November 15, 2013
Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenberg, Terrance Shannon
Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon scored 14 points in his VCU debut versus Illinois State.
RICHMOND, Va. – Although Terrance Shannon shared the Alamodome court with Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic that night in San Antonio, he does not share their cheerful recollection of the evening’s events.
It was March 25, 2011. Brandenberg and Reddic were freshmen on a VCU team in the midst of one of the NCAA Tournament’s most memorable Cinderella romps to the Final Four. Shannon, meanwhile, was on the opposing sideline of that Sweet 16 matchup as a member of a favored Florida State team. Those final moments are permanently pressed into the psyches of all three players; the Joey Rodriguez-to-Bradford Burgess inbounds play for the winning score in overtime, the Brandenberg blocked shot at the final horn that clinched a 72-71 VCU win and set Rams’ play-by-play broadcaster Robby Robinson on hyperbolic repeat.
Although it was nearly three years ago, Shannon hasn’t shaken the feeling.
“Here I don’t talk much about it because still to this day, I get mad every time I see a Final Four shirt or the picture of the 72-71 score in the coaches’ office,” he says through a disarming grin.
November 3, 2013
Bill Brown, Bradford Burgess, Briante Weber, California (Pa.) Vulcans, Doug Brooks, JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, Juvonte Reddic, Mo Alie-Cox, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Terrance Shannon, Treveon Graham
Despite a lot of offseason chatter fouls slid into the background of VCU’s 92-54 win.
RICHMOND, Va. – It’s a bit of a fishing expedition to find a reasonable narrative in these mismatched Division I-Division II exhibition games. There’s a desire to look at the scoreboard, which showed that VCU earned a 92-54 win over California (Pa.) Saturday night, and extrapolate 100 superlatives from the wreckage of the box score. More often than not, it’s fool’s gold.
But Saturday, even as I waded through some impressive, if not gaudy, statistics, I was still struck by the depth of talent on this VCU team. If Shaka Smart truly desires a 10 or 11-man rotation, it sure looks like he’s got the horses to do it.
Smart essentially rotated 11 players in the first half and 10 in the second after Rob Brandenberg exited with back spasms. While there were moments of youthful frustration, there was hardly a dramatic drop-off in ability.
Freshman Doug Brooks led VCU in scoring with 14 points in 13 minutes of play. For most of those 13 minutes, he looked like Briante Weber with a better jumper and a disinterested barber.
October 31, 2013
Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenberg, Terrance Shannon
It’s not spooky or Halloween-themed or anything. It’s just a press conference. But it’s fun anyway. Terrance Shannon, Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic address the media prior to VCU’s Nov. 2 exhibition game with California (Pa.).
October 13, 2013
Black and Gold Game, Briante Weber, Doug Brooks, Jairus Lyles, JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, Juvonte Reddic, Melvin Johnson, Mo Alie-Cox, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Terrance Shannon, Treveon Graham
Sophomore Melvin Johnson led all players with 25 points Sunday.
RICHMOND, Va. – VCU held an intra-squad exhibition Sunday night before 3,187 excited souls at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. It was many people’s, myself included, first chance to get a look at the 2013-14 Rams. While the Gold team came away with a 72-56 win, the score was little more than a matter of academics.
Here are some observations from courtside.
1-Guards, guards, guards and guards
To any fan who has followed this team of late, this is no surprise. VCU was expected to be deep in the backcourt this year. But until we got a chance to see a Jairus Lyles no-look pass or one of Doug Brooks’ four steals, it was hard to know how deep. If Sunday is any indication, uh, the Rams are insanely deep at the wings.
Returnees Rob Brandenberg, Briante Weber, Melvin Johnson and (if we’re calling him a guard today) Treveon Graham were pretty much the guys we knew they were. But JeQuan Lewis, Lyles, Doug Brooks and Jordan Burgess all had moments and illustrated how difficult a choice Shaka Smart will have when doling out minutes.
Lyles was magnetic for long stretches of the second half and he might end up being the Rams’ fourth option at point guard. Think about that. Lyles finished with eight points, six assists (two turnovers) and three steals.
September 18, 2013
Antravious Simmons, Briante Weber, JeQuan Lewis, Melvin Johnson, Men's Basketball photo day, Mo Alie-Cox, Rob Brandenberg, Treveon Graham
I dropped in on men’s basketball photo day earlier and snapped a few photos with my iPhone. They’re obviously phone quality, but at least you guys get a peek at the new uniforms and some of the guys.
August 7, 2013
Briante Weber, CP3 Elite Guard Camp, Jairus Lyles, Jared Guest, JeQuan Lewis, Juvonte Reddic, LeBron James Skills Academy, Melvin Johnson, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Torey Burston, Treveon Graham
Excitable and always entertaining, Briante Weber may be also be VCU’s solution at point guard.
RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart got to the point Wednesday.
In a meeting with members of the local media, the VCU coach provided insight into the Rams’ point guard situation for the upcoming season. Following the departure of senior Darius Theus (graduation) and Teddy Okereafor (transfer), the most logical choice to trigger the offense is rising junior and Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Briante Weber.
It’s sound reasoning. Weber showed considerable improvement from his freshman season when backing up Theus last year. He started in place of an injured Theus in a win at Old Dominion on Dec. 7 and provided an 8-point, 9-rebound, 10 assist, 5-steal performance. He turned the ball over just once in that game. Weber averaged 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 steals per game last season and posted a point-guard friendly 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
But Weber hasn’t played the position in college for any extended period of time. The excitable ballhawk has been something of a hybrid in college, a defensive disruptor with opportunistic tendencies on offense.
The only “true” scholarship point guard on the roster will be well-regarded incoming freshman JeQuan Lewis from Tennessee. Classmate Jairus Lyles played a fair amount of point guard in high school, and Smart says he’ll also be in the mix.
July 25, 2013
Bill Brown, Darius Theus, Global Sports Academy, Jarred Guest, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Troy Daniels.
Rising senior Rob Brandenberg averaged 10.4 points per game and sank 49 three-pointers last season.
RICHMOND, Va. – The passports of Rob Brandenberg and Jarred Guest will pick up a couple more stamps this summer, but they hope that’s not all they bring home with them.
The VCU duo is set to participate in a nine-day exhibition tour of Germany and the Czech Republic Aug. 11-19 with the Global Sports Academy (GSA). The team will be coached by Bill Brown of California (Pa.), a mentor of VCU’s Shaka Smart. For Brandenberg and Guest, it’ll be their second straight summer abroad. Both players were members of the Rams’ exhibition tour of Italy last August.
While there will be plenty of sights along the way, Brandenberg and Guest won’t exactly be singing “Holiday Road”. They say their primary focus is the same as every offseason, to become better players.
“Jarred and I have been working real hard, extremely hard for the season, so I think it’s going to be a chance for us to assert ourselves and show what we’ve been practicing and work on it in game form,” Brandenberg said.
Each player will have his own goals, his own checklist things to work on during the tour. For Brandenberg, who started 28 of 35 games last year and averaged 10.4 points, it means a focus on the intangibles. A rising senior, he’s aware that his teammates will look to him during the 2013-14 season for more than just his blazing speed or scoring punch.
February 27, 2013
Butler Bulldogs, Darius Theus, Final Four, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, Shelvin Mack
Rob Brandenberg played seven minutes as a freshman against Butler in the 2011 National Semifinal
RICHMOND, Va. – Monday night, after a long day of recruiting, Shaka Smart did it. He finally watched the game tape of VCU’s 70-62 loss to Butler on April 2, 2011 at the Final Four. First, he watched clips of VCU’s press versus the Bulldogs, then he watched the game in its entirety. He told himself he wouldn’t get upset.
In today’s world of college basketball there are staffers, usually a graduate assistant, assigned with procuring a DVD of a game literally moments after the final horn sounds. From there, the footage is cut, spliced, splintered, scrunched, scrinched and repackaged in a Wonka-like process that has an easily consumable copy in the hands of the coaching staff by dawn. The raw game tape, meanwhile, is usually devoured by coaches before you can get from the arena to your pillow.
But not this game. Too painful.
However, with Saturday’s rematch with Butler at the Siegel Center looming, Smart knew the time had come. In the name of assembling a tactical plan for the Rams’ biggest game of the season, after nearly 700 days of avoidance, Smart cued up video of the biggest game of his life. He didn’t get upset, but he didn’t like what he saw, either.
“It’s amazing when you set your mind on something what you can do. I just told myself I wasn’t going to get upset. I knew that we lost the game, so, just watch it objectively,” he said Wednesday.
“They were the better team that day.”
February 15, 2013
A-10, Atlantic 10 Conference, George Washington Colonials, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart
Shaka Smart says VCU will need to shift its focus quickly to prep for George Washington.
RICHMOND, Va. – There will be just 44 hours between the final horn of VCU’s 86-68 win over UMass Thursday and its 7:30 p.m. tip with George Washington Saturday at the Verizon Wireless Arena. After sleep, class and meals, that’s not a lot of time to prepare for a college basketball game.
The Atlantic 10 Conference typically plays its games in a Wednesday-Saturday format, but the Rams’ midweek game against the Minutemen was slotted for 9 p.m. Thursday to accommodate television. Coincidentally, George Washington will be coming off six days rest. The Colonials last took the court on Feb. 9 in a 59-56 loss to Butler.
It’s a situation that VCU Coach Shaka Smart says will ask the Rams to be efficient in their preparations for the Colonials.
“It’s important that we shift our focus mentally to George Washington,“ Smart said. “They’ve got a really good team. They’re well coached. They’ve got a great system. They’re very, very different than UMass, so we’re going to have to shift our focus quickly.”
February 15, 2013
A-10, Atlanitc 10 Conference, Chaz Williams, Havoc, Rob Brandenberg, Shaka Smart, UMass Minutemen
Junior Rob Brandenberg shook off a rough first half to lead VCU’s remarkable second-half run Thursday.
RICHMOND, Va. – Whatever Shaka Smart said or did at halftime of Thursday’s game, he should remember it and then repeat it every day for the rest of the season. I don’t care if he built his team up, tore it down, broke a whiteboard or played “Fire on the Mountain” on the banjo, he needs to bottle it, because if VCU can play better than the first 14 minutes of the second half of Thursday’s 86-68 blitzing of UMass, I’d like to see it.
VCU, trailing 42-37 at intermission, embarked on a 21-1 run at the start of the second half and turned a tight game into a chance for fans to beat the traffic. At one point, VCU pushed its run to 44-12 and assumed an 81-54 advantage before calling off the dogs with six minutes remaining.
“I think we were able to break their spirit a little bit with that run, and that was the determining factor in the game,” Smart said.
It was like watching the best possible version of the Rams for 14 unmatched minutes. The Rams (20-5, 8-2 A-10), who won a game by 51 earlier this season, actually found a sixth gear. UMass’ first 11 possessions of the second half went as follows: turnover, missed 3-pointer, turnover, missed 3-pointer, free throw, turnover, turnover, missed 3-pointer, shot blocked, turnover, turnover. By the time that hellacious six-minute stretch was over, it was 58-43. Game, VCU.