MEETING MASON…HISTORY FIRST

2 Comments

VCU and George Mason will meet for the 50th time Thursday. The Rams lead the all-time series 31-18.

VCU and George Mason will meet for the 50th time Thursday. The Rams lead the all-time series 31-18.

For all that VCU gained in its move to the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2012, the Rams did forfeit a couple of compelling in-state rivalries. Sure, the Rams still play Old Dominion, but without a conference race at stake – not to mention the Monarchs’ recent struggles – the series has lost momentum. The other realignment casualty was VCU’s series with George Mason. When VCU packed up for the A-10, I didn’t lose any sleep over the possible end to games with James Madison and William & Mary, but the Mason rivalry has had some incredible moments. When the Patriots made the jump to the A-10 this summer, I was happy that the Rams would have another in-state rival playing for similar stakes.

Until 2012-13, the last season in which VCU and George Mason did not meet was 1983-84. So there’s some history, here. VCU leads the all-time series 31-18, and in the last 8-10 years, the rivalry really hit its stride. Both were CAA contenders essentially every year, they were two hours apart (depending on that NOVA traffic) and each enjoyed postseason success, including a Final Four.

But the Rams were also 6-0 against the Patriots in the CAA Tournament. VCU actually ended the Patriots’ conference title hopes the last four years they were in the CAA together and five of the last six. It’s at this moment that I wonder if George Mason actually suggested that the Rams join the A-10. They may have helped pack VCU’s bags.

While Mason isn’t likely to shake off those stinging losses, which include two CAA Championship games (we’ll get to that), the Patriots have earned some notable wins over the Rams in recent years. At the top of the list is Sherrod Wright’s 30-foot buzzer-beater that spoiled Valentine’s Day in 2012, and the 71-51 hammer the Patriots dropped on VCU at the Siegel Center in 2011, just prior to the Rams morphing into the Lakers (well, the old Lakers).

All-in-all, it’s been a fun rivalry, one fans should welcome back on both sides. Here’s a quick look at some recent memorable contests between George Mason and VCU.

THE (VCU) GOOD

Tournament MVP Eric Maynor celebrates VCU 2007 CAA Championship over George Mason.

Tournament MVP Eric Maynor celebrates VCU 2007 CAA Championship over George Mason.

March 5, 2007 – VCU 65, George Mason 59 – CAA Championship GameBox Score
Before there was “The Dagger”, there was this. Eric Maynor may have made his name by crushing Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but it wouldn’t have been possible without his incredible performance – highlighted by back-to-back steals – to stun George Mason.

.

More

THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS EVER THIS WEEK (OCT. 1)

Leave a comment

Happy Shak-tober, VCU fans. This month is good for many things, among them (in no particular order): foliage, NBA training camps, candy corn, postseason baseball, marzen, candy corn, Atlantic 10 Conference races and, finally, candy corn. How does VCU Athletics fit into all of this? I’m glad you asked, even if you didn’t.

RAMS IN CAMP
NBA training camps are underway, which means three former Rams are in action, each with a different task in front of them.

Troy Daniels is in Asheville, N.C. with the Charlotte “soon to be Hornets” Bobcats. Troy earned a camp invite after playing on the Bobcats’ summer league squad in Las Vegas. Now would be a good time to remind Michael Jordan that Charlotte was 27th in the NBA in 3-point shooting last year, and Troy Daniels (feel free to use the Around The Horns-approved #TreyD3 hashtag) hits threes in his sleep. If he was a dinosaur, Daniels would be a triceratops. If he was a TV station, he’d be ESPN3. If he was a stadium, he’d be Three Rivers.

Trust us, Daniels was born for this. We recently slowed down some film of Daniels shooting at training camp and captured his expression right at the moment he’s about to catch and shoot. Check it out:

Three, coming right up.

Three, coming right up.

More

BRATWURST FOR EVERYONE! SANDERS SIGNS EXTENSION

Leave a comment

There was a famous banner that made the rounds during Larry Sanders’ VCU career that read, “Larry Sanders has a posse.” Well, now he can afford one.

Sanders, who had one year remaining on his original rookie contract, officially signed a multi-year extension with the Milwaukee Bucks – who drafted him 15th overall in 2010 – on Tuesday. Terms have not been disclosed, but multiple outlets have reported that the extension is for four years and $44 million, and incentives could push it to as much as $48 million. Alex Boeder of “Bucks Beat” wrote a nice piece on why that’s a good thing for Bucks’ fans.

Sanders signs his contract extension Tuesday (photo via Instagram)

Sanders signs his contract extension Tuesday (photo via Instagram)

If you saw Larry Sanders the first time he stepped onto the floor at the Verizon Wireless Arena in 2007, your first impression would likely have been something like, “well, he’s tall.” Discovered in Fort Pierce, Fla. by then-assistant Tony Pujols, Sanders had been playing organized basketball for only a couple of years, and was, without a doubt, raw. It was tough to throw the ball to Sanders in the post because he wasn’t very good at catching it, and when he did, he wasn’t exactly sure what to do with it. But for all the things he hadn’t been taught, there were so many skills he possessed that you can’t teach.

Sanders was starting halfway through that season and eventually averaged 4.9 points and 5.2 rebounds on an NIT squad. He averaged 11.3 points and 8.6 rebounds as a sophomore and became a viable sidekick to Eric Maynor. The performance of those two in the 2009 CAA Championship Game, Maynor lobbing to Sanders (18 points, 20 rebounds, 7 blocks) for dunks, Sanders blocking everything in sight, was an eye-opener for fans and scouts alike.

At that stage, it was pretty clear Sanders was going to end up in the NBA someday. After a junior season in which he led the Rams in scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (9.1 rpg), Sanders entered the draft. He wasn’t a finished product by any means, but his draft stock was soaring. In a league with a dearth of centers, Sanders’ combination of length and athleticism was coveted. After two occasionally frustrating seasons in Milwaukee, Sanders broke out last season and averaged 9.8 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.8 blocks per game. He’s just 24, and he’s starting to come into his own. The Bucks were smart to sign him now, rather than take their chances after the 2013-14 season.

RICHMOND, THE PLACE TO BE

Leave a comment

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.

POST ‘DAGGER’ ERA MOLDED IN SAN JUAN

Leave a comment

Kirill Pishchalnikov defends Arkansas' Charles Thomas during the 2007 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Kirill Pishchalnikov defends Arkansas’ Charles Thomas during the 2007 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

2013 PUERTO RICO TIP-OFF (pdf)

The post-Dagger days began in Puerto Rico.

It was in San Juan in 2007, at the first Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where we tried to find out if VCU, as a Goliath exterminator, had staying power. Nearly a week after rolling designated milk jug Maryland-Eastern Shore in the 2007-08 season-opener, VCU headed to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Anthony Grant, was, as Shaka Smart is today, THE rising star among college coaches. Eric Maynor, whose “Dagger” with 1.8 seconds left gave VCU its unforgettable, 79-77 upset of Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the previous March, was a certified star. You could have sold his image on commemorative plates on QVC alongside those bearing Dale Earnhardt’s, if the NCAA allowed that sort of kitsch.

But while Grant and Maynor were known quantities, magnetic drawing cards with the goods to back it up, the rest was up in the air. People love NCAA Tournament upsets, they embrace the Princetons and the Bryce Drews, the Eric Maynors, the Cleveland States and the La Salles for weeks each March. But when the lights go out, most of them fade from the national consciousness. We rode high on the hog for months, but secretly, we wondered if Maynor’s “Dagger” was VCU’s 15 minutes; If the illogical food chain of college hoops would gobble us up and cast us back from whence we came, back to the obscurity of mid-majordom.

The tournament began in earnest. Grant’s recruiting class that year included Larry Sanders, Joey Rodriguez, Lance Kearse, Ed Nixon, Brandon Rozzell and Myk Brown, and transfer Kirill Pishchalnikov was also on board. Much of the publicity, and for a VCU recruiting class up to that point, it was significant, focused on Kearse and Rodriguez. Sanders was intriguing, but very much an unknown.

More

REDDIC FILLS OUT, FILLS LANE

Leave a comment

Juvonte Reddic continues to pack muscle onto his frame as his game matures.

Juvonte Reddic continues to pack muscle onto his frame as his game matures.

Full Nike Big Man Skills Academy Roster

If you don’t know by now, Juvonte Reddic is spending the better part of this week at the Nike Big Man Skills Academy (featuring Amar’e Stoudamire and Anthony Davis’ unibrow) in Union, N.J. For three days, Reddic, a rising senior, will compete against some of the best big men in the country. The last Ram to appear there was Larry Sanders in 2009, and it helped him catch the attention of NBA Scouts. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, but it is worth noting that Reddic was one of only 13 players chosen nationally for this camp. Clearly, his skills are catching people’s attention. And while it’s only three days, Reddic stands to gain quite a bit from playing against the best bigs in college hoops and around two of the NBA’s best. This is a big win for the VCU forward.

On a larger scale, it’s all part of an offseason that pales in comparison to last summer. What hasn’t been discussed much, and we’re partially responsible for this, is that Reddic’s summer of 2012 was largely a wash. That’s because Reddic had back surgery last summer and sat out the majority of his offseason workouts, as well as much of VCU’s Italian tour. Despite that setback, Reddic averaged career highs of 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while shooting .569 from the field.

Yesterday, Nike released player measurements from the camp. Reddic was 6-9 1/2 in shoes (actually a 1/2 inch taller than he was listed last season) and 248 pounds. When he arrived at VCU, Reddic was around 205 pounds. He told me last year he never lifted weights in high school. Last season, he played at around 235-240 pounds. Since the end of the 2012-13 season, a healthy Reddic has already added anywhere from eight to 13 pounds, which is great news. As he’s added weight over the years (and worked on his post game), Reddic has become more comfortable in the paint. As opposing teams found out last season, it’s getting increasingly difficult to push Reddic off the low block. There were some bigger, physical post players who were able to bother Reddic at times last season, but with even more muscle on what was once a slender frame, Reddic should have greater success controlling the painted area.

I’m looking forward to hearing his thoughts on it, but my assumption is that with a full offseason to work on his game and move heavy stuff in the weight room this summer, Reddic can be better than ever in 2013-14.

reddic-frosh-jr-comparison

Reddic as a freshman in 2010 (left) and last season (right).

DANIELS AIMS TO OPEN NBA EYES

1 Comment

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.

More

YOUR DEFINITIVE GUIDE TO VCU BASKETBALL FIRST PITCHES

2 Comments

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.”

More

LARRY SANDERS: COAST-TO-COAST

Leave a comment

Look, I don’t care if the Bucks are down 3-0 or 30-0 in their series with the Heat. This play says the future is bright in Milwaukee. Guys who are 6-foot-11 shouldn’t be able to do this. Larry Sanders is averaging 12.0 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 67 percent from the field against the Heat in this first round playoff series.

SO, ALEC BURKS MET LARRY SANDERS LAST NIGHT…

2 Comments

…and Larry Sanders told Alec Burks to take his ball and go home. In case you didn’t know, Larry currently leads the NBA in blocks per game, and this one didn’t even count.

Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,625 other followers

%d bloggers like this: