful VCU teams, Warren’s era was symptomatic of the program’s two-decade malaise. VCU was 62-55 and made one NIT appearance during Warren’s career.

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TROY DANIELS IS A ROCKET, MAN

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Troy Daniels was recalled from the NBA D-League Wednesday. So the former VCU 3-point gunner hopped on a plane and met the Houston Rockets in Denver and started bombing threes from the airport terminal. Well, almost.

The Rockets trailed by 17 heading into the fourth quarter, so they unloaded their bench of D-League All-Stars, including Daniels. It took Daniels about .7 seconds to start firing away. In all, the former Ram hit 4-of-6 triples to help the Rockets rally to within six. Prior to Wednesday, Daniels had played a grand total of eight NBA minutes. After this 12-point, 11-minute performance, you’ve got to think Rockets’ Coach Kevin McHale (responsible for one of the greatest episodes of “Cheers” in history) will consider getting his rookie shooting guard a little more burn the last four games of the regular season.

And look, we have highlights! Thanks Internets!

MOONEY PIES? SHAKA SMARTFOOD?

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Ewoks love BBQ.

Ewoks love BBQ.

On April 17 at 6 p.m., Shaka Smart and Chris Mooney will start their ovens and square off in what can only be billed as the most important basketball-themed culinary showdown in Richmond this spring, the 2014 Coaches’ Cook-Off, which will be held at the Science Museum of Richmond.

So as not to bury the lede, the competition will benefit Max’s Positive Vibe Cafe, a terrific organization which trains people with disabilities to work in the food service industry. So if you have an opportunity to attend this great event, please consider it. Find out more, including how to purchase tickets, here.

I’ve got to give Mooney credit. Shaka Smart already owns three wins over the Richmond coach this year, but he’s back for more. Despite his track record, don’t expect Smart to take this match-up lightly. I know for a fact he’s been dissecting film of “Chopped” and “Cutthroat Kitchen” this entire week.

VCU Video Coordinator Dwight Perry says Smart has been working around the clock to prepare for the kitchen showdown.

“I spent all of last night cutting risotto clips. Today, it’s chutney. I didn’t even know what chutney was until yesterday,” said Perry, clutching a 64-ounce espresso. “Two days ago, he kept screaming ‘Havoc!’ throughout an entire episode of ‘Barefoot Contessa’. He’s totally dialed in right now.”

As of press time, rumors that Guy Fieri interviewed this week for the open position on Smart’s staff, vacated when Mike Rhoades accepted the job at Rice (coincidence? I think not), remain unconfirmed.

In the competition, Smart and Mooney will each team with a chef to create dishes that will be rated by a panel of judges. Mooney edged Smart last year in this competition, but I love Shaka’s squad this time around. He’s teaming up with Buz Grossberg of Buz and Ned’s BBQ. Seriously. Just call it off now. Shaka is nearly unbeatable when paired with BBQ. I checked with men’s basketball SID Scott Day for Smart’s record when barbequing.

“What is wrong with you,” Day replied via a tersely worded text message.

It should be fun. I’m expecting laughter, tears, joy, exasperation, triumph and cole slaw. I hope you can make it.

2013 COACHES’ COOK-OFF

COMMON THREADS; UNIFORM UNITES TWO FAMILIES, EASES ONE’S PAIN

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Mike Schlegel, pictured during the 1984-85 season, scored 1,173 points as a Ram. He died in 2009.

Mike Schlegel, pictured during the 1984-85 season, scored 1,173 points as a Ram. He died in 2009.

While the wound still ached, Leslie Schlegel-Danowski was accommodating when a reporter called recently to talk about her late brother, Mike Schlegel. She dusted off memories of tagging along with her big brother to neighborhood sandlot games and of the family’s basketball hoop at the end of the driveway that her dad built. She was happy to reminisce, but afterwards, Leslie had a request.

She’d been alerted to an online post by a man claiming to own a game-worn Mike Schlegel uniform. She wanted to find out if the post was legitimate, and she wanted to talk to him. The family didn’t own many reminders of Mike’s playing career, and Leslie wanted to know what it would take for the man to part with the uniform.

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The son of a construction worker, Bay Shore, N.Y. native Mike Schlegel was a quiet, blue-collar presence on three VCU NCAA Tournament teams at VCU from 1981-85.

A rugged rebounder with a soft shooter’s touch, Schlegel scored 1,173 points and grabbed 743 boards in four seasons. He averaged 12.9 points and 8.1 rebounds on VCU’s 1984-85 team that finished the year ranked 11th nationally and was MVP of the Sun Belt Championship. In the Sun Belt semifinals that year, Schlegel tied a school record by connecting on all 10 of his field goal attempts in a win over Jacksonville.

“Mike wasn’t scared of nobody,” said former teammate Calvin Duncan.” Mike set picks to get you open. Mike would hit the 15-footer, the jump hook. Mike was awesome.”

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MEET THE DIVE TEAM

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VCU Baseball continues to roll. The Rams took two of three from Saint Joseph’s this weekend, with transfer JoJo Howie spinning a 5-hit gem in the rubber match Sunday. Afterwards, there was an interview and your standard highlight reel. But you can’t expect a baseball interview to proceed as you would many other sports. Baseball players tend to be a little….creative.

The Rams have been using a number of nicknames this year, including the Dive Team,which I thought was just sort of a thing for the outfielders, but now maybe it applies elsewhere. Who knows? Anyway, watch the highlights and interview below, but keep an eye out for the 2:01 mark.

‘WEIGHTY’ CONVERSATION WITH RYAN COLES

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VCU has one of the best groups of throwers in the Atlantic 10, and junior Ryan Coles is one reason why. The junior from New Kent finished second at the A-10 Indoor Championships this winter in the shot put and fourth in the weight throw. VCU Athletics recently sat down with Ryan to get to know him a little better.

VCU BASKETBALL: TOP PLAYS

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Briante Weber’s sliding steal? Got that. Melvin Johnson’s 3-point barrage? That too. Treveon Graham’s Cavalier-crushing 3-point bomb? Yeah, it’s in there. Dunks, steals, threes, plenty of fun in this highlight video.

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