MO WAS MONEY…AND OTHER NOTES

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Freshman Mo Alie-Cox sparked VCU with 10 points and six rebounds Saturday.

Freshman Mo Alie-Cox sparked VCU with 10 points and six rebounds Saturday.

RICHMOND, Va. – Sorry, Mo Alie-Cox, we didn’t know any better.

Generally, whenever a power forward or center finds himself on an island beyond the 3-point arc, the audience treats it like a stunt from Jackass. They egg the big guy on until he agrees and lets the shot fly, then they gasp in horror. And much like the guy who rides down a steep hill in a shopping cart while on fire, the audience goes nuts when he sticks the landing.

It continues this way until the audience is convinced that this isn’t just a parlor trick, that it’s an actual feature of the player’s game. There are a lot more Chris Kamans in the world than Arvydas Sabonises, so it takes longer for the big guys to gain the public’s trust.

So when Alie-Cox, a chiseled, 6-foot-6, 250-pound power forward, found himself marooned with the ball atop the 3-point line with 14 minutes remaining in a six-point game Saturday night, he was met with the usual roar of curious encouragement. Calmly, Alie-Cox sized up the shot and buried it.

“That’s been a shot I’ve been working on all summer. Coach told me, if I’m wide open, shoot it. Or if I’m not, just go ahead and reverse it. They left me wide open, so I just hoisted up the shot and it went in,” Alie-Cox said afterwards.

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RICHMOND, THE PLACE TO BE

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It’s no secret that Richmond has been a summer workout hotbed for former Rams like Eric Maynor, Jamal Shuler, Jesse Pellot-Rosa, Jamie Skeen, Brandon Rozzell, B.A. Walker and others. Wednesday, Smart said he’s glad players, even ones he didn’t coach at VCU, still come back.

BOBCATS/HORNETS, SKEEN/DANIELS & STATS/STATS

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Jamie Skeen

Former Ram Jamie Skeen scored 12 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a win over the D-League select team Saturday.

The NBA Summer League finished up for Troy Daniels, Jamie Skeen and the Charlotte Bobcats  last night in a 75-67 loss to the Golden State Warriors (and ODU alum Kent Bazemore) in a semifinal matchup. After neither Daniels or Skeen played much (or not at all) in the Bobcats first three games in Las Vegas, both former Rams got plenty of run in the final three. After posting a double-double Saturday, Skeen wasn’t able to knock down shots last night. Daniels fared better, scoring 13 points while knocking down 3-of-5 from three.

It’s hard to say if either showed enough to merit an invitation to training camp, but even if Charlotte declines, another team could step in. Both Daniels and Skeen had their moments; Daniels not only hit 42 percent of his threes in Vegas, but he even put the ball on the floor and got the the rim a couple of times. However, his 6-of-24 shooting from 2-point range could be a problem. Skeen, meanwhile, looked lighter and eager to shoot the three, but also rebounded the ball pretty well. If Skeen, whose biggest problem as it relates to the NBA is that he’s always been a bit of a power forward in a small forward’s body, was hoping to show teams he can play the three, I think he made a decent case.

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HAPPY FRIDAY!

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Happy Friday, folks. Let this be a reminder that when the sharks are bearing down on you from out of the sky, keep your chin up and grab a chainsaw.

I know a couple of guys who live by this mantra, Troy Daniels and Jamie Skeen. Each man has overcome a few bumps in the road to keep chasing their NBA dream. Daniels barely played his first two seasons at VCU, and just as he was starting to earn playing time, broke his foot. He recovered to record the two most prolific 3-point shooting seasons in VCU history. Skeen, meanwhile, lost his first college coach, Skip Prosser, to a heart attack, then transferred to VCU. He wasn’t immediately a star, but by the end of his senior year, he had led the Rams to the Final Four. This past year, while playing in Israel, he endured rocket fire and had to evacuate his apartment as violence flared up in the the region.

Tonight, the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas begins at UNLV. Both Skeen and Daniels will play for the Charlotte Bobcats team that will take on San Antonio at 10 p.m. EST (NBA TV). Each will be trying to convince the organization (or others), that they deserve a spot in training camp this fall.

So remember, when life gives you flying sharks, you make shark steaks.

Charlotte Bobcats – NBA Summer League Schedule

Friday, July 12:
Charlotte vs. San Antonio, 10 p.m. (NBA TV)

Sunday, July 14:
Charlotte vs. Dallas, 6 p.m. (NBA TV)

Monday, July 15:
Charlotte vs. New York, 4 p.m. (NBA TV)

July 17-22:
Teams seeded into a double-elimination tournament format.

DANIELS AIMS TO OPEN NBA EYES

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VCU senior Troy Daniels will work out for NBA scouts May 22-23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

VCU senior Troy Daniels will work out for NBA scouts May 22-23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

RICHMOND, Va. – Troy Daniels made a career out of connecting on long shots. So what’s one more?

Daniels has been invited to an NBA workout May 22-23 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Representatives from all 30 NBA teams are expected to attend.

“It’s time to get a job now. This is a lot different than college,” Daniels said Thursday. “It’s a great feeling. “It’s something that you dream about when you’re younger and it’s finally coming true now.”

Despite his sharpshooting credentials – Daniels ranks second in school history in 3-pointers (251) and owns the top two single season marks – the senior from Roanoke, Va. likely faces an uphill battle. He’s currently not expected to be drafted and is not listed among the top 100 NBA prospects by NBADraftExpress.com, NBADraft.net or CBS Sports’ Jeff Goodman.

But Daniels, who will graduate from VCU Saturday with a degree in criminal justice, says that won’t be a deterrent. He’s says he’s been working out twice a day, fine-tuning his skills and hopes to grab the attention of scouts and executives in Brooklyn. He’s also recently worked out with former Ram Eric Maynor of the Portland Trail Blazers, who typically spends much of his offseason in Richmond.

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RAMS IN THE PROS: SANDERS SURGES

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Former Ram Larry Sanders (center) is averaging 8.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game this season.

Former Ram Larry Sanders (center) is averaging 8.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game this season.

It looks like Larry Sanders is starting to figure out this NBA thing.

The 24-year-old former VCU star and current Milwaukee Buck is enjoying a breakout season. Selected 15th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, Sanders is beginning to deliver on the promise Milwaukee saw on film and in workouts.

Through a quarter of the season, the 6-foot-11, 235-pound center was averaging career-highs of 8.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Sanders is shooting 54 percent from the floor, and as of this writing, his 3.0 blocks per game average was tied for the league lead.

Last season, Sanders averaged just 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. But a strong preseason and training camp earned him increased playing time from Bucks’ Coach Scott Skiles. Sanders responded with 10 points and seven rebounds in an opening-night victory over the Boston Celtics.

On Nov. 30, Sanders recorded his first career triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a loss at Minnesota. His 10 blocks tied the franchise record, set by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar later took to Twitter to congratulate Sanders.

Sanders followed with 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks against the Celtics the next night.

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RAMS IN THE PROS: SKEEN GETS A SCARE IN ISRAEL

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Former Ram Jamie Skeen is averaging 10.7 points per game this season for Maccabi Ashdod in Israel.

Former Ram Jamie Skeen is averaging 10.7 points per game this season for Maccabi Ashdod in Israel.

Jamie Skeen admits he knew virtually nothing of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict before two years ago. To him, war was in some faraway place like Iraq. He certainly didn’t envision war would come to his doorstep.

But earlier this year, Skeen, the star of VCU’s 2011 Final Four run, found himself caught in the crossfire of the decades-old conflict. Skeen is currently playing for Maccabi Ashdod in Israel’s top division. In the middle of one November practice, team owners abruptly sent players and coaches home and told them to prepare for rocket attacks.

Skeen ran to the locker room to gather his clothes. That’s when they heard the first warning siren, which signals incoming rockets.

“When you hear the siren, you have 20 seconds to get to the safe room,” Skeen says, referring to a reinforced structure within many residences and buildings in the region.

He rushed back to his apartment and his girlfriend, Whitney. The next morning, Skeen says rockets began scorching through the air five and six at a time as people began their daily commute. The rocket attacks would persist for eight days. He says one rocket landed a short walk from his apartment.

“When one lands, your whole apartment building shakes,” he said.

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IS JAMIE SKEEN NFL DREAMING?

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Jamie Skeen was named NCAA Southwest Regional MVP during VCU's march to the Final Four in 2011.

Jamie Skeen was named NCAA Southwest Regional MVP during VCU’s march to the Final Four in 2011.

I had a chance to talk to former Ram Jamie Skeen last week. He’s playing professionally in Israel, and it’s been a difficult year over there for Skeen, one of the heroes of VCU’s Final Four run. You can read more about that by picking up a game program at the Longwood or Fairleigh Dickinson games later this month.

But I saved one tidbit for the blog because I was short on space and it didn’t necessarily fit with the tone of the program piece. At some point in our conversation, he told me he planned on trying out for the NFL this summer. I chuckled at first, not sure if he was being facetious. I mean, Jamie can be pretty funny when he wants, and I already knew he was a huge Carolina Panthers fan. But Skeen insisted he was 100 percent serious.

After a minute or so, I thought, well, why not?

Skeen measured 6-foot-8 (in shoes) and 242 pounds at the NBA Draft combine last year, which means he’s got the size of an NFL tight end. Coupled with his athleticism and soft hands, he has many of the necessary skills. Of course, Jamie didn’t play football in high school or college, so that’s going to be a big problem.

However, this situation is not unprecedented. Antonio Gates played basketball, not football at Kent State, but became an All-Pro tight end for the San Diego Chargers. Earlier this year, Les Brown, an accountant who played Division III basketball, earned a contract as a tight end with the Miami Dolphins, but was cut in training camp. Tony Gonzalez, who will be in the Hall of Fame the minute he’s eligible, was a football and basketball star at California.

VCU fans will no doubt remember when former Ram Jesse Pellot-Rosa was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets in 2007. Pellot-Rosa, hampered by a hand injury for much of training camp, played in one preseason game before he was cut by the team. Before choosing basketball, Pellot-Rosa was a star wide receiver in high school.

Whatever his chances, Skeen believes he has the connections to get himself a tryout this summer. He says he’s eying Carolina and the Atlanta Falcons. We will be watching closely.

Q&A WITH RAM RADIO ANALYST MIKE LITOS

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Mike Litos joins Ram Radio as color analyst for the 2012-13.

VCU alumnus, CAAHoops.com founder and bocce enthusiast Mike Litos (@VCULitos) will join the VCU Ram Radio broadcast team for the 2012-13 season as color analyst. He’ll join play-by-play voice (and former child acting star) Robby Robinson to bring VCU Men’s Basketball into your living room (and car, and mobile device, etc.).

I recently caught up with Litos to get some answers to the questions that are burning up Ram Nation right now, such as, “Would you be supportive of a Wham! reunion?”
CK: A select few get to come back to their alma mater and put in a position like this. How exciting is this opportunity for you, as a long-time fan?

ML: I’m rarely at a loss for words, lots of them, but I’m still having a difficult time articulating how exciting this opportunity is for me. I will say it’s extremely humbling to even be considered…we’ve got incredible momentum as an athletics department and a university, so to become a bigger part of that is thrilling. I very much look forward to digging in and contributing where I can.

CK: Your predecessor, Mike Ellis, was known for his knowledge of Xs and Ox, his stories and his undying devotion to officiating. What can fans expect when they turn the dial to listen to the game this year?
ML: It’s possible I’ve given aid to an official who, shall we say, may have erred in his interpretation of the rules. I’ll continue to help out the zebras. But really what people can expect is an answer to the question why. My goal is to be invisible. What I mean is that the radio audience gets a mental picture of what’s occurring on the court. Robby does a great job explaining what’s happening; my job is to depict what’s happening that impacts what Robby is describing.

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NBA SUMMER LEAGUE CHEAT SHEET

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Bradford Burgess is one of three former Rams who will be trying to impress at NBA Summer Leagues in July

By now you should know that three former VCU players will participate in NBA Summer Leagues (as of this writing). Bradford Burgess will play for the Orlando Magic in the Orlando Summer League July 9-13, while both Jamie Skeen (Chicago) and Larry Sanders (Milwaukee) are set to play in the Las Vegas Summer League July 16-22.

The word is that Burgess may also play in Vegas, but that hasn’t been decided. Orlando isn’t sending a team to the Las Vegas Summer League, so he’d have to play for another franchise, which isn’t uncommon. Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore, for instance, will play for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Orlando and the Golden State Warriors in Las Vegas.

Here’s a quick look at the schedules for the three VCU guys, as well as the TV listings. The good news for Ram fans is that NBA TV will essentially broadcast every game, most of them live.

One game to keep an eye on will be the July 22 game in Las Vegas between Skeen’s Bulls team and Sanders’ Bucks squad. The NBA TV schedule wasn’t available that far out, but I’m assuming it will also be carried by the network.

ORLANDO MAGIC LEAGUE: Bradford Burgess (Orlando)

Monday, July 9
Brooklyn vs. Orlando, 11 a.m. (NBATV)

Tuesday, July 10
Detroit vs. Orlando, 3 p.m. (NBATV)

Wednesday, July 11
Utah vs. Orlando, 5 p.m. (NBATV)

Thursday, July 12
Philadelphia vs. Orlando, 5 p.m. (NBATV)

Friday, July 13
Boston vs. Orlando, 10 a.m. (NBATV)

Orlando Magic Summer League roster

Notes: Teams will play four 10-minute quarters. Overtime periods will be three minute in length.

LAS VEGAS SUMMER LEAGUE : Larry Sanders (Milwaukee) and Jamie Skeen (Chicago)

Monday, July 16
Milwaukee vs. New Orleans, 10:30 p.m.  (NBATV)

Tuesday, July 17
Chicago vs. Boston, 10 p.m. (Tape delay NBATV, July 18, 12 p.m.)

Wednesday, July 18
Milwaukee vs. Washington, 4 p.m. (NBATV; plus a replay July 19, 12 p.m.)
Chicago vs. Houston, 6 p.m. (Tape delay NBATV, July 19, 2 p.m.)

Thursday, July 19
Milwaukee vs. NBA D-League, 10 p.m.

Friday, July 20
Chicago vs. Golden State, 8:30 p.m. (NBATV)

Saturday, July 21
Chicago vs. L.A. Clippers, 8:30 p.m. (NBATV)
Milwaukee vs. Boston, 10:30 p.m. (NBATV)

Sunday, July 22
Chicago vs. Milwaukee, 4 p.m. (TV schedule not yet available)

Milwaukee Bucks Summer League roster
Chicago Bulls Summer League roster (not yet available)

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