RODRIGUEZ EYES NEW CHAPTER IN VCU RETURN

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Joey Rodriguez, who helped lead the Rams to the Final Four in 2011, returns in 2017 as director of player development for the Rams.

By Andy Lohman

Joey Rodriguez had to take a circuitous route back to VCU, but the fan-favorite point guard from the 2011 Final Four team is now the Director of Player Development for men’s basketball.

“It’s just cool to be back, it brings back so many memories,” Rodriguez said. “We can take this thing to another level and that’s really exciting.”

After an outstanding career at VCU, where he ranks third in school history in both assists (580) and steals (237), and where he helped steer the Rams to a historic Final Four run in 2011, Rodriguez briefly played professional basketball in Turkey and Puerto Rico. He would then begin his coaching career as the Assistant Video Coordinator at Central Florida.

Following a year with the Golden Knights, Rodriguez dove into the realm of high school basketball, first as an assistant coach at Benedictine in Richmond, then taking the reigns as head coach of his alma mater, Lake Howell High School, in Winter Park, Fla. for the 2015-16 season.

“I learned a lot just being thrown into the fire with a great group of kids,” said Rodriguez of his first head coaching gig.

The experience helped him evolve as he transitioned off the court and onto the sidelines.

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RESILIENT GRIFFIN TRACKS DOWN MYTHICAL PGA TOUR CARD

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After seven years of trying, VCU alumnus Lanto Griffin (’10) recently earned his PGA Tour card.

By Andy Lohman

On the 18th hole of the second stage of the 2016 Web.com Tour Q school (a qualifying tournament for the professional golf tour that serves as a pipeline of talent for the PGA Tour), former VCU standout Lanto Griffin hit a perfect putt that rolled right to the hole. And stopped right on the lip. He would miss advancing to the next stage by one shot.

“That was kind of a kick in the stomach,” Girffin said. “I had been playing the best golf of my life and that set me back.”

A single shot would make the difference again during the final stage of the 2017 Q school, but this time it would work in Griffin’s favor.

“I missed full status by one shot but I played the last 11 holes 5-under and birdied the last hole to go from two shots out [of the tour] to one, which I didn’t know how big that was at the time but that ended up getting me seven of the first eight starts, where if I had missed that putt I would have gotten one,” Griffin said.

While Griffin didn’t have full exempt status for the Web.com Tour for the whole season, he had gained entry into seven tournaments, from which point he could work his way up the money list to earn more starts later in the year. Griffin will go from being happy to have his foot in the door for the 2017 season, to rubbing elbows with the top players in the game as a PGA Tour Card holder for the full 2018 season.

“That birdie on that last hole in Orange County changed my life,” Griffin said.

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TWO VIDEOS WORTH YOUR TIME

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VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Rhoades spent three seasons at Rice University in Houston. He still owns a home there, and he and his family still have many friends in the city. It’s no surprise Rhoades has been heartbroken by the stories and images coming out of Houston, which has been ravaged by flooding produced by Hurricane Harvey. It’s one reason why Rhoades has begun mobilizing efforts to help out those in need in his former city. Learn more:

In lighter fare, JeQuan Lewis is preparing to chase his dream of playing in the NBA. He’ll be in camp with the Milwaukee Bucks this fall, fighting for a roster spot.

THE SECOND TIME AROUND

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VCU Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Jeremy Ballard returns to the Rams this season following stints at Illinois State and Pitt.

By Andy Lohman

After two years as an assistant at Illinois State, then Pittsburgh, VCU Men’s Basketball Associate Head Coach Jeremy Ballard is excited to be back in Richmond.

“I’m ecstatic. VCU is a special place,” Ballard said. “Richmond is a special place and I knew that the first time around. Being away for two years it’s emphasized more and the point is driven home that there aren’t many places like VCU out there.”

Ballard had served as an assistant coach with current head coach Mike Rhoades at VCU under Shaka Smart from 2012-15, helping guide the Rams to three straight NCAA tournament appearances, including the school’s first Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament championship in 2014-15.

A standout player at Colgate University, Ballard worked closely with shooting guard Troy Daniels in his first year as a coach at VCU. Daniels would go on to set a school record for three-pointers in a season (124) and currently plays for the Memphis Grizzlies.

Now Ballard has returned to a place and a school that he loves.

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MAINE MAN: MEET ISSAC VANN

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You feel like you know Issac Vann because he’s been at VCU for a year. But do you? Vann, who starred at Maine as a freshman, sat out last year after transferring. Now, on a team with just five returnees, he’s thrust to the forefront. So let’s get to know him a little.

GET TO KNOW MARCUS EVANS

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Our own Mike Voyack had a chance to sit down recently with most of the 2017-18 VCU Men’s Basketball team, including Rice transfer Marcus Evans. While Evans, who was prolific in two seasons under Mike Rhoades at Rice, averaging 20.1 points per game, will have to sit out the 2017-18 season in accordance with NCAA transfer regulations, his presence will be felt. Evans will work out with the team during the upcoming year, like Maine transfer Issac Vann did last season, and he’ll undoubtedly test VCU’s guards in practice.

Let’s get to know a little more about Evans:

MO!

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Unless you’ve been in cryo-sleep, you’re aware Mo Alie-Cox has begun an NFL career with the Indianapolis Colts. What you might not be aware of is that Mo was around recently to sit down with our Mike Voyack to talk about his experience thus far.

DUNKS ON DUNKS ON DUNKS ON DUNKS

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Happy Monday! Here’s five minutes of dunks.

ALL RHOADES LEAD HOME

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rhoades-presserOn Friday, I figured I was going to have plenty of time to properly catalogue all the weeds in my lawn. Nope. I’ll just cut it short again and hope nobody notices.

There are whirlwinds, and there are whatever you want to call the last 48 hours here at VCU. Has a fan base ever experienced such a wild swing of emotions in such a short period of time? I’ll let you guys figure that out (The answer is no, by the way).

On Monday night, when the news broke, my first thought was, ‘We need to go get Mike Rhoades’. I figured that could be in a few days. I can’t rent a car in the amount of time it took Ed McLaughlin to fly to Houston and pick up Rhoades.

People want to know what they’re getting in Mike Rhoades. From my experiences, I’ll say this: I have not yet met a person with a negative thing to say about Mike Rhoades. He is, in fact, revered here, in Ashland, Eastern Pennsylvania, pretty much anywhere he’s spent enough time to get a cup of coffee. I find him to be as authentic as they come. A guy from a small town in coal country, he’s hard working and down-to-earth. He excels at forging relationships. One other thing, and this is important. Mike Rhoades lives for competition. He wants to win at everything. We’re in great hands, folks.

I can’t predict the future, but I get a sense that VCU and Richmond really mean something to Mike and his family. You could see that when Jodie Rhoades, his wife, was overcome with emotion Tuesday during Mike’s introductory pep rally…uh, I mean, press conference. You could see it when Mike spoke to his mom in the crowd. “We’ve been on this ride a long time, and the ride stops here, at VCU.” He told her.

During one of my first interviews with Mike back in 2009, he told me that he – then the head coach at Randolph-Macon – and Jodie used to spend their date nights here at the Siegel Center, watching the Rams. They might have to start going to the movies now.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: VCU OPEN PRACTICE AND PRESS CONFERENCES

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