Sophomore Briante Weber is piling up steals at record pace.

Sophomore Briante Weber is piling up steals at record pace.

RICHMOND, Va. – In 1989, Energizer Batteries scored a marketing victory when it introduced the Energizer Bunny, a pink, sunglass-wearing, bass-drum pounding, stuffed rabbit that shuffles, presumably, in perpetuity. It became a pop-culture icon and embedded itself in the national lexicon as a THE metaphor for someone or something with a seemingly endless supply of energy.

I’m appreciative of the Energizer Bunny’s legacy, because it allows me to describe the play of supercharged VCU guard Briante Weber effectively to the uninitiated. If Weber dresses up as the Energizer Bunny for Halloween next year, I will lose my mind.

He’s a unique talent, Weber. An angular, 6-foot-3, 165-pound sophomore wing with a 45-inch vertical leap, he doesn’t necessarily fit into the tidy positional descriptions we’ve come to accept: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, etc. What is he? He can play some point guard, yes. But most of the time he’s swooping around the court as if he’s on fire, creating havoc on defense.

Defense in basketball has never been as easily quantified as offense. You can more easily judge the efficiency of a player by his shooting percentages, scoring averages, assist-to-turnover ratio. Defense can be a little murkier. But for VCU and Coach Shaka Smart, you can draw a number of conclusions about the Rams’ effectiveness on defense by the number of turnovers they force, many via the steal. That’s where Weber’s impact is most easily understood.

VCU is leading the nation in steals for the second straight year, sparked by Weber, who ranks third individually with 2.96 per game. His 83 steals this season trail only Rolando Lamb’s 88-steal campaign in 1984-85 on VCU’s single-season list. Health permitting, Weber is a safe bet to eclipse Lamb’s mark any day. Oh, did I mention that Lamb is expected to be in the stands Saturday when VCU plays Butler as part of Alumni Day?

Weber’s ability to disrupt the opposition can be downright stunning. In the Rams’ season-opener against Florida Gulf Coast, he shattered the VCU and Atlantic 10 Conference single-game marks with 10 steals. He later added a nine-steal game to his resume.

What’s even more remarkable is that Weber is able to force bushels of turnovers and rack up steals in record numbers despite playing less than 22 minutes per game. That’s right, Weber, on average, only plays about half the game. For the second straight year, Weber is leading the country in steal percentage (8.1).

As his career chugs ahead, it’s become accepted that it’s not matter of if Weber will break all of VCU’s steals marks, it’s likely just a matter of when. Consider this: In his first 59 games, Weber produced 148 steals. Lamb, who is the Rams’ career leader with 257, picked 122 steals in his first 59 contests.

2012-13 National Steals Leaders|
Rk-Player (School)                          SPG
1-Anthony Hickey (LSU)                 3.3
2-Duke Mondy (Oakland)              3.2
3-Briante Weber (VCU)                  3.0
3-Michael Carter-Williams (SU)   3.0
5-Marcus Smart (OSU)                    2.9

VCU Career Steals Leaders
Rk-Player (Years)                             No.
1-Rolando Lamb (1981-85)            257
2-Joey Rodriguez (2007-11)          237
3-Darius Theus (2009- )                  222
4-Edmund Sherod (1977-81)        202
5-LaMar Taylor (1997-2001)          193
6-Eric Maynor (2005-09)                 168
7-Briante Weber (2011- )               160

VCU Single Season Steals Leaders
Rk-Player (Year)                               No.
1-Rolando Lamb (1984-85)             88
2-Briante Weber (2012-13)            83
3-Briante Weber (2011-12)            77
4-Rolando Lamb (1982-83)             72