VIDEO: VCU PRESSERS & OPEN PRACTICE

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OPEN PRACTICE

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SHAKA SMART

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VCU PLAYERS

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STEPHEN F. AUSTIN COACH BRAD UNDERWOOD

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STEPHEN F. AUSTIN

VCU MEDIA MINUTES (MARCH 17)

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On Monday, Shaka Smart, Rob Brandenberg and Treveon Graham met with members of the Richmond media to discuss the Rams’ NCAA Tournament match-up with Stephen F. Austin, the Atlantic 10 Tournament and other topics.

SHAKA SMART

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ROB BRANDENBERG

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TREVEON GRAHAM

TITLE GAME LOSS NOT THE ARBITER OF VCU SEASON’S WORTHINESS

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VCU fell to Saint Joseph's Sunday in the A-10 Championship Game, but the Rams are dancing anyway.

VCU fell to Saint Joseph’s Sunday in the A-10 Championship Game, but the Rams are dancing anyway.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Two years ago, this column would have been a eulogy. Today, it’s merely a reminder of how far the VCU program has come and where it’s headed.

VCU suffered a cruel blow Sunday at Barclays Center with a 65-61 loss to Saint Joseph’s in the Atlantic 10 Championship Game. It was a near repeat of 12 months ago, when Saint Louis dealt the Rams a similarly close championship game loss on the same floor.

Emotion caught up to the weight of those two losses Sunday. At the final horn, which cut short VCU’s furious attempt at a comeback, senior Juvonte Reddic crouched down near the VCU basket and buried his head in his shirt. It wasn’t until teammate Jarred Guest and Assistant Coach Mike Rhoades came over to comfort Reddic that he finally left the floor.

It’s understandable that Reddic would be crestfallen. For a second straight year, VCU came within a couple of bounces of a championship. That’s hard to handle, for sure.

But the tonic for what ails Reddic and VCU fans right now should be this: In the two years since the Rams last won a conference championship, the 2012 CAA title, the program has blossomed into a consistent national force. That doesn’t blunt the pain of a championship loss on Sunday, but it does make for a better Monday. That’s because by then, VCU will be making travel arrangements for a fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament trip.

In 2011, VCU had to sweat out the NCAA Selection Show after losing to Old Dominion in the CAA Championship Game. Actually, many of the players didn’t bother to watch the show at all. Today, all they had to worry about was whether or not they needed to pack shorts or fleece. The answer is shorts, by the way, as VCU drew a 5-seed and will play Stephen F. Austin in San Diego Friday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

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VIDEO: RAMS DOWN ST. BONAVENTURE 86-67

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JUVONTE REDDIC AND ROB BRANDENBERG

SHAKA SMART

EMOTIONS RUN HIGH IN SENIOR NIGHT VICTORY OVER BONNIES

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Seniors Juvonte Reddic (middle) and Rob Brandenberg (right) combined for 31 points Saturday in their final home games.

Seniors Juvonte Reddic (middle) and Rob Brandenberg (right) combined for 31 points Saturday in their final home games.

RICHMOND, Va. – Most VCU fans know Juvonte Reddic as an oft stone-faced giant. Outward expressions of emotion have been rare, although not unheard of in recent years.

But Saturday’s 86-67 Senior Night win over St. Bonaventure was bursting at the seams with emotion. Finally, as victory was assured, Coach Shaka Smart pulled Reddic and fellow senior Rob Brandenberg from the game with a little more than a minute to go, a thunderous ovation from 7,700 showered the players on their way to the bench. Finally, Reddic let go.

“Once coach took me out for the last time, that’s when it really hit me. As soon I sat down on the end of the bench I started crying, just tears of joy,” said Reddic.

Reddic finished with 13 points and 14 rebounds, while Brandenberg poured in 18 points, including an exclamation point dunk in the waning moments. At some point, every player will suit up for one final time at the Siegel Center, and this will be the example they’ll strive toward.

As they exited the floor for the last time, Brandenberg and Reddic were surrounded by the product of the program they helped build. The crowd was VCU’s 50th straight sellout, a mark that would have been considered absurd back in November of 2010, when Brandenberg and Reddic began their careers as Rams.

“There’s so many memories, it’s hard to choose one,” Brandenberg said. “But if I had to choose one, I’d say the fans. When I saw them come out to a game when it was a snowstorm, no school, roads were terrible, and they still packed the house, that’s when I took a chance to really appreciate that. It’s not like that at a lot of schools. I’m very fortunate.”

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ROB BRANDENBERG & JUVONTE REDDIC SENIOR TRIBUTE VIDEO

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THE LONG WAVE GOODBYE

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It’s Senior Night, which is another great opportunity to use this video, which I think was my high school class song. That makes me some kind of super duper senior at this point. Let’s move on:

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On Saturday, seniors Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic will play their final home game as Rams. Mike Litos stepped in to pen this great tribute for the game program. If you can’t make it to the game and pick up a program, make sure you put your Internet to good use and read it online.

A sample:

In every big moment over the past four years for VCU basketball, these two young men have been right there in the mix.

And while it’s important to note that the big moments in the careers of Reddic and Brandenberg came in the NCAA tournament, they both represent so much more than moments on a grand stage. Both have impressive career statistics, crossing the 1,000-points plateau, but numbers don’t represent their impact on the VCU program.

They represent the rise of VCU basketball in the national conscience. Because as much as you point to the Final Four run as a watershed two weeks–and it certainly was–the ability of the players to serve as the backbones for at least two more NCAA Tournament-winning teams cannot be underestimated.

Make sure you read. Also, Shaka Smart gave his comments on his seniors Tuesday during his radio show.

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It’s appropriate that these seniors have another opportunity to do something historic tonight. VCU will be attempting to complete an undefeated season at home since the 1970-71 season. VCU is 14-0 at the Verizon Wireless Arena this season.

TRIPLE PLAY; RAMS RIDE ARC OVER GW

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VCU hit 13-of-25 from beyond the 3-point arc in a 92-75 win over George Washington.

RICHMOND, Va. – Troy Daniels hit the first 3-pointers before the game even started, and the arc exhibition didn’t end until more than two hours later.

Whether or not the VCU grad inspired his former team is a matter of conjecture, but the Rams certainly followed his lead, riding a season-high 13 three-pointers (on 25 attempts) to a crucial 92-75 win over George Washington Wednesday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena.

Daniels, who set a school single-season record with 124 three-pointers for VCU last season, was in Richmond while the NBA D-League, where he plays with the Houston Rockets-affiliated Rio Grande Valley Vipers, is on its all-star break. Daniels was called on for a pregame promotion which challenges participants to hit shots to win pizza. After a successful layup and free throw, Daniels swished his 3-point attempt. Then, from halfcourt, he banked home his second attempt to win free pizza for the entire arena.

The fans weren’t the only ones feeding off of 3-pointers, however. Once the game started, VCU feasted by hitting 8-of-14 in the first half alone to roll to a stunning 45-28 advantage. In the second half, the Rams were less prolific and more opportunistic, beating back a George Washington comeback with timely treys. Meanwhile, the Colonials were 0-of-8 from three in the first half and 6-of-18 for the game.

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VIDEO: THE ONLY DUNK YOU’LL EVER NEED

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TERRANCE SHANNON REDEFINES DUNKING
I don’t know why I’m going to bother to post all of these videos. You’re only going to watch this first one, where Terrance Shannon rewrites dunking history by slamming home a missed Juvonte Reddic dunk out of midair.

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FULL HIGHLIGHTS

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SHAKA SMART POSTGAME

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PLAYER POSTGAME

SMART A POWER PLANT FOR VCU SUCCESS

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Shaka Smart does not lack for enthusiasm on the VCU sideline.

Shaka Smart does not lack for enthusiasm on the VCU sideline.

RICHMOND, Va. – If you’re not a VCU fan, or if you watched Shaka Smart careen around the Reliant Stadium court at the Final Four in 2011 during the “Iron Man” drill, maybe you were skeptical. Seriously, what college basketball coach comports himself in a way that requires a helmet and possibly elbow pads?

Sure, Smart was young (he’s still 36), and he espouses the value of enthusiasm, but what coach is so invested in a system that he actually becomes a part of it? If you ever wondered If Smart’s demonstration at VCU’s Final Four open practice was a sincere expression of his belief in his system, you should have your answer by now.

Thursday’s 71-57 win over George Mason was just the most recent example of Smart’s investment in Havoc, and his role as the emotional mechanism that ignites the engine.

When you cover a beat for long enough, you come to understand the lexicon, the language and ideas that show up on a daily basis. For Smart, much of what he says and does is somehow related to expressions of energy, enthusiasm and appreciation. Smart often talks about players as “energy givers” or “energy takers”. He views energy as contagious, like a benign form of the mob mentality. It starts at the top, and it’s possible that nobody is more of an energy giver than Smart.

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