RICHMOND, Va. – Before Sunday’s game, Juvonte Reddic worked on Power Poses. During the game, he struck a pose of dominance and lifted VCU to a 69-48 victory over Old Dominion at the Verizon Wireless Arena.
Reddic, cashing in on a game plan geared to exploit VCU’s size advantage over the Monarchs (just two ODU regulars stand as tall as 6-foot-7), delivered season highs of 24 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots. Reddic used a series of post moves, baby hooks, dunks and putbacks on the way to an efficient 12-of-16 shooting performance. He was just four points shy of his career high.
Behind Reddic, VCU outrebounded Old Dominion 50-35 and grabbed 27 offensive rebounds. Five or Reddic’s caroms came on the offensive end, and VCU outscored ODU 30-9 in second-chance points.
While Sunday’s effort was Reddic’s best of the season to date, it was just the most recent in a series of good games for the 6-foot-9 forward of late. In his last six games, Reddic has produced four double-doubles and five double-digit rebounding games. In those six games, he’s averaging 15.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and shooting .574 (39-of-68) from the field. It’s a dramatic shift from the beginning of the season, when Reddic averaged 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and recorded no double-doubles in the first four games.
The difference Reddic says, is in his mental and emotional state. He’s more plugged in now, and it’s paying off.
“I think at the beginning of the season I was worried about too many things,” he said. “I was getting frustrated a lot easier. I just felt like I had a lot of pressure on me being as it’s my senior year. I just felt like I had to do everything right at first. But after talking to Coach, he just said to let my hair down, just do my job and everything will fall into place.”
A big part of Reddic’s progression in that area, he says, comes from his pregame talks with VCU Coach Shaka Smart. At every game this season, before warm-ups, Reddic and Smart meet in the lockerroom one-on-one to discuss “Power Poses”. Smart will remind Reddic to keep his chin up, or stick his chest out more, or perhaps even to smile. It’s different every game, Reddic says. Sometimes, Smart will tell Reddic to look at himself in the mirror and say that he’s the best player on the floor. The idea is for Reddic to project a confident, relaxed image until he actually becomes confident and relaxed.
The idea for Power Poses came from an online Ted (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Talk by Harvard Professor Amy Cuddy, sent to Smart by his wife, Maya. In the video, Cuddy promotes the idea that posture and non-verbal communications have a significant impact on how people think and feel. It’s “fake it until you make it”, but with the science to back it up.
Reddic arrived at VCU four years ago as a shy, quiet kid from Winston-Salem, N.C. In the early parts of his career, it was rare to see Reddic display any kind of emotion. At the start of VCU’s Final Four run, when he scored an important three-point play in the Rams’ First Four win over USC, Reddic erupted with excitement. It was a response that caught many off-guard because it was so out of character.
Smart has always argued that Reddic’s emotional state was linked to his physical abilities, and that hasn’t always been a comfortable connection for the reserved senior.
“Off the court I’m just calm, Ju, I’m just chillin’,” he says. “But on the court I can’t be calm and cool. I have to be assertive. I have to play with a high motor and have a lot of energy on the court, and I think I’ve been doing a great job lately, and it’s showing.”
“Excitement”. “High motor”. “Activity”. Those have always been the words Smart used to judge Reddic’s on-court performances. He rarely needed the box score. When Reddic played with emotion, when he was relaxed and having fun, when he was flying all over the floor, those were Reddic’s great games. When he was quiet and passive, or when he brooded over bad plays or foul calls, that’s when he struggled, Smart says. Reddic’s progression hasn’t always been linear, but it has been a steady, cumulative one.
“I think Yogi Berra said 90 percent of the game is half mental, so it’s that with him,” Smart said. “When he’s feeling good about the way things are going, he goes out and does a lot of good things. He’s a talented player. But he’s a guy that in the past that has gotten rattled or gotten upset by when things haven’t gone his well. I think he’s come leaps and bounds with how he’s responded to adversity.”
During games, if Smart sees Reddic drop his head or get frustrated, he’ll remind him of their pregame talks about Power Poses.
“He didn’t have to say it today,” Reddic said. “But the last few games he’s said it, and it’s got me going because sometimes I get frustrated sometimes, and if he sees I’m frustrated he’ll call my name and tell me chin up or chest out, so it just helps me out in the game.”
“You’ve just got to move onto the next thing, so that’s kind of what we work on,” Smart says. “Whatever call is made, just smile, clap, respond. Don’t drop your head.”
It goes without saying that when Reddic is playing at the top of his game, the Rams are a better basketball team, because the top of Reddic’s game is very good. That’s what Sunday’s performance says, not to mention the NBA scouts in attendance at VCU games these days or Reddic’s presence at the Nike Big Man Camp and LeBron James Skills Academy this summer. It’s why much has been expected of Reddic this season, and by extension, of the Rams.
“Because, if I continue to play like this, then we can go as far as we want to,” he says. Like Coach tells me all the time, I’m one of the key factors on this team, and if I continue to do what I’ve been doing, then we’re going to be really good.”