Treveon Graham is like a volcano — he’s just waiting to erupt. Would be shocked if he doesn’t lead VCU in scoring.
— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) October 24, 2012
RICHMOND, Va. – It’s been a while since a VCU sophomore received the type of preseason pub Treveon Graham is getting these days. Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated labeled Graham the No. 1 sophomore breakout threat in the country. Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports Network, in addition to his volcanic musings, wrote that Graham was likely to emerge as the “go-to scorer” of this year’s team; one that is of top-25 quality, according to many national writers.
Don’t expect VCU coach Shaka Smart to be the guy to pump the brakes on those expectations. He’s even willing to go a step further.
“I’ve always had extremely high expectations for Tre,” Smart, entering his fourth year with the Rams, said. “When we recruited him, I told him I felt like he could be the all-time leading scorer at VCU. He might have thought that was just a recruiting line, but I really meant that.”
Eric Maynor set the school scoring record with 1,953 points from 2005-09, which means Graham is just 1,701 short of VCU immortality. But it wasn’t until Maynor’s sophomore season in 2006-07 that his career took off. That season, he averaged 13.9 points per game and led the Rams to a conference championship and a first round upset of Duke in the NCAA Tournament. He followed with seasons of 17.9 points and 22.4 points per game as a junior and senior, respectively. Graham would be okay with a similar career arc.
A 6-foot-5 swingman, Graham will likely fill the role vacated by Bradford Burgess, who led the Rams in scoring (13.4 ppg) and intangibles last year. A rugged scorer, Graham can knock down 3-pointers, but is most comfortable driving to the paint and absorbing contact.
After a 1-of-16 shooting slump to start the year – “nerves”, Graham says – the Washington, D.C. native recovered to average 7.0 points in 16.7 minutes per game. He also drew a team-high 6.0 fouls per 40 minutes last season. Everyone, from Shaka Smart to the janitors at the Siegel Center, expects those numbers to go up this year, and that’s fine by Graham. He says Smart’s talk of chasing Maynor didn’t bother him. Instead of chalking it up to recruiting-speak, Graham says Smart’s confidence empowered him.
“At first I did, but as I got here, they really made me feel like I could break the record, so now I’m really heading towards that,” Graham said. “He knows how to motivate the team, and that really helps us in games.”
As much as he’s trumpeting Graham’s potential, Smart also knows where to draw the line.
“Nobody has higher expectations for him than I do. Sometimes I’ve got to check myself in practice because I’m especially hard on him,” Smart admits. “And the biggest thing for Tre is that he’s confident.”
After his initial slump, Graham shot .418 from the field the remainder of the season; a reasonable, but not outstanding mark. Graham also shot .313 (26-for-83) from 3-point range and .633 (76-for-120) from the free-throw line. To be a top-flight scorer, Graham will have to improve on all of those percentages, but people around the team are confident that he’ll make the transition with aplomb.
“Tre, he’s a hitter,” said junior center D.J. Haley. “He can really get to the basket and I feel he’s been working on his game this summer.”
“He can be as good as he wants,” added junior forward Juvonte Reddic, VCU’s top-returning scorer. “He can score at will. He’s strong at such a young age. He can pretty much do it all. I’m just excited to see him play this year. He’s going to have a great year.”
REDDIC’S BACK IS BACK
Smart revealed Wednesday that Reddic had back surgery in May and was cleared to play just prior to the Rams’ exhibition tour of Italy in August. Reddic said the surgery was elective and repaired a herniated disc.
“I feel great. The back’s not bothering me at all. I feel 100 percent,” he said. “Everything’s good. I’m just ready to play.”
The 6-9 forward also says he’s up to 240 pounds, a far cry from the 204-pound freshman that arrived in Richmond three years ago. Reddic averaged 10.3 points and a team-best 6.7 rebounds per game last year as a sophomore.
MORE P.T. FOR TEDDY O?
Smart called sophomore point guard Teddy Okereafor “probably our most improved player” at Wednesday’s media day.
“Teddy’s been good. He’s made a lot of progress,” Smart said. “I can definitely see him getting more of an opportunity this year. It depends on what he does with it.”
Okereafor appeared in 26 games last season for an average of 5.6 minutes. He totaled 21 points and 18 assists. But Smart would like to be able to trust Okereafor to spell starting point guard Darius Theus on a more regular basis.
Smart believes he’ll be able to rely on Okereafor more often this season because the London, England native has embraced his role as a floor general.
“Talk is the No. 1 thing. As a point guard you can’t be quiet and expect someone else to organize the team,” Smart said. “That was the biggest thing for him, was just opening his mouth, organizing his team, making sure everyone is in the right place at the right time.”