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

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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.

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BRATWURST FOR EVERYONE! SANDERS SIGNS EXTENSION

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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.

LARRY SANDERS: COAST-TO-COAST

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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…

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…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.

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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HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LARRY SANDERS

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Happy 24th birthday to former Ram Larry Sanders, now in his third NBA season with the Milwaukee Bucks. We still miss your rim-rattling dunks, your game-changing blocks and your white-knuckle 3-pointer attempts. His 17-point, 21-rebound, 7-block game against George Mason in the 2009 CAA Championship Game is still one of the greatest individual performances I’ve ever seen. Larry is enjoying a career-year in Milwaukee, averaging 9.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game.

HAS LARRY SANDERS TURNED THE CORNER?

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Maybe I’m jumping the gun, but it sure looks to me like former Ram Larry Sanders is turning a corner in his NBA career. Yes, it’s been only two games, which means there’s real potential here for me to eat my words, but I’m seeing things out of Larry I didn’t even know he was capable of. In two games, Larry is averaging 13.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. He has, for the first time in his three seasons, appeared to establish a role in Milwaukee’s eight-man rotation.

Here are highlights from Larry’s career-high 17 point, seven rebound, four block performance against Cleveland. Watch the three plays in succession beginning at the 1:10 mark. The spin, lefty hook, the dribble drive to the rim, the smooth jumper from 20 feet. He just looks different. That second play, when he takes a couple of dribbles and gets to the rack, that’s a guard play, folks. Find me another 6-foot-11 power forward who can do that.

Larry has clearly benefited from a more normal training camp this summer. When I talked to him a couple of weeks ago, he said the lockout really hurt his season last year. Larry’s a guy that is still  very much learning how to play the game. He needs reps. He’s getting them now, and he’s starting to really tap into that vast reservoir of talent.

MAYNOR, SANDERS PRESEASON REVIEW

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This is an important season for the careers of both Eric Maynor and Larry Sanders moving forward. Maynor is in the fourth and final year of his rookie contract and coming off a season-ending ACL tear. Sanders has been a bit of an enigma in Milwaukee his first two seasons, but is showing signs of breaking through. That makes both of their preseasons all the more worthy of inspection.

LARRY SANDERS


This was an interesting preseason for Sanders. On one hand, he seemed to really help his prospects by playing pretty darn good on the floor. He was better offensively than he’ll get credit for, and he was great rebounding the ball and blocking shots. His per 36 minute averages of 12.8 rebounds and 4.1 blocks are eye-catching. But there’s a flip side. Sanders was suspended for one game for “conduct” issues during the preseason. In addition, he continued to foul at a head-spinning rate of 7.1 per 36 minutes.

Despite his shortcomings, Sanders appears to be making headway in Milwaukee and could even start at center, especially if Samuel Dalembert continues his slow and steady decline.

Jeremy Schmidt of “Bucksketball”:

The real battle here appears to be between Dalembert, Sanders and Udoh. And if we’re using preseason numbers, it’s hard to look away from Sanders. He’s been a better shot-blocker, rebounder and scorer than Dalembert in his five games. Plus he has a mobility that Dalembert lacks – even if he doesn’t have the same awareness defensively. And defense is where this battle will be won. The Bucks didn’t go crazy for shot-blocking this offseason to ignore it come November. They want a center that provides support defensively first and foremost.

ERIC MAYNOR

This is an important preseason for Maynor as well, but for different reasons. Maynor’s coming off the first serious injury of his career and needs to establish two things. No. 1, he needs to prove to the Thunder, and himself, that he’s healthy. No. 2, he needs to remind Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks that he remains a better option than Reggie Jackson, the second-year man who filled for Maynor last season. He appears to have succeeded on both counts. Maynor’s performance this preseason should set him up for solid minutes again behind Russell Westbrook.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman last week:

Take away that bulky black contraption tucked beneath the black sleeve covering his right leg and you wouldn’t be able to tell Maynor had even torn up his knee. There are moments like Tuesday night, when Maynor shows the same wizardry that he’s always possessed running an offense.

It’s important that Maynor’s healthy and ready to contribute, because this is a contract year, and there are plenty of teams out there in search of playmaker. If he plays well, there could be a starting role waiting for him somewhere. On Monday, The Oklahoman reported that the Thunder and Maynor had put contract negotiations on hold, which makes it all the more likely that he’ll be a restricted free agent next summer. 

ACTING NO LAUGHING MATTER FOR SANDERS

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Larry Sanders (far right) appears as a well-coiffed basketball player in the sketch comedy “Movie 43″.

At 6-foot-11, Larry Sanders may already seem larger than life, but just imagine him on a two-story movie screen.

If Sanders has his way, you’ll eventually see more of him in the giant, silver screen variety. The former VCU Basketball fan favorite and current Milwaukee Bucks forward will make his big screen debut in January with the release of “Movie 43”, an ensemble comedy that features Emma Stone, Halle Berry, Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman and a number of other stars. Sanders appears as, wait for it, a basketball player. He also wears a Jheri curl in the scene as a member of a team from the 1970s.

“It was a wig,” Sanders assures. “It was either that or they were going to do something with my mohawk at the time.”

Sanders actually shot the scenes for the movie over three days in Los Angeles prior to his rookie season two years ago. He says he really enjoyed the experience, including meeting Terrence Howard, who plays the coach of Sanders’ team.

“Terrence Howard was just amazingly funny. He was telling stories and stuff. I had never really seen how funny he was before,” Sanders said.

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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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