FORMER TEAMMATES HINTON, REDDIC BET ON FUTURES IN LAS VEGAS

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Former teammates Juvonte Reddic and David Hinton crossed paths this week at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Former teammates Juvonte Reddic and David Hinton crossed paths this week at the LeBron James Skills Academy.

Roughly 10 miles from the gyrating neon glitz of the Las Vegas Strip, where gamblers hope to seize a more lucrative future by splitting eights and wrestling one-arm bandits, two VCU Rams placed less volatile bets.

The present, and perhaps, futures, of former VCU teammates Juvonte Reddic and David Hinton intersected this week at the Nike LeBron James Skills Academy at the Cashman Center in Las Vegas. Rather than risk the mortgage on roulette, Reddic and Hinton logged long hours on career development.

For Hinton, it was just the latest stop in his summer as an event management intern for Position Sports, which works closely with Nike on its series of basketball summer development camps and other events. Since April, Hinton has zigzagged the country, from Brooklyn to San Diego to Oregon and parts in between. The VCU Center for Sports Leadership graduate, who spent five seasons with the men’s basketball team, helps set up, break down and manage events, which apparently includes fixing a lot of baskets.

“We’ve got a lot of 6-foot-9, 250-pound guys dunking,” he said.

The hours are long and largely anonymous, but Hinton says they’re rewarding. He hopes that down the road, all this will pay off and help him jump start his career.

Reddic likely shares Hinton’s sentiments on resume building this week, albeit for a slightly different career path.

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YOUR DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO VCU BASKETBALL FIRST PITCHES

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Over the years, as VCU Basketball has gained steam, so too have requests to have Rams throw out first pitches at baseball games. I’m still waiting on first puck drop calls. I know a spike is coming soon. Anyway, here we examine each Rams’ performance on the diamond.

Shaka Smart (Chicago Cubs, 2011)

Shaka Smart isn’t a large man by any means, but that didn’t stop guys like Billy Wagner from bringing the heat. Unfortunately for Smart, it kind of did. No matter, Smart has pretty good form here as he paints the inside corner. Good snap on the arm. I think he’s falling away to the left a bit, but that’s something the coaching staff can correct during side sessions.
Bonus/demerits: Bonuses for throwing from the rubber, throwing to a VCU guy (Sean Marshall), being at Wrigley Field, the custom jersey (is he wearing No. 91? Channeling Dennis Rodman?), and singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

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BASKETBALL ALREADY OFFERING HINTON POST-HOOPS CAREER PATH

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David Hinton at the Jordan Brand Classic April 13.

David Hinton at the Jordan Brand Classic April 13.

It didn’t take long for David Hinton to find his way back to a basketball court.

Hinton, a fifth-year senior who recently completed his eligibility with the VCU Men’s Basketball team, is in Anaheim, Calif. this week in conjunction with the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), a premier AAU basketball camp.

It’s the second major event in as many weeks for Hinton, who is serving as an event management intern for Position Sports, a sports marketing firm based out of Phoenix. Position Sports is closely tied to many of Nike’s major events, including Hinton’s first foray into event management, the Jordan Brand Classic at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. on April 13.

The Jordan Brand Classic is known for its annual national high school all-star game, but there are actually three games, including an international and regional all-star contest, staged the same day.

Hinton spent a week in New York City helping organizers stage the event. Hinton’s title, event management intern, is in many ways a catch-all for, “pretty much anything we can think of”.

“It wasn’t anything,” Hinton said. “It was everything.”

He says he did everything from the physical set-up and breakdown of the event to assisting with will call and ticketing issues. It also helped, he says, that he played at Barclays Center just a month ago with the Rams in the Atlantic 10 Championship. Not only was he familiar with the layout of the building, but it allowed him to give feedback on things such as, which lockerrooms were preferred and other information.

Workdays were often 16-18 hours and, on the day of the actual event, Hinton says he pulled a 20-hour day. But he’s not complaining.

“It was fun though, doing something I love, working with basketball,” said Hinton, a 6-foot-8 forward who appeared in 75 games in four seasons for VCU.

Hinton earned his bachelor’s degree in Homeland Security last spring, but is currently enrolled in VCU’s Center for Sport Leadership master’s program. His work with Position Sports will earn him three credit hours for a required externship, but more importantly, it’s fleshing out his resume. At a time when openings for government jobs could be scarce, it doesn’t hurt to have other options.

“I’m glad I’m going to have degrees in two different areas, whereas some people have a narrower focus,” he said. “I’m glad I have another degree I can fall back on.”

Plus, Hinton is a self-professed “sneakerhead” who owns more than 100 pairs of Nikes. Working this closely with the shoe and apparel giant is somewhat of a dream for the Winston-Salem, N.C. native.

Hinton’s internship will continue through the summer, and he’ll zigzag the country for different events, including another EYBL session April 26-28 in Hampton, Va.

SENIOR TRIBUTE VIDEO

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VCU SENIORS BY THE NUMBERS

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VCU Mens Basketball Team - posed shotsRICHMOND, Va. – The final act of VCU’s 2013 senior class of Darius Theus, Troy Daniels and David Hinton hasn’t been written, but what they’ve accomplished so far has already been unforgettable.

Theus and Daniels were Coach Shaka Smart’s first VCU recruits, and they’ve both turned out to be home runs. While Hinton was a redshirt freshman on the roster the year before Smart’s arrival, he’s blossomed into a steady contributor the last four seasons. All three have been party to a slew of memory makers.

This group of veterans has helped to usher in a new “Golden Age” of VCU hoops in Richmond. Under their watch, the Rams have won more than 75 percent of their games. While the magnificent run to the Final Four in 2011 will stand tallest on this group’s list of accomplishments, fans can reflect on a countless number of heart-stopping moments from this trio’s careers.

For Theus, I’ll remember stellar bench performance in the Rams’ upset of Florida State in the 2011 Sweet 16, not to mention his MVP performance in the 2012 CAA Championship Game. Meanwhile, none of us will soon forget Daniels’ three-game stretch this year when he hit 27 three-pointers, including 11 (11!!) at East Tennessee State. In addition, do the Rams squeak out a three-point win over Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament last March without Hinton’s two charges? Doubtful.

Let’s take this opportunity to appreciate VCU’s seniors by the numbers:

1,577 combined points by the 2013 senior class
.759 winning percentage in four seasons
432 career assists for Darius Theus, sixth in school history
227 career steals for Theus, third-most all-time
107 Wins, second-most all-time for a VCU senior class
103 three-pointers for Troy Daniels this year, a school record
11 three-pointers hit by Daniels vs. ETSU on Jan. 2, a school record
10 career-high in assists for Theus in a win over Saint Joseph’s
8 NCAA Tournament games, second-most in VCU history
7 Wins versus teams ranked in the AP Top 25
6 NCAA Tournament wins, most all-time
4 seasons with 20 or more wins
2 charges taken by David Hinton vs. Wichita State in NCAA Tournament
1 Final Four appearance

TALK OF THE TOWN

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A more vocal Juvonte Reddic is averaging 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this season.

A more vocal Juvonte Reddic is averaging 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game this season.

RICHMOND, Va. – Being the consummate teammate, David Hinton decided to reach out to Juvonte Reddic, a fellow Winston-Salem, N.C. native, in the summer of 2010. So Hinton picked up the 6-foot-9 forward and drove to a local gym for a workout. It sounds like the afternoon went well.

“It was probably the most awkward car ride I ever had,” Hinton joked recently. “We literally just sat there for like 15 minutes…how far he’s come from that day to now is just unbelievable.”

There’s a snapshot from early in VCU’s 2011 Final Four run of a fresh-faced Reddic pounding his chest with his right fist, howling into the air, that came to typify the emotion of the experience. The Final Four march was an event so significant, so unbridled, that it managed to sweep up even the most reserved, in this case Reddic.

Months later, while discussing the three-point play against USC that sparked Reddic’s triumphant outburst, he spoke of it almost sheepishly. At the same time, he acknowledged the need for more moments like that, when emotion and adrenaline fueled him on the basketball court.

“It’s just my personality, I’m just kind of quiet,” Reddic said earlier this season. “I’m kind of nonchalant, I normally don’t show too much emotion. It’s just something I’m working on. I have people tell me that every day, why I don’t show a lot of emotion on the court. I don’t know. It’s just how I am.”

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DIFFERENT TEAM, SAME OLD GRANT PREPARES FOR VCU HOMECOMING

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Anthony Grant led VCU to a 76-25 record and two NCAA Tournament bids from 2006-09. He returns to the Siegel Center for the first time with Alabama Saturday.

RICHMOND, Va. – The tales of Anthony Grant’s legendary focus are not born from whimsical bouts of mythology. It’s real. With blinders of coaching affixed to his temples, a fiery motivator smolders beneath a Rushmoresque stoic façade. What you see is what you get.

The only game in Grant’s day planner is the next one. He’s famously resistant to any effort to discuss a game other than the next one on his team’s schedule, not to local media and national pundits, not on his own coaches radio show, not to anyone. It’s like coaching in a pre-Christopher Columbus world. Ships that sail around the next game on the schedule immediately fall off the face of the earth and into an abyss. Okay, maybe a little mythology.

His approach to the game at hand is similarly singular, free of distraction and emotional attachment, other than the desire to win the game.

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SECOND HELPING OF MEDIA DAY SCRIBBLES

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Rams’ coach Shaka Smart says VCU is ahead of where it was last October, but not yet where it needs to be.

PROGRESS REPORT
RICHMOND, Va, – Last October, VCU Coach Shaka Smart was driving home the narrative that the Rams were a young (nine freshmen and sophomores) team trying to find its way. Early in the season, VCU played like it.

The Rams opened with a lukewarm win over lightly regarded Saint Francis (Pa.) and followed with ugly losses to Seton Hall and Georgia Tech. However, by March VCU was a locomotive, chugging to 18 wins in its final 20 games. Those two losses were decided by a total of three final points and one of them came by virtue of a 25-foot buzzer-beater.

It would be nice if the Rams, who return all but one player from that team, could just pick up where they left off and start blitzing through the schedule, but Smart says it doesn’t work like that.

“It’s never easy,” Smart said. “The offseason, even though we have experience, I’ve never been involved with a team in college coaching that could carry over the habits through the offseason. You have to rebuild that stuff every year. That’s one of the facts of coaching.”

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SUMMER HOOPS NOTES: WORKOUT RULES CHANGE; GRAHAM EYES 2012-13

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VCU players will be seeing a lot more of this man this summer.

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s hard enough to get Shaka Smart to take a vacation, but now? It’s going to take one heck of an advertising pitch to pull the VCU coach away from Richmond now.

In years past, the summer was a steady stream of pickup hoops and loosely-tethered together workouts. Coaches were not allowed to run practices or have much contact with their players.

But this year, thanks to a change in NCAA legislation in January, teams are allowed to run full practices with coaching staffs for up to two hours a day and up to eight hours a week for eight weeks. All returning players in good academic standing and incoming freshmen enrolled in summer school are allowed to participate.

That the changes have been welcomed by coaches should come as no surprise, but many players see the value in them as well.

“I think it’s a lot more fun,” said senior David Hinton. “You get to see the coaches in the summer. You had that big gap before where the coaches worked you out in the spring, but you really didn’t see them again until the fall. [The coaches] won’t be as anxious in the fall. They monitor your progress all summer, and they help you out and improve your game more.”

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RAMS SHOW SUBSTANCE IN WIN OVER OLD DOMINION

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Freshman Briante Weber (left) was one of several Rams to step up for VCU Saturday night.

RICHMOND, Va. – If I told you that Bradford Burgess would play 19 minutes and score a grand total of two points in Saturday’s critical game with Old Dominion, would you like VCU’s chances? What if I said that Darius Theus would hand out zero assists or that Juvonte Reddic would score six points?

I imagine if you were a VCU fan, you’d be pretty uneasy with the prospect of some of the Rams’ linchpins struggling in key areas. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t expect VCU to coast to a 61-48 win.

VCU (15-5, 6-2 CAA) showed it has some substance Saturday night before the 13th straight sellout at the Verizon Wireless Arena. The Rams proved that while this is Burgess’ team, he doesn’t have to go it alone.

With Burgess on the bench for large swaths of both halves in foul trouble, the Rams still managed to pull away from the Monarchs (11-9, 6-2 CAA). Troy Daniels, 1-of-6 from the field in the first half, buried three straight 3-pointers midway through the second to give VCU a commanding 49-35 lead and put Old Dominion on the ropes.

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