CATCHING UP WITH MICHAEL DOLES

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Michael Doles helped lead the Rams to back-to-back postseason appearances in 2004 and 2005, kicking off a new “golden age” of VCU hoops.

Michael Doles believes he’s found a suitable replacement for the cheering crowds and adoring fans that showered him with affection during his basketball career.

Just as people used to celebrate his arrival on court before games, they celebrate his arrival on the job site. That’s because he’s the guy that can save their house from burning to the ground.

A former VCU star and professional in Europe, Doles, 30, will celebrate his one-year anniversary as an active firefighter for Prince William County on July 1. It’s been a rewarding experience for the one-time VCU fan favorite.

“When I was in college I wanted to be in the FBI or a police officer. But people want to see a fireman,” Doles said. “A policeman is not as good of a sight. I wanted people to be happy to see me and know the situation is going to get better.”

VCU fans can relate. For three seasons from 2002-05 after transferring from Wright State, the Meadowbrook High School graduate had a habit for lifting the spirits of Rams’ fans. A 6-foot-6, 210-pound forward, Doles averaged 11.2 points and 4.4 rebounds as a junior to help lift the Rams to the 2004 CAA Championship and NCAA Tournament, VCU’s first since 1996.

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TURNING POINT: THE MICHAEL DOLES GAME

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VCU averaged a Verizon Wireless Arena-record 6,645 fans per home game in 2010-11.

Mike Litos relays a fond, albeit embarrassing memory from his freshman year at VCU. It was 1986, J.D. Barnett had already packed up and left for Tulsa. Although they did not know it at the time, the Rams were sliding into an extended period of mediocrity. Like Haley’s Comet, the program would emerge to win a conference title in 1996 before heading back into another orbit of so-so basketball around the sun, or something like that.

Litos grew up on Tobacco Road, where basketball is religion and your affiliation with Duke or North Carolina (no offense, N.C. State) is akin to being a Hatfield or a McCoy. Schools always packed the house and you had to get to the game at least an hour ahead of time to get a seat in the student section.

Those experiences are what caused Litos to convince his roommate and a couple of other guys to catch the first bus down to the Richmond Coliseum for the Rams’ home-opener that season. After much prodding, they relented.

“When we got there,” he says sheepishly. “We joined the other four students in the building in the student section.”

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