By their own admission, Jamie Skeen and Joey Rodriguez, two centerpieces of VCU’s Final Four run, probably shouldn’t even be here. Each wrestled with his emotions before making the decision for which VCU fans will be forever grateful, to be – or stay – a Ram.
Rodriguez’s internal struggle has been well-documented. Following the departure of former Head Coach Anthony Grant to Alabama, in 2008, Rodriguez actually announced that he was going to transfer to Rollins College. However, spurred by phone calls from his teammates, Rodriguez decided to return to VCU. Last week, following the Rams’ victory over Purdue, I asked him whether or not he had thought about what could’ve happened, had he never returned to the fold.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about it,” Rodriguez said. “Yeah, I could be playing in front of 200 people right now.”
On Saturday, he’ll be suiting up for the Rams at Reliant Stadium, which had a capacity of over 75,000 for basketball.
Skeen was North Carolina’s Mr. Basketball as a high school junior. He was expected to be a star at Wake Forest, which is a short drive from his family’s home in Charlotte. But academic issues and a change of heart caused him to reevaluate his future.
Following the fall semester of his junior year in 2007, Skeen chose to transfer to VCU, selecting the Rams over Marquette, Seton Hall and South Florida. Skeen’s transfer was not immediately accepted at home.
“Everybody told me that I was stupid to come to VCU,” Skeen said. “They told me, ‘why would you come to VCU, they don’t even get any TV time like the Big East teams do’ and stuff like that.”
He arrived on campus in January of 2008, but by late March, Grant was headed to Alabama. Skeen, frustrated by the prospect of playing four his fourth head coach (including the late Skip Prosser and Dino Gaudio at Wake Forest), considered transferring, but ultimately decided to stick around.
VCU is happy that both players are Rams today. Skeen, VCU’s leading scorer and rebounder this season, is averaging 15.6 points and 6.8 boards in five NCAA Tournament games. Rodriguez has been equally impressive at the point guard spot, scoring 10.2 points, while handing out 7.6 assists during the NCAA Tournament. Rodriguez has just 10 turnovers over that span.
Skeen admitted Tuesday that he had not spoken to Grant since he accepted the Alabama job, but that he no longer harbors hard feelings for the coach.
“When he announced that he was leaving, I just walked straight out of the room and didn’t say anything to him,” Skeen said. “Now, looking back on it, it was kind of childish for me to do that, but I was just so in my feelings and I was so upset that he was leaving, I just couldn’t help it.
“There’s no hard feelings now because I know the reason he did it. It was a great opportunity for him and his family and, honestly, if I was in his shoes, I probably would’ve done the same thing.”