WE WERE MERELY FRESHMEN

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Larry Sanders averaged 4.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman in 2007-08

They say youth is wasted on the young. I just think those of us in the post-30 crowd hate that The Jersey Shore has taken over MTV. When I was a college freshman, I could run a sub-5:00 mile, sleep three hours a night and had great hair (true story). Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing half the time, and I didn’t care.  The experience, one painful lesson at a time, was all worth it. It made me better personally and professionally (at least, that’s what I’m going with).

There are six freshmen on this year’s VCU Men’s Basketball team. Statistically speaking, the Rams are the 10th-youngest team in the country. They’re all great basketball players. They wouldn’t be here otherwise. But there are going to be mistakes, plenty of youthful mistakes. Enough to cause Shaka Smart to lose some of his hair…wait…let’s move on.

The point here is that these guys are all great talents, it’s just a matter of getting the best out of them. It’s going to take time. You’ll see it some nights and others you might shake your head. It’s rare to find a guy ahead of the curve, who can come in and dominate right away. Just like I didn’t come in and just dominate the blogging game. It took years of experience to be this awesome.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

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Today’s photo courtesy of Joey Rodriguez. This tweet got me thinking, what if? What if Rodriguez picks one of the other schools in this stack of letters? We’ll never know, and I think we’re all pretty happy about that.

ALL APOLOGIES

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Jamie Skeen was named All-CAA Second Team at the end of the 2010-11 regular season. He was not on any of the All-CAA preseason teams.

On Tuesday, the Colonial Athletic Association will hold its annual men’s and women’s basketball media day in Arlington, Va., where it’ll reveal its Preseason All-Conference Teams. I think this is the perfect opportunity to apologize for my profession and the rest of my media brethren. These preseason All-Conference teams, they’re our fault.

I know how fun it is to prognosticate, to predict how an entire season will shape up on a single sheet of paper. Believe me, I’ve done it and enjoyed the heck out of it.

As a former voting member of both the All-CAA Men’s and Women’s awards body, I have contributed to this affliction for the preseason crowning of the best of the…well, I don’t know, actually. What are we rewarding people for with these preseason All-Conference teams again?

It’s a simple equation. Take last year’s All-Conference team, subtract the graduating seniors, injured players and suspended/ineligible/dismissed troublemakers. Move everybody up into the available spots. Then, with what’s left, take some educated guesses to fill the remaining slots and voila! You have voted for your very own preseason All-Conference team.

There’s the rub. There’s little or no science to this. We’re not rewarding an accomplishment, unless we’re talking about last year’s accomplishments, which we already rewarded – last year. It doesn’t – and can’t – account for so many unforeseen circumstances. How about an underperforming junior who figures it out as a senior? May I present, Jamie Skeen? How about the player whose career arc levels off, like, say, Julius Wells? What about new transfers or breakout freshmen?

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THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: JOEY RODRIGUEZ

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…NOT CONSTANTINOPLE

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Joey Rodriguez is headed to Istanbul, Turkey to play professional basketball. I asked him today which team, but he couldn’t pronounce it. I’ll just wait for the press release in Turkish.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T IS SPELLED E.S.P.Y.

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‘sup?

GRADUATION…SWAG

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Really nice video here from VCURamNation.com, which gave Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell and Ed Nixon a camera to use during graduation. Special guest appearances in this video by Larry Sanders, Shaka Smart, Anthony Grant, Darius Theus, the back of Troy Daniels’ head and others.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

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Joey Rodriguez has averaged 8.0 points in three BSN contests.

Don’t let anybody tell you that Joey Rodriguez can’t multitask.

Just to give you a taste, here’s how Rodriguez’s week looks, from Sunday, May 1 through this Saturday, May 7:

Sunday, May 1: One night after scoring nine points in a win for San German of the Puerto Rican professional basketball league, the BSN, Rodriguez flew back to Richmond, Va. and continued to prepare for final exams.

Monday, May 2: Rodriguez estimates he spent about six hours in tutoring sessions and working on final projects. Rodriguez is scheduled to graduate at the end of May with a degree in criminal justice.

Tuesday, May 3: Class, plus interview with some hack blogger.

Wednesday, May 4: Class and VCU Senior Awards Banquet.

Thursday, May 5: His girlfriend, Ciera, is 21 weeks pregnant. On Thursday morning, they will find out the sex of the baby. At 5 p.m. that evening, Rodriguez will be a guest at the White House for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Friday, May 6: Joey has a 7 a.m. flight to Puerto Rico and will play in a game later that evening. On Saturday, he will fly back to Richmond.

Got all that? That’s a tad different from your average college senior’s schedule. My senior year consisted of waking up at noon, locating lunch and then happy hour. Senioritis was in full effect by spring. I sprinkled in some class here and there.

“It’s been fun. It’s tiring,” Rodriguez says, matter-of-factly. “I’ve got a pregnant girlfriend I’m trying to take care of. I’m trying to make her and then deal with school and then play in Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez has been going like this for weeks. Just three days after the NCAA Tournament ended for VCU, Rodriguez was in Los Angeles as a guest on Lopez Tonight, George Lopez’s late night talk show.

When San German drafted Rodriguez in April, he told the team that he’d have to finish up school first. But the team told him they could fly him down on the weekends for games. So far, the nutty schedule means that Rodriguez has played in more games (three) than practices (two). In those three games, Rodriguez has averaged 8.0 points and 1.7 assists in 12.3 minutes per game.

San German is located in southwestern Puerto Rico, about an hour and a half from San Juan. The BSN season runs from March through July, so Rodriguez also hopes to play in Europe in August.

“It’s a good league. It’s not easy,” Rodriguez said. “It’s more Americanized basketball…so it’s up and down, which fits me perfect. It’s going to help me get ready for Europe too because you’re playing against grown men.”

Rodriguez is also a teammate of former Ram Jesse Pellot-Rosa. Although they never played on the same team – Pellot-Rosa’s final season was 2006-07, a year before Rodriguez’s arrival – they know each other well. Pellot-Rosa frequently works out at VCU in the offseason. In Puerto Rico, Rodriguez has been living across the street from Pellot-Rosa, and the two former Rams have been hanging out together.

“It’s the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” Rodriguez said. “He’s over there and we hang out every day.”

Meanwhile, graduation is set for May 21. Rodriguez says he will be there.

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

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I guess you can have your ice cream and cake and eat it too.

I had Joey Rodriguez and Ed Nixon stop by the office today for a couple of projects I’m working on right now. This story came up, but it’s not necessarily something I’m going to use elsewhere.

When VCU went to Norfolk to play Old Dominion during the 2009-10 season, the Monarchs pulled away late for the win. Many believe it’s no coincidence that ODU’s “Ice Cream and Cake” song plays during the under four minute media timeout of the second half and that the Monarchs often close well at home. ODU certainly did that day, turning a 68-66 VCU lead into a 73-70 Monarch victory in the final 3:08.

Strength and Conditioning Coach Daniel Roose noticed the correlation. Last summer, he had the Rams lifting weights to “Ice Cream and Cake”. When the Rams faced ODU in Norfolk on Feb. 12, they were ready. VCU was holding a 52-50 lead when the final media timeout came with 3:11 left. Cue “Ice Cream and Cake”, which normally sends the home crowd into a frenzy (although nobody really can understand why). This time, the Rams were unfazed.

“We were dancing in the huddle,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think Coach Smart even said anything.”

“When they played it, I think that it helped us more than it helped them,” Nixon said.

Nixon’s argument appears to hold water. The Rams outscored ODU 7-0 the rest of the way in a 59-50 victory.

A THING OF BEAUTY

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HOUSTON, Tex. – Every day for the past four years, Shaka Smart has entered at least one quote, sometimes more, into a rapidly expanding dossier on his computer.

The word document is more than 115 pages long and literally includes thousands of quotes, some inspirational, some thought-provoking, from luminaries throughout history. But it started with one simple quote, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever,” from a John Keats poem.

When Smart gave me that quote back in August for a story I was writing, I didn’t give it much thought. Today, those words really hit home. VCU’s NCAA Tournament run, which included five wins over BCS conference schools, was a thing of beauty. I hope that when the sting of Saturday’s loss fades, that people can appreciate the gravity of what transpired the last three weeks. From a lightly-regarded bubble team that was trashed on ESPN, to America’s sweethearts, it’s been truly magical.

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