By Mike Litos
SAN DIEGO – Today was the beauty pageant portion of the NCAA tournament. Players and coaches from each team in San Diego went to the podium for high level, softball questions from the media. Each team also has a 40-minute practice that is really nothing more than basic drills, shooting, and some running to get used to the floor. It’s all open to the public, so it isn’t like a coach is going to run his offensive sets.
I actually like it, because it gets the smell of basketball into your system.
After sleeping in and a meal, VCU had it’s actual practice in an undisclosed location, then took it’s turn. Basketball is the talent competiton, and forutnately there is no swimsuit competition.
The best quote came froma random guy from another school who was on-hand to take in the VCU practice. I love fans who attend these shootarounds–if you’re doing this you are my kind of fan. Anyway, the guy looked to the floor, then looked at me, and remarked:
“My God you guys are loose. Do you always have this much fun?”
Yes my friend, we do.
That said, instead of creating some faraway storyline, here is a dump of the better quotes from VCU today:
Juvonte Reddic, on being without Melvin Johnson tomorrow: “…we’ve been without players in the past and some of the guys have stepped up and did a good job so I think, you know, we’re going to be all right.”
Shaka Smart, same thing: “He’s doubtful for tomorrow. We practiced earlier. He moved around a little bit and he can shoot which is the best thing he does anyway so maybe we will put him in the game and let him stay on one end of the floor and shoot, but he’s not ready to move the way he needs to move yet to play, especially until our style of play.
I was telling someone earlier, we’re thankful that he’s much further along than he was several days ago. When he hurt his knee last Saturday, the way it looked we were worried that he was going to be out for a long, long time. He’s still out now, but hopefully it won’t be too long.
Tell you what, when he got hurt that was a big hit to our team psychologically, and when they saw him moving around the other day, you know, he was a little ginger but he moved around and clearly it wasn’t as bad of an injury as maybe some people originally thought. Our guys ‑‑ it was like we had won a championship game or something.
He means a lot to the our team and without him we lose a guy who has scored a lot of points and a lot of three’s and without him you have to have guys step up and I think we have some guys on the team ready to do that.”
Rob Brandenberg, on being the favorite: “You know, since VCU, since I’ve been here and Bri and Ju, we have been considered the underdogs and to be the favorites does nothing to our psyches.”
I think it is tremendous that VCU got to see today’s action.
More Brandenberg, on being the favorite: “We proved seedings don’t matter, when we were an 11 or 12 seed it didn’t matter and the now we have the same mind‑set as a 5 seed as we did when we were a 12 or 11. Seedings don’t matter and saw Ohio State lose to Dayton, so if you go by that, seedings don’t matter.”
Briante Weber, on Shaka Smart motivational techniques: “Coach always finds a way to help us with the game plan. It will be something different every time but he comes different with the approach he has on us. He thinks of different ways to make sure that we get up and play for this game, but he shouldn’t have to do much when you’re in the NCAA Tournament. It’s all on the players, it’s basically all on the players to do what they need to do to win.”
Brandenberg, same quetion: “One thing Coach is good at, he has a way with words and tries to bring the best out of you. He brought the best out of Bri, myself, Ju, and he has a great way of instilling confidence in us. It’s like, if you trust him, just believe the plan, believe the process and everything will be all right. I think he does a good job of making sure that we go out there, and just play, just play.”
Smart, on his role with the players and confidence: “we just try to let the guys know we believe in them, we care about them. We know how good they can be. This is a process. We’re trying to help guys usually come into our program at 17, 18 years old, help them become the best version of themselves at 22 years old, and that takes time. Even at 22 years old, a lot of times people are not going to be exactly at the finish line in terms of their maturation as a player or as a person. We want to keep moving them forward and let the guys know we believe in them. The confidence, I believe, comes from that.
Smart, on shot selection and confidence in taking good shots: “…we define early in the year what we think is a good shot and what we think might not be a great shot. We work hard as a staff to chart and monitor what we call “shot quality” every game. The shot quality does not always equate with a high shooting percentages because if you get an open 3‑point shot for a Melvin Johnson, for instance, that would be a high‑quality shot but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going in. All we can do is focus on the things that we can control. I think we can control our shot quality more than we can control our shooting percentage. We’re just trying to get good ones.
You asked how I feel when guys don’t take good once. You try to help them, especially the younger guys understand that our goal on offense is simple, to get a team score. It’s not for one individual guy to score, no other agenda, just for our team to score, just like on defense our goal is to get a team stop. If we can keep guys on the floor focused on that, we will feel good about the results.”