March 15, 2013
A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Briante Weber, Darius Theus, Justin Tuoyo, Melvin Johnson, Rolando Lamb, Saint Joseph's Hawks, Shaka Smart, Troy Daniels.
Freshman Melvin Johnson (12 points) was one of several of VCU’s young reserves who were key Thursday.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – There was freshman Justin Tuoyo, all alone on the right wing. He’d barely played the last month and had missed 12 of his previous 14 three-pointers this season. From behind my position, a Saint Joseph’s fan, who had apparently done some advance scouting, shouted, “He can’t shoot a three, let him shoot it.”
Tuoyo promptly sized up the three and canned it.
Instead of hesitating or letting nerves overcome him on a big stage, the Atlantic 10 Tournament quarterfinals, Tuoyo stuck to the aggressive, attacking principles that Rams’ Coach Shaka Smart preaches.
At the time the bucket didn’t seem terribly significant. It gave the Rams a 64-47 lead with 8:11 remaining. But Saint Joseph’s, namely Carl Jones (29 points) and Langston Galloway (25 points), wouldn’t quit and managed to whittle the final margin to 82-79.
After the game, Smart was quick to remind Tuoyo of that bucket.
“I told him in the locker room after the game, I know it’s just one shot, but I don’t know if you noticed, but we won by three, and you hit a three,” Smart said. “So we needed every basket, and I think overall, just the contribution that he made in 14 minutes says a lot about his future.”
March 15, 2013
2013 NCAA Tournament, A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Darius Theus, Melvin Johnson, Shaka Smart
Shaka Smart says an NCAA bid is “nice”, but the Rams are in Brooklyn to win a championship.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. – For VCU, the conference tournament has long functioned as a de facto play-in round for the NCAA Tournament as much as it was a chase for a championship. Not since 1985 have Rams fans been able to truly compartmentalize the two experiences.
Although there’s no such thing as an “automatic” at-large berth, not officially anyway, the Rams will be dancing this year. Every “bracketologist” under the sun – from Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm, to Joe Schmoe crunching brackets in his mom’s basement – has VCU safely seeded anywhere from a No. 6 to a No. 9. While the Rams’ results this weekend will greatly impact where VCU will be seeded, who it’ll play and where it will go, it won’t be a do-or-die scenario. This NCAA Tournament is one thing. That’s next week. This weekend in Brooklyn is all about chasing a title.
VCU’s move to the Atlantic 10 is actually one of the main reasons the Rams don’t have to grit their teeth through CBS’ tournament selection show this year. The A-10 has the seventh-highest RPI in the country and will likely receive anywhere from three to six bids. The Rams racked up six top-100 wins in league play. In all, VCU has built a NCAA resume on 10 top-100 wins, including three top 50 triumphs, and no “bad” losses.
March 13, 2013
A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Barclays Center, Darius Theus, Melvin Johnson
The new Barclays Center in Brooklyn will serve as host to the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time. The building has given the tournament a previously unseen buzz.
RICHMOND, Va. – It’s about a mile-and-a-half from the door of Shaka Smart’s office to the floor of the Richmond Coliseum. An absurdly fit man, it’s not silly to think he can run there in about 10 minutes (probably less). But Barclays Center in Brooklyn? It would take a Forrest Gump-like effort and a couple pairs of Nikes to make that jog.
But that’s what Smart would be facing if he wanted to leg it to the conference tournament this year, VCU’s first in the Atlantic 10. While the Rams traded the Colonial Athletic Association for the more highly regarded A-10 this year, they also traded the familiar confines of the nearby Richmond Coliseum for Barclays Center, some six hours away, depending on traffic, of course.
Although the Rams have parted company with the convenience, VCU-friendly crowds and homespun appeal of the Coliseum in March, Smart isn’t losing any sleep over it.
“A lot has been made of the fact that we’re not playing here in home at Richmond,” he said Tuesday. “But I’ve coached at a lot of schools. This is the only school I’ve coached where we’ve played a conference tournament in our home city. That’s more the exception than the norm. We’re like everyone else. We have to travel to New York to play.”
For the first time since it joined the CAA in 1995-96, VCU will play in a conference tournament outside the city of Richmond. The Rams joined the A-10 this summer, in part because the league will host its championship at Barclays. The arena, located in America’s hoops haven, New York, provides the A-10 Tournament with a curb appeal the CAA just couldn’t match.
March 12, 2013
A-10 Tournament, Atlantic 10 Tournament, Barclays Center, Melvin Johnson
Freshman Melvin Johnson, a native of the Bronx, is averaging 7.1 points per game this season.
RICHMOND, Va. – Brooklyn isn’t the Bronx, but it’s still New York City, and that’s good enough for Melvin Johnson.
The VCU freshman guard, a Bronx native, is set to return to his hometown this week as the Rams descend on Brooklyn and Barclays Center for the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The second-seeded Rams have a first round bye and will take on the winner of No. 7 Xavier and No. 10 Saint Joseph’s on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
For Johnson, it’s a chance to come home to play before friends and family in the city’s new, chic hoops destination. Johnson says he expects about 50 relatives, neighborhood buddies, AAU teammates and others to make the trip to the arena. But please, if you know Johnson, don’t call him. Call the Barclays ticket office.
“I couldn’t get 50 tickets, so I’ve got friends that are purchasing tickets,” he said Tuesday.
But it’s not all bad. Johnson says he’s been flattered by the outpouring of support he’s receiving from New York.
“Just for them to come out for me and do things like that for the entire weekend is going to mean a lot for me and is going to go a long way,” he said.
March 12, 2013
A-10, All A-10, Atlantic 10 Conference, Briante Weber, Jim Crews, Juvonte Reddic, Khalif Wyatt, Melvin Johnson, Semaj Christon, Treveon Graham
The Atlantic 10 Conference is procedurally different from the CAA in a number of areas, including voting for All-Conference awards. Whereas the CAA used a pool of 48 media members, SIDs and coaches, the A-10 is a strictly coaches voting pool. That doesn’t mean we have to sit this one out, however. We have a blog, you know.
Also, these picks were a part of the Duquesne Sports Blog’s voting pool for their All A-10 awards, so feel free to check out how the collective A-10 blogosphere feels.
Below are what would be my All Atlantic 10 Conference picks. Feel free to discuss, but take it easy on me. I’m sensitive.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Khalif Wyatt, Temple
Why: I didn’t really need further confirmation, but after Sunday’s performance against VCU, it took me all of about four seconds to write in Wyatt’s name here. The 6-foot-4 senior guard, who has five 30-point performances this season, leads the league in scoring (19.9 ppg) is seventh in assists (4.1 apg) and ninth in steals (1.6 spg). Easy pick.|
Also considered: I’m checking to see if Jameer Nelson is eligible.
Khalif Wyatt, Temple
Rotnei Clarke, Butler
Ramon Galloway, La Salle
Juvonte Reddic, VCU
Treveon Graham, VCU
February 17, 2013
A-10, Atlantic 10 Conference, Eric Maynor, George Washington Colonials, Juvonte Reddic, Larry Sanders, Melvin Johnson, Saint Louis Billikens, Troy Daniels.
Juvonte Reddic finished with 24 points and 10 rebounds Saturday.
RICHMOND, Va. – If Saturday night’s 84-57 win over George Washington is any indication, VCU is ready for its stretch run. It was the Rams’ final game before a pressure-packed five-bout gauntlet to close out the regular season, and VCU looked a lot like the team that was blowing opponents off the Siegel Center floor earlier this year.
It was a perfect storm for VCU (21-5, 9-2 A-10), really. It was Havoc meets the Peach Fuzz Boys. The Rams’ relentless defensive pressure, combined with George Washington’s inexperience, gestated into 25 Colonials’ turnovers. VCU was more than happy to trade those miscues in for 27 points, an advantage that proved insurmountable.
George Washington, in the second year of Mike Lonergan’s rebuilding project, started four freshmen Saturday night. Those four rookies combined for 17 turnovers, including eight from Joe McDonald. After that, there were few stats that mattered. The pace and tone of the game were squarely in VCU’s favor, and from there, it was a day at the races.
Junior Juvonte Reddic found open space all evening and made his first seven field goal attempts, five of them highlight-quality dunks. On the Rams’ first offensive possession of the game, Reddic used a back screen to get free and caught a high-arching lob from Darius Theus with his right hand and threw it down for a thunderous slam. It was a play that set the tone for night.
January 21, 2013
Melvin Johnson, New York City Basketball, Rice High School, Rucker Park, Shaka Smart, St. Benedict's (N.J.) Prep
Freshman Melvin Johnson is averaging 6.2 points per game off the bench this year.
Every time you watch Melvin Johnson drop a feathery floater through the net or admire his ability to knife through wafts of defenders, you can give a little thanks to the city the produced the VCU freshman guard, New York, New York.
A native of the White Plains neighborhood in the Bronx, Johnson, like the umpteen basketball stars the city has churned out over the years – Lew Alcindor, Mark Jackson, Bernard King, Bob Cousy, Tiny Archibald, Rafer Alston to name a few – owes some of his game to the anthropology of New York City hoops.
“You’d be surprised how intense it can be,” Johnson said of games in his hometown.
New York has always been a brash, in-your-face metropolis; the pace fast, the personalities colorful. New York basketball is the same way.
The culture of playground hoops is legendary. It’s not just Rucker Park, the most famous launching pad for city ballers. It’s everywhere. It’s places like the park near Melvin Johnson’s house, where he’d crowd around the court with sometimes 30 or more guys, waiting for a game. When you win, you retain the right to stay on the court. If you lose, you might not see the asphalt again that day. The unforgiving, double-rimmed goals can mute the effect of jump shooters, so ball skills and creativity are often the avenue to victory.
“You’ve just really got to create,” Johnson said. “It’s a lot of people talking smack. A lot of older guys come to the court and they challenge you just because you’re an okay player. It’s actually fun growing up in that kind of environment knowing you can just go to the park and get a lot of good games.”
December 15, 2012
D.J. Haley, Jesse Pellot-Rosa, Melvin Johnson, Shaka Smart
Junior center D.J. Haley finished with a season-high six points and six rebounds Saturday.
RICHMOND, Va. – With junior Juvonte Reddic fighting foul trouble, classmate D.J. Haley stepped up and delivered his best performance of the season.
Haley, who came into the game averaging 2.2 points and 1.3 rebounds per game, was a game-changer in the paint for the Rams. He recorded season-highs in points (6), rebounds (6) and minutes (15). He also blocked two shots.
“I really wanted to come out and make sure I was doing all I could for my teammates,” the 7-footer said. “The main things I focused on were being focused and being aggressive and it paid off today.”
Opportunities have been hard to come by of late for Haley, who has been averaging fewer than seven minutes per game in his last five appearances. VCU Coach Shaka Smart has cut into Haley’s minutes of late as mental lapses and other miscues have piled up. But Saturday, Haley was assertive and proved to be a difference-maker for the Rams.
“That’s the D.J. that we know and love,” Smart said. “If we can find a way to get him to bring that energy and talk and enthusiasm every day then he will be a very, very good player for us. It started in practice, though. He had a great week of practice.”
December 15, 2012
Alabama Basketball, Alabama Crimson Tide, Anthony Grant, Darius Theus, Melvin Johnson, Shaka Smart, Troy Daniels.
Junior Rob Brandenberg scored 10 points in VCU’s 73-54 win over Alabama.
RICHMOND, Va. – Eight days ago in Norfolk, despite a 13-point road win over Old Dominion, Shaka Smart hardly looked like a coach satisfied with his team’s performance. Smart lamented his team’s inability to hold big leads. He said they lacked a “killer instinct”.
Saturday night, in a 73-54 rout of Alabama, Smart and the Rams found what they were looking for.
VCU overwhelmed Alabama’s guards in the first half with full-court and half-court pressure and forced 13 turnovers on the way to a 33-18 lead. In the second half, the Rams would be tested. The Crimson Tide cut VCU’s lead to 11 points on a Trevor Releford bucket with 16:04 remaining. It was a litmus test. How would the Rams respond?
In similar situations against Old Dominion the Rams built a big lead, only to watch the Monarchs chip away. On Dec. 1 against Belmont, VCU looked unbeatable on the way to an 18-point halftime lead, but allowed the Bruins pull within five points late in the game.
That was not going to happen Saturday night. The Rams staged a 15-4 run in just 2:51, punctuated by back-to-back 3-pointers by Melvin Johnson and Troy Daniels, to blow the game wide open. VCU’s lead would actually reach 26 before Alabama stopped the bleeding. Crimson Tide Coach Anthony Grant, normally intense and animated on the sideline, sat quietly, hands on chin, for much of the rest of the game.
November 29, 2012
Adam Pegg, Battle 4 Atlantis, Briante Weber, Darius Theus, Jarred Guest, Juvonte Reddic, Melvin Johnson, Rob Brandenberg, Stetson Hatters
Juvonte Reddic led all players with 20 points Wednesday.
RICHMOND, Va. – Juvonte Reddic said it was about getting back to basics. If he meant, basically running Stetson out of the gym, then Wednesday night was mission accomplished for VCU, which dismantled the Hatters 92-56 at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
In their first game back from the rugged Battle 4 Atlantis, the Rams looked like a baseball player who spent the weekend swinging a bat with a weighted donut, only to remove it in time for Wednesday’s game. VCU unloaded on the overmatched Hatters (2-3), dominating every facet of the game. If not for VCU’s dreadful 3-point shooting (5-of-22), the Hatters would be wearing their Stetsons much lower on their way back to Florida.
After a 1-2 showing at the “Battle”, where they played three top-25 teams in three days, the Rams looked loose against a team that is clearly not of the same ilk, no offense to Stetson. It makes the win difficult to assess, if the prism we’re viewing VCU through now is that of a team on par with the Dukes and the Missouris and the Memphises. But the Rams appeared to do everything they were supposed to do, and more.
“It’s always fun to play here. We had a tough little stretch in the Bahamas going 1-2, so we told ourselves to reset, come back to Siegel,” said junior Rob Brandenberg, who finished with 17 points.