December 1, 2013
November 30, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – On the busiest shopping day of the year, VCU made sure to stop by the Siegel Center to pick up an important victory. Like Big Hugs Elmo dolls, they are in demand, and require a certain level of grit, persistence and focus to procure one; Although the eye-gouging was left to the Target parking lot squabbles.
There’s no such thing as a “must-win” game in November, but there are the kind that you’d really like to have, and even the kind you probably really need. VCU’s 79-66 win over Northeastern Friday at the Verizon Wireless Arena is likely some combination of both.
VCU, coming off a 1-2 trip to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off last week, which including a stinging blowout loss to Florida State and a frustratingly just-out-of-reach setback to Georgetown, came home looking to get well. The Rams were trying to do so against a Northeastern team that has traditionally been a tough out for VCU…and had just beaten Georgetown…and played Florida State to the wire…and VCU was without two of its top eight players in Jordan Burgess (knee sprain) and Terrance Shannon (family matter).
This would not be a Black Friday giveaway. If the Rams were going to put Puerto Rico in their rearview mirror, they were going to have to earn it in the claw-your-way-past-Wal-Mart-shoppers way.
November 17, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – Despite the 7,700 rabid souls burying Winthrop under an avalanche of angst-tinged decibels draped in gold, despite the rising mercury inside the packed Verizon Wireless Arena, despite his frantic, Briante Weber-meets-R. Lee Ermey sideline demeanor, it was a couple of clock malfunctions that finally made Eagles’ Coach Pat Kelsey lose his cool in VCU’s 92-71 win Saturday.
Kelsey wore his suit coat buttoned up for the first 31 minutes of game time – VCU Coach Shaka Smart lasted exactly 23 seconds with his jacket on – before a clock glitch with nine minutes left inspired him to dispose of it rather dramatically. Kelsey shed the tailored garment as if it was on fire, before spiking it to the ground like a Brooks Brothers football. He also yelled angrily towards the timing crew, actions for which he immediately apologized.
The outburst occurred just as VCU began to distance itself from Kelsey’s plucky Winthrop club. What had been a four-point game minutes before was now 69-58 in the Rams’ favor, and VCU was beginning to tighten its grip under a hailstorm of pressure. Winthrop had successfully inbounded the ball on the play in question, only to be immediately halted by the referees’ whistles.
Kelsey later explained this behavior as Havoc-related.
November 11, 2013
VCU-ILLINOIS STATE HIGHLIGHTS
POSTGAME: VCU PLAYERS (Terrance Shannon, Briante Weber, Juvonte Reddic)
POSTGAME: Shaka Smart
November 9, 2013
RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart blew into his postgame press conference like the cool November breeze. He was, as always, polite, but curt. He was also direct. When asked if any of his players had turned in an “exceptional” performance Friday night, he barely entertained the thought.
“No,” he said, flatly.
He didn’t look like a guy who just watched his team open its season by thrashing Illinois State 96-58. He wasn’t so much upset as he was unsatisfied. He wasn’t angry, just pragmatic. Not that Smart would ever accept the first game of the season as anything but the maiden voyage of a five-month odyssey, but things have clearly changed. The Rams are the 14th-ranked team in the country. Smart’s personal Overton Window has shifted in step with the momentum of the program. His tone acknowledged that there was no value in a victory lap in November, especially not for a team with this kind of potential.
“It was our first game and the guys did a lot of good things, but we obviously have a lot to get better at,” Smart said.
It wasn’t obvious to everybody. A few minutes earlier, beleaguered Illinois State Coach Dan Muller capped his press conference by telling the assembled media: “Thanks guys. Sorry the game was so bad.”
To put that in perspective, after watching his squad get throttled for 40 minutes by the 14th-ranked team in the country, Muller felt compelled to apologize for the beating that he’d just received.
November 3, 2013
Men's Basketball Bill Brown, Bradford Burgess, Briante Weber, California (Pa.) Vulcans, Doug Brooks, JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, Juvonte Reddic, Mo Alie-Cox, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Terrance Shannon, Treveon Graham 1 Comment
RICHMOND, Va. – It’s a bit of a fishing expedition to find a reasonable narrative in these mismatched Division I-Division II exhibition games. There’s a desire to look at the scoreboard, which showed that VCU earned a 92-54 win over California (Pa.) Saturday night, and extrapolate 100 superlatives from the wreckage of the box score. More often than not, it’s fool’s gold.
But Saturday, even as I waded through some impressive, if not gaudy, statistics, I was still struck by the depth of talent on this VCU team. If Shaka Smart truly desires a 10 or 11-man rotation, it sure looks like he’s got the horses to do it.
Smart essentially rotated 11 players in the first half and 10 in the second after Rob Brandenberg exited with back spasms. While there were moments of youthful frustration, there was hardly a dramatic drop-off in ability.
Freshman Doug Brooks led VCU in scoring with 14 points in 13 minutes of play. For most of those 13 minutes, he looked like Briante Weber with a better jumper and a disinterested barber.
October 13, 2013
Men's Basketball Black and Gold Game, Briante Weber, Doug Brooks, Jairus Lyles, JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, Juvonte Reddic, Melvin Johnson, Mo Alie-Cox, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Terrance Shannon, Treveon Graham Leave a comment
RICHMOND, Va. – VCU held an intra-squad exhibition Sunday night before 3,187 excited souls at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. It was many people’s, myself included, first chance to get a look at the 2013-14 Rams. While the Gold team came away with a 72-56 win, the score was little more than a matter of academics.
Here are some observations from courtside.
1-Guards, guards, guards and guards
To any fan who has followed this team of late, this is no surprise. VCU was expected to be deep in the backcourt this year. But until we got a chance to see a Jairus Lyles no-look pass or one of Doug Brooks’ four steals, it was hard to know how deep. If Sunday is any indication, uh, the Rams are insanely deep at the wings.
Returnees Rob Brandenberg, Briante Weber, Melvin Johnson and (if we’re calling him a guard today) Treveon Graham were pretty much the guys we knew they were. But JeQuan Lewis, Lyles, Doug Brooks and Jordan Burgess all had moments and illustrated how difficult a choice Shaka Smart will have when doling out minutes.
Lyles was magnetic for long stretches of the second half and he might end up being the Rams’ fourth option at point guard. Think about that. Lyles finished with eight points, six assists (two turnovers) and three steals.
September 18, 2013
I dropped in on men’s basketball photo day earlier and snapped a few photos with my iPhone. They’re obviously phone quality, but at least you guys get a peek at the new uniforms and some of the guys.
September 6, 2013
One of the strongest corollaries with VCU’s decade of recent success has been its string of terrific point guards. Behind the heady play of guys like Dom Jones, Eric Maynor, Joey Rodriguez and Darius Theus, the Rams have piled up the wins.
As time passes, we remember the conference championships and NCAA appearances and forget that people once questioned whether or not these floor generals were up to the task. Although Maynor showed flashes as a freshman in 2005-06, people worried about his awkward jumper. Joey Rodriguez’s biggest problem when he took over as starting point guard in 2009-10 was that he wasn’t Maynor. Similarly, Theus grabbed the controls after Rodriguez led the Rams to the Final Four. Try following that.
Although each torch passing felt like a crossroads to some, by the time each player graduated, they had forged an unforgettable legacy. With Theus gone, there’ll be another torch-passing in 2013-14. Logic and VCU Coach Shaka Smart have each suggested that the man to carry it – at least initially – will be junior Briante Weber. Last month, Smart praised Weber’s work ethic this summer and said the springy 6-foot-3 guard was the frontrunner at the point. “It’s certainly not set in stone, but it’s certainly his to lose,” he said. “If we played a game today, he’d get the lion’s share of the minutes.”
August 7, 2013
Men's Basketball Briante Weber, CP3 Elite Guard Camp, Jairus Lyles, Jared Guest, JeQuan Lewis, Juvonte Reddic, LeBron James Skills Academy, Melvin Johnson, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Torey Burston, Treveon Graham 1 Comment
RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart got to the point Wednesday.
In a meeting with members of the local media, the VCU coach provided insight into the Rams’ point guard situation for the upcoming season. Following the departure of senior Darius Theus (graduation) and Teddy Okereafor (transfer), the most logical choice to trigger the offense is rising junior and Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Briante Weber.
It’s sound reasoning. Weber showed considerable improvement from his freshman season when backing up Theus last year. He started in place of an injured Theus in a win at Old Dominion on Dec. 7 and provided an 8-point, 9-rebound, 10 assist, 5-steal performance. He turned the ball over just once in that game. Weber averaged 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 steals per game last season and posted a point-guard friendly 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
But Weber hasn’t played the position in college for any extended period of time. The excitable ballhawk has been something of a hybrid in college, a defensive disruptor with opportunistic tendencies on offense.
The only “true” scholarship point guard on the roster will be well-regarded incoming freshman JeQuan Lewis from Tennessee. Classmate Jairus Lyles played a fair amount of point guard in high school, and Smart says he’ll also be in the mix.