Reddic living his hoop dreams in Hungary

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Photo credit: Tamas Unger

By David Driver, Special Correspondent

Győr, Hungary – Juvonte Reddic drove inside the lane and scored a basket, then pumped his fist in celebration. Fans of his team roared their approval, but those chants were in Hungarian and not the English cheers that were so familiar on Broad Street in Richmond.

The 6-foot-9 Reddic, who played basketball for the Rams from 2010-14, is playing this season for a team in the top pro league in Hungary. He was part of the Rams Final Four team in 2011.

His team played here recently in northwestern Hungary in the Hungarian Cup, an annual event that this season began with eight teams in a single-elimination format. Reddic’s club lost in the title game on Feb. 16 to Szolnok, a team that featured

Among the American teammates with Reddic are former JMU standout Ron Curry and Darrin Govens, a fellow product of the Atlantic 10 who played in college at St. Joseph’s. The head coach of the team is Gasper Okorn, who is from hoop-crazy Slovenia but speaks English well.

Reddic, 26, scored 11 points in the title game of the Hungarian Cup on Feb. 16 and was averaging 13.8 points per game in the Hungarian league in the first 18 contests for Szombathely. Before coming to Hungary he had played in Italy, the D League, Greece and Belgium.

Other former Rams overseas this year, according to EuroBasket.com, include Justin Tuoyo and Melvin Johnson in Italy; Teddy Okereafor, JeQuan Lewis and Justin Tillman in Greece; Antravious Simmons and B.A. Walker in France; Jamal Shuler in Israel; Jamie Skeen in Finland; Brandon Rozzell in Iceland; Reco McCarter in Germany; Lance Kearse in Spain and Rob Brandenburg in Georgia.

Editor’s note: David Driver is a native of Harrisonburg and has interviewed American basketball players in 12 different countries in Europe. He has covered VCU basketball games since the 1980s, and lived three years with his family in Szeged, Hungary. Since then he has made several return trips to interview American players from the Atlantic 10 and other conferences. He can be reached at davidsdriver.com

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MIKE RHOADES MEDIA MINUES (FEB. 13)

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MIKE RHOADES MEDIA MINUTES (FEB. 6)

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GRIFFIN JOINS FORCES TO SET WORLD RECORD

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Former VCU golfer Lanto Griffin, a PGA Tour rookie, recently joined forces to set a world record for the fastest Par 5 ever played. Take a look:

MIKE RHOADES MEDIA MINUTES (JAN. 29)

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MEDIA MINUTES (JAN. 16)

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Mike Rhoades met with the media Tuesday to talk about bouncing back and VCU’s critical rivalry game with Richmond Wednesday.

MIKE RHOADES MEDIA MINUTES (DEC. 12)

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AGAINST TEXAS, RAMS CAME UP BIG

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Freshman Marcus Santos-Silva (8 points, 6 rebounds) was one of several VCU “bigs” who impressed Tuesday.

By Andy Lohman

Tuesday night was big in every way.

The return of Head Coach Shaka Smart was big. The man who took the Rams to the Final Four was back in the house that Havoc built. As he walked out before player intros, his ovation was big. A fan base with a cathartic recognition of a former leader. But it was nothing compared to how big the noise would get.

The Siegel Center was ear-splittingly loud, a volume that felt like it was going to cause seismic activity.

“The fans were crazy tonight, unbelievable,” senior forward Justin Tillman said. “It definitely brought us a lot of energy.”

The crowd was big. The 105th consecutive sellout was recorded at 7,637, but it would have been believable at 10,000. The arena pulsated with every swell of action, a black and gold orchestra conducted by a manic Mike Rhoades, who urged Ram Nation to get loud whenever the Longhorns reached the free throw line.

The match-up was big. VCU is a young team looking to turn the corner, and had a shot at a signature win for an NCAA Tournament resume. Texas is as big of an athletic department as you can get. A Big 12 school, from the state where everything is bigger, with a nine-figure revenue mark.

Finally, the matchups were big. Texas forward Mohamed Bamba stands at 6-foot-11 and is a likely lottery pick in the NBA Draft. VCU’s big men were up to the challenge, fueling a big comeback in the second half. In just over eight minutes, the Rams erased a 57-38 Texas lead and took a 63-62 advantage with 3:52 to play.

The man that hit the go-ahead three-pointer was VCU’s 6-foot-7 forward, Khris Lane.

“Oh man, it was amazing,” Lane said of the crowd when his three went down. “I said something to myself, but I couldn’t even hear what I said to myself because it was that loud.”

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LONG-RANGE SHOOTING OF WILLIAMS, TILLMAN TURNING INTO VALUABLE WEAPON FOR VCU

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By Andy Lohman

In tough games, you need your seniors to step up and lead by example

VCU got exactly that from Johnny Williams and Justin Tillman in Tuesday night’s 85-72 win over Appalachian State, with Williams pouring in 18 points and seven assists and Tillman contributing 21 points and six rebounds.

But what stood out for the two Rams seniors was not the fact that they made an impact, but the way in which they did so: the three-point shot.

Williams hit a career-high four 3-pointers on six attempts, and Tillman swished both of his shots from beyond the arc, complimenting a 6-for-9 night from the field overall.

In the three previous seasons, the two had combined for a nine percent 3-point field goal percentage. Tillman had missed all three of his career attempts, while Williams knocked down three out of 30 attempts.

But both put in the work this summer to expand their game, developing into more dynamic players.

“I was in the gym all the time working,” Williams said of his summer. “Ask anybody, late night I was passing up whatever things were going on just to get in the gym, just work on my game.”

“All my work in the summer,” Tillman said. “Working out two to three hours straight until all the GAs [graduate assistants] are tired and don’t want to work out anymore.”

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TILLMAN STEPPING INTO THE FOREFRONT FOR VCU

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Senior forward Justin Tillman has scored 41 points in 41 minutes this season.

By Andy Lohman

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU’s 95-85 win over North Florida on Monday night was, frankly, exhausting.

The Rams brought their patented press, scoring 23 points off 16 Osprey turnovers. UNF ripped 17 made three pointers. The entire game was played at 100 miles per hour, both teams sprinting the floor for 40 minutes, and it resulted in an NBA scoreline.

To win in a game like that, one that’s played at a pace that could break the sound barrier, you have to be relentless. On Monday night, VCU was relentless, and it started with the play of senior forward Justin Tillman.

“They’re really, really good at being relentless for 40 minutes,” UNF Head Coach Matt Driscoll said of VCU’s drive.

Tillman scored a career-high 27 points, and tied for a team high with eight rebounds. And he did it all in just 24 minutes on the floor.

“Even though we win, we should come out every game hungry,” Tillman said.

By the first media timeout four minutes into the game, Tillman collected 12 points and had the sellout crowd at EJ Wade Arena at the Siegel Center chanting his name. He started the contest by knocking down two lay-ups and a turnaround jumper, and rejecting a UNF shot out of bounds.

In a tightly-contested first half, Tillman got the crowd on its feet again with a thunderous alley-oop from senior guard Johnny Williams to give the Rams a 25-24 lead.

By halftime he was 9-for-9 from the floor with 18 points.

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