LATE-BLOOMER: FRESHMAN THORPE A FINE SURPRISE FOR VCU

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Isis Thorpe is VCU's highest-scoring freshman since Quanitra Hollingsworth in 2005-06.

Isis Thorpe is VCU’s highest-scoring freshman since Quanitra Hollingsworth in 2005-06.

VCU freshman guard Isis Thorpe has always been a bit of an independent spirit. In high school, she loved the piano sections of the K-Ci & JoJo hit “All My Life” so much she decided to take up piano. So she asked her mother for a keyboard and looked up tutorials on YouTube.

“I wanted to play the piano because I just wanted something new,” the Reading, Pa. native says. “I never wanted to be just a basketball player. I always wanted to do other things so I can say I’ve done something else.”

Thorpe later took a piano class as a high school senior, and while she still calls herself a beginner, she can play Christmas songs and some Beethoven, as well as some R&B standards.

Her basketball career has followed a similar plot line. A late-starter, the 5-foot-8 guard learned the game in her own independent way, but has proven to be a quick study. This season, she’s burst onto the scene to become the second-leading scorer for Coach Marlene Stollings’ upstart VCU Women’s Basketball team. Even among Stollings’ ready-made initial VCU recruiting class, Thorpe has managed to stand out.

Thorpe’s outstanding debut campaign isn’t just a nice surprise for the 18-6 Rams, it’s bordering on historic. Thorpe is averaging 12.9 points per game, the most by a VCU freshman since future WNBA pro Quanitra Hollingsworth averaged 14.7 during the 2005-06 season, and the most by a true VCU freshman since Rochelle Luckett (12.8) in 1998-99. Hollingsworth eventually scored 1,604 points in a VCU uniform, which ranks third in school history. Luckett is fifth with 1,483. Thorpe also ranks fourth in the A-10 in 3-pointers per game (2.5). Her 60 triples are already the sixth-most in school single-season history.

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ROUNDUP: GRAHAM, BUSY ALUMS & CANADA

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In case you missed it, Treveon Graham is going to be playing for the United States at the World University Games July 7-16 in Kazan, Russia. Only 12 players in the country can say that. It’s a big deal. The last Ram wear USA Basketball red, white and blue was Eric Maynor, who did so in 2007 at the Pan Am Games, after “The Dagger” and before his junior season. Graham will be the youngest player on this year’s squad.

VCU rising junior Treveon Graham, bottom right, wearing jersey No. 10.

VCU rising junior Treveon Graham, bottom right, wearing jersey No. 10.

Meanwhile, VCU Coach Shaka Smart has been serving as an assistant for the USA Basketball U19 squad in Prague.

More on that HERE.

ALUMNI NEWS
The NBA free agency period began Monday at midnight. It sounds like Eric Maynor will be looking for a new team.

But don’t worry, he should have suitors.

Edit, more Maynor:

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THE YEAR IN VCU ATHLETICS, FROM A TO Z

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Wrong A-B-C...whatever, close enough.

Wrong A-B-C…whatever, close enough.

June marks the conclusion of the college athletics calendar, and July’s arrival effectively signals the beginning of the 2013-14 season, at least for those of us in the biz, anyway. It all makes this week a good time to reflect back on the year that was in VCU Athletics.

A – is for Atlantic 10 Conference, in which, according to our slogan, the Rams were ‘all-in’. We were also all-in for another season of “Arrested Development” and Pop Tart ice cream sandwiches, so we’re having a good year. VCU competed in the A-10 for the first time in 2012-13, a move that has elevated the program’s national profile. The Rams’ first A-10 title came via the women’s tennis squad, followed by a men’s tennis crown days later. Meanwhile, several other sports (men’s basketball, women’s soccer, men’s soccer) reached the league’s championship final.

B – is for the Ball family, one of the driving forces behind the VCU Golf program. They’re like the Kennedy’s of VCU Golf, but with a better short game. Matt Ball may have just completed his 14th season with the Rams, but this one was surely different than the others. That’s because 40 percent of his starting lineup was occupied by sons Adam and Matt Jr. Son Adam, a freshman, led the Rams in scoring average (73.53) this year, while Matt Jr., a junior, placed seventh at the A-10 Championship and was named to the league’s All-Academic Team.

C – is for Courtney Conrad, the alliteratively named star of the women’s soccer team. Conrad led the Rams with 11 goals, including five game-winners, and received All-Mid-Atlantic by the NSCAA.

D – is for Daniels, Troy. If you are a fan of basketball players who score three points at a time (and the signed, obscure Mark Price picture in my dining room proves I am), then you would’ve enjoyed Daniels’ 2012-13 season. In 36 games, Daniels bombed a school-record 124 three-pointers, including games of 11, nine and eight.

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HOLLINGSWORTH EYES STATESIDE RETURN…AFTER EURO MATTERS

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Former Ram Quanitra Hollingsworth averaged 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds for the New York Liberty in 2011.

Former Ram Quanitra Hollingsworth averaged 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds for the New York Liberty in 2011.

Yes, Quanitra Hollingsworth will be returning to the WNBA this year, but she’s got some other business to tend to first.

The former VCU star and Olympian, currently playing with UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian PBL, says she gave her blessing to the April 15 trade which sent her rights from the New York Liberty to the Washington Mystics for a third round draft pick.

“I was made aware of the option of being traded,” the 24-year-old Hollingsworth wrote via email. “After communicating with [New York] and my agent, I felt this was the best decision for me given all circumstances.”

Hollingsworth, a three-year WNBA veteran, did not play in the league last season due to her commitment to the Turkish Olympic team. In 90 career WNBA games with the Minnesota Lynx and the Liberty, Hollingsworth has averaged 3.9 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. The ninth overall pick in the 2009 WNBA Draft by the Lynx, Hollingsworth enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2011 after being acquired by New York. Hollingsworth served as a critical reserve for the Liberty that season, providing 4.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in 16.9 minutes per game.

Hollingsworth became a naturalized Turkish citizen last year and helped that country reach the Olympic quarterfinals in London last summer, averaging 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. But Hollingsworth will return stateside this year.

“I did miss playing in the WNBA last year, and that was part of my decision to be traded,” she said. “I wanted an opportunity to be back playing on that stage as soon as possible.”

She plans to report to the Mystics, who finished 5-29 last season, in July, after she plays for Turkey in the European Championships June 15-30 in France. Turkey opens Group play June 15 against Ukraine.

Hollingsworth will play for Turkey in this summer's European Championships.

Hollingsworth will play for Turkey in this summer’s European Championships.

In the meantime, she’ll focus on European matters.

Her current UMMC squad is loaded with a roster that includes Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker and Sue Bird. Unsurprisingly, the team has already rolled to Russian Cup and Russian League Championships. Hollingsworth is averaging 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds, while shooting 61 percent from the field, this season for UMMC.

In early June, she’ll report to training camp with the Turkish National Team for European Championship preparations. Turkey has never won the bi-annual event, but captured a surprise silver medal in 2011. Combined with the country’s 4-2 mark in Olympic play last summer, Hollingsworth and the Turks could be primed for a breakthrough. Turkey is 13th in FIBA’s World Rankings, and second in fibaeurope.com’s April 22 Power Rankings of European teams.

“I am excited about the European Championships and what our team can do there. We have a strong team,” Hollingsworth, a Chesapeake, Va. native, said. “Last summer’s participation in the London Olympics granted us with much experience that we will take into this June’s competitions. With the addition of some younger players at training camp, we will have all that is necessary to accomplish our set goals for France!”

Hollingsworth made waves back in 2005, when she cracked VCU’s starting lineup at 16 years old. She went on to total more than 1,600 points, 1,100 rebounds and 55 double-doubles in four seasons for the Rams, and led VCU to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009.

FOR A NIGHT, RAMS SETTLE INTO NEW SYSTEM

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Freshman Jessica Pellechio hit 9-of-18 three-pointers and poured in 30 points as VCU earned its first win of the High Octane era under Marlene Stollings

RICHMOND, Va. – So, this is High Octane.

After three games of starts, stops, spurts and sputters, VCU’s new look, dubbed “High Octane” by first-year Head Coach Marlene Stollings, clicked Tuesday night in a 79-55 rout of UMKC.

“I’m very proud of our young ladies,” Stollings said. “It’s not easy to go on the road to start the season, and this was well earned and well deserved to come back home and get an opportunity to show our fans for the first time with the new system and the new staff basically what we want to be about, which is getting up and down the floor and shooting three ball, which are two things we did very well tonight.”

You could argue Stollings was even being a bit modest. At the forefront of VCU’s shift into high gear was something she promised would be a High Octane staple, 3-point shooting. The Rams punished the Kangaroos’ zone to the tune of a school-record 13 three-pointers, including nine from freshman guard Jessica Pellechio, who finished with 30 points. Pellechio hit 9-of-18 from beyond the arc and was one 3-pointer short of tying the VCU record of 10, set by Meagan Evans in 2001.

“I struggled my first few shots,” Pellechio said. “Sometimes you’ve got to keep shooting as a shooter, but good shots, you never want to be off balance or [shooting] bad shots. We got it in and back out and set up my rhythm, and after a while you keep shooting and it falls.”

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Q IS FOR QUARTERFINALS: FORMER RAM’S MEDAL CHASE IS ALIVE

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Quanitra Hollingsworth averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds, while shooting .452 from the field, in five Group A contests for Turkey.

Is Quanitra Hollingsworth the savior of Turkish women’s basketball?

Hollingsworth, a 2009 VCU graduate, scored 10 of her team-high 14 points in the second half to lead Turkey to a 70-65 win over Croatia Sunday in Olympic women’s basketball action in London. The win served as Turkey’s final tune-up before the quarterfinal round.

Aided by Hollingsworth’s steady post presence, the Turks finished 4-1 in Group A and will meet Russia (2-3) Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the quarters. That game will be broadcast on the NBC Olympic Basketball Channel. The winner meets either France (5-0) or the Czech Republic (2-3) in Thursday’s semifinals.

Prior to the London Games, Turkey had never qualified for the Olympics in women’s basketball. Now, the Turks – and Hollingsworth – are just two wins away from a medal.

Hollingsworth, a Chesapeake, Va. native and recently naturalized Turkish citizen, averaged 10.6 points and 6.0 rebounds in group play despite foul trouble.

The 6-foot-5 Hollingsworth is the second former VCU student-athlete to reach the quarterfinal round at these London Games. Hayley Moorwood, who played women’s soccer for the Rams in 2005, advanced to the quarters with her native New Zealand last week. New Zealand lost 2-0 to the United States to end Moorwood’s medal hopes.

Yann Bonato is the only former Ram known to have medaled in the Olympics. Bonato, who played men’s basketball at VCU during the 1990-91 season, earned a silver medal with France at the 2000 Sydney Games.

OLYMPICS UPDATE; ONE RAM UP, ONE DOWN

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Quanitra Hollingsworth, a 2009 VCU graduate, has averaged 9.0 points and 2.5 rebounds in two games – both victories – for Turkey at the Olympics.

Quanitra Hollingsworth’s Olympic experience is off to a great start, while Hayley Moorwood’s time in London has been met with heartbreak.

Hollingsworth, who is suiting up for the Turkish women’s basketball team in London, scored eight points and grabbed one rebound while battling foul trouble in a 61-57 win over the Czech Republic Monday morning.

The victory was a significant one. The Czechs were ranked No. 4 in FIBA’s World Rankings and the victory improved Turkey to 2-0 in Group A action. Turkey defeated Angola in its Olympic opener Saturday. The Turks may have punched their ticket to the quarterfinals with Monday’s win. At the last two Olympic Games, two victories was enough to earn a spot in the elimination round. Canada in 2000 was the last team with a 2-3 record in group play to fail to advance to the quarters.

So, although Hollingsworth has more fouls (9) than rebounds (5) so far, Turkey is in great shape. If she can stay out of foul trouble, the Turks can really make some noise.

Next up for Hollingsworth and Turkey is a contest the United States – the heavy gold medal favorites – Wednesday at 5:15 p.m. (EST). That game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network (formerly Versus), as well as the NBC Olympic Basketball Channel.

Women’s Basketball: Group Standings

For Moorwood, the Olympics have not gone as well. In women’s soccer competition, Moorwood and New Zealand suffered their second 1-0 loss at these games Saturday, this time to Brazil. New Zealand battled favored Brazil for most of Saturday’s contest, only to fall on a goal scored in the 86th minute.

New Zealand is now 0-2 and likely out of contention for a quarterfinal spot. Moorwood and New Zealand will meet Cameroon Tuesday at 12:45 (EST) in what will likely be their final match in London.

Women’s Soccer: Group Standings

A BRIEF HISTORY OF VCU OLYMPIANS

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Half a dozen VCU alumni have appeared in the Olympics over the years, including two this summer in London. Some of these student-athletes will be familiar to you, others may not, but all have been a part of history. Let’s meet them.

SAEED BASWEIDAN – YEMEN (1996 Summer Olympics – Atlanta)
Saeed Basweidan was just 19 when he ran the 800-meters for Yemen at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He was clocked at 1:49.35 and finished sixth in his heat. He did not advance to the finals.

A native of Mokala, Yemen, Basweidan transferred to VCU in 1997 from Florida Community College after winning three National Junior College Championships in the 800. He enjoyed a solid, if not spectacular middle distance career at VCU from 1997-99, qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in 1998, as well as the NCAA Indoor Championships in 1999. He was also a member of VCU’s NCAA-qualifying distance medley relay team in 1998. He still holds school records in the indoor 800 (1:49.33) and as a member of the distance medley and 4×800-meter relays.

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FOLLOWING VCU AT THE SUMMER OLYMPICS

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There will be two former Rams competing in the Summer Olympics in London: Quanitra Hollingsworth (’09), who will be suiting up for Turkey’s women’s basketball team, and Hayley Moorwood, who played women’s soccer for the Rams in 2005 and will be wearing the colors of her native New Zealand for the second time. She also competed for New Zealand in Beijing in 2008.

Opening ceremonies will be held on Friday, July 27, while the first competitions will take place on Wednesday, July 25. Unless they are going to play those games in a time machine, I believe that means they are actually before the opening ceremonies.

Here are the game times and TV listings for both Hollingsworth and Moorwood.

QUANITRA HOLLINGSWORTH (WOMEN’S BASKETBALL – TURKEY)
Group A (FIBA Ranking):
Angola (27), China (7), Croatia (31), Czech Republic (4), Turkey (21), USA (1)
Group B (FIBA Ranking): Australia (2 tie), Brazil (6), Canada (11), France (8), Great Britain (49), Russia (2 tie)

**Top four from each group advance to quarterfinals**

Saturday, July 28
Turkey vs. Angola, 9:30 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Quanitra Hollingsworth starred for VCU from 2005-09

Monday, July 30
Turkey vs. Czech Republic, 6:15 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Wednesday, Aug. 1
Turkey vs. United States, 5:15 p.m. EST (NBC Sports; NBC Basketball)

Friday, Aug. 3
Turkey vs. China, 11:45 a.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Sunday, Aug. 5
Turkey vs. Croatia, 3 p.m. EST (NBC Basketball)

Aug. 7-11
Elimination Rounds (NBC; NBC Sports; NBC Basketball)

.

HAYLEY MOORWOOD (WOMEN’S SOCCER – NEW ZEALAND)
Group E (FIFA Ranking):
Great Britain (9), New Zealand (23), Cameroon (50), Brazil (5)
Group F (FIFA Ranking): Japan (3), Canada (7), Sweden (4), South Africa (61)
Group G (FIFA Ranking): United States (1), France (6), Columbia (28), North Korea (8)

Hayley Moorwood is set to become the first Ram to appear in two Olympic Games (2008, 2012).

Wednesday, July 25
New Zealand vs. Great Britain, 11 a.m. EST (MSNBC)

Saturday, July 28
New Zealand vs. Brazil, 9:30 a.m. EST (NBC Sports; NBC Soccer)

Tuesday, July 31
New Zealand vs. Cameroon, 2:45 p.m. EST (Tape delay, 7:45 p.m., NBC Soccer)

Aug. 3-9
Elimination Rounds (NBC Sports; NBC Soccer)

CHANNEL LOCATIONS

NBC Sports
Comcast 226; Dish 159; DirecTV 603; Fios 590 (HD)/90 (SD)

NBC Basketball
Fios 594; Comcast in Richmond Area 847

NBC Soccer
Fios 596; Comcast in Richmond Area 843

MSNBC
DirecTV 356, Dish 209, Fios 103 (SD)/603 (HD)

HOLLINGSWORTH, TURKEY LOCK UP OLYMPIC BID

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Former VCU star Quanitra Hollingsworth averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in three games to help Turkey to its first-ever Olympic bid.

ANKARA, Turkey – It’s official. Former VCU star Quanitra Hollingsworth and Turkey are headed to the 2012 London Olympics.

Hollingsworth scored 12 points and added eight rebounds in Turkey’s 72-58 win over Argentina Friday in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament Quarterfinals to send the Turks to the Olympic Games for the first time.

In three games – all victories – Hollingsworth has averaged 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds for Turkey. The Turks advance to the tournament semifinals on Sunday, but it’s essentially academic. Turkey has already locked up one of five Olympic bid available in Ankara.

Hollingsworth, who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Turkey, will be one of two Rams to participate in the Olympics in recent years. Hayley Moorwood was a member of New Zealand’s women’s soccer squad at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.

A member of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, Hollingsworth starred at VCU from 2005-09 and led the Rams to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 2009. Hollingsworth ranks third in school history in points and is second in rebounds and double-doubles.

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