SHANNON ADDS DEPTH, INTRIGUE TO VCU LINEUP
RICHMOND, Va. – VCU Basketball under Coach Shaka Smart has been known for many things: Havoc, quickness, speed, creating chaos, high energy; descriptors of a dynamic category. While there are plenty of ways to paint a picture of the Rams’ style of play, “physical” has not been one of the more popular adjectives.
But Smart hopes the addition of Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon, as well as other newcomers, will help change the way the Rams play and, in turn, are perceived.
Shannon transferred to VCU in May and will be eligible immediately under an NCAA provision that allows graduating seniors to transfer and play without sitting out a year. Shannon graduated from Florida State in May and will have one year of eligibility remaining.
A 6-foot-8, 240-pound forward, Shannon averaged 5.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in 72 career appearances. Last season, he averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds and swiped 23 steals in 20 games. He earned a medical redshirt in 2011-12 after a shoulder injury limited him to just seven games.
Although occasionally beset by injuries at Florida State, Shannon gives the Rams a battle-tested post presence who can spell All-Conference forward Juvonte Reddic or play alongside him.
The Forsyth, Ga. native should give the Rams a life on the boards. Although VCU ranked 35th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage last year, the Rams haven’t ranked in the top 200 in defensive rebounding percentage in any of the last four seasons. While some of that discrepancy is created by the Rams’ tendency to play smaller lineups, Smart has made it clear the he thinks VCU can be better down low. He believes Shannon will make a difference in that regard.
“I think he’ll bring, first of all, a high level of experience, playing in the ACC and playing in a very good program, a winning program,” Smart said. “I think he’ll bring a toughness and a physicality certainly that will help. We have not been confused with the most tough and most physical teams over the past few years. I think between Terrance and Mo [Alie-Cox] and Jordan [Burgess], I think those three guys will add a level of physicality.”
Shannon will be one of seven players who will suit up in a VCU uniform for the first time next season, and Smart believes the addition of another veteran to the front line will make the Rams more versatile and dangerous. It’ll be the first time the Rams have had two experienced, proven post players since Jamie Skeen and Larry Sanders in 2010.
“It’s June right now, but Just projecting, and if things go the way we want them to go, we’re going to have a lot more flexibility in terms of playing big, playing small, playing really big, playing really small,” Smart said.
One particular option in play is whether or not Smart will choose to start games with a more traditional lineup that features two “bigs” and shifts rising junior Treveon Graham back to small forward. In Smart’s first three seasons, the Rams employed this strategy almost exclusively. However, in 2012-13, the Rams started two post players together just five times in 36 games. Smart says all options will be on the table.
“That’s how I always preferred to play in the past,” he said. “Last year, circumstances dictated otherwise, so we’ll see what circumstances dictate this year. I just think when you have an imposing nature about you at the start of the game, you can set a tone in terms of the way your team is going to approach the game. But, there were times last year when the quickness and athleticism we had early in the game set a tone, so, it’s a give and take.”
SAME NAME, DIFFERENT GAME
Jordan Burgess has more than a VCU-famous name going for him. Smart hasn’t hid his enthusiasm for the Midlothian native and younger brother of Brad Burgess.
Although he couldn’t play in games after he was ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA, the 6-4, 210-lb guard was allowed to practice and impressed the Smart and his staff with his toughness and maturity. Tabbed a top-100 recruit by some services, Burgess, despite VCU’s stable of outstanding guards, would have likely earned significant playing time last season.
“He would’ve been in our top seven,” Smart said. “It’s just the truth.”
Despite his workout prowess last winter, Smart won’t be conceding playing time to Burgess, who recently turned 20 years old. With seven new players on the 2013-14 roster, Smart says minutes will be up for competition.
“This isn’t a comment on him or anyone else,” Smart said. “But it’s a different deal this year in terms of…because we have so many new guys, it’s not necessarily that if you were a starter last year that you’re going to be a starter this year. We’re going to start from scratch and do it the old fashioned way. We’re going to earn it.”
Burgess is expected to be back in the mix for playing time. Although he resembles his older brother, who ranks fourth in school history with 1,684 points, Jordan is said to be more of a rugged slasher. Brad Burgess was more comfortable on the perimeter early in his career and later developed the ability to drive to the rim. Jordan, Smart says, brings a different skill set and attitude.
“He was the most physically tough guy on our team last year,” he said. That was probably the toughest part for him and us of him having to sit out, was that we knew in some of the more physical games he could’ve made a big difference. But the positive is that the guy’s got four years left to play. You’re talking about a first-year player…that’s 20 years old. I think toughness is something he’ll bring [this year].”
MO IN MOTION
Although he’s been on campus for a year, VCU fans will get their first look at forward Mo Alie-Cox this fall. Ruled a partial qualifier by the NCAA in October, Alie-Cox had to sit out the 2012-13 season. He was not allowed to practice with the team during that period (an NCAA ruling that differed slightly from that of Jordan Burgess).
But Smart says the 6-foot-6, 260-pound forward used his time away wisely.
In the classroom, the Middleburg, Va. earned Dean’s List honors and was presented with the “Black History in the Making” award from VCU’s Criminal Justice program.
In the weight room, Alie-Cox was able to receive a workout plan from Strength and Conditioning Coach Daniel Roose, and used it to build strength and stamina. One popular method used by VCU for measuring a player’s fitness is the “Parking Deck Mile”, in which a player runs to the top of VCU’s Bowe Street Parking Deck and back down, then down to Harrison Street and back, a distance said to be about a mile in total. The first time Alie-Cox ran the deck, his stopwatch read an unremarkable 8:40. However, this spring, Alie-Cox had shaved a full three minutes off the run.
Although he’s an inch or two shorter than a typical power forward, Alie-Cox has been billed as a terrific rebounder and inside presence. Smart’s expectations for Alie-Cox remain high, given his skill set.
“What you’re dealing with here with Mo is a very, very unique combination of strength, power, agility and touch,” Smart said. “So now, it’s a matter of him translating all those positives that he has onto the court and playing with a motor and an aggressiveness that will allow him to utilize that stuff. He’s a unique physical being.”