RICHMOND, Va. – I do not envy Shaka Smart tonight. No way. No how.
I can’t fathom how it feels to tell a kid like Briante Weber that his VCU career is over. Do you want that job? I don’t. There isn’t enough money in the world to make me want to deliver news like that. Not to any 22-year-old kid. Especially not to Briante Weber.
On Saturday night, VCU announced that Weber, the Rams’ starting point guard, the school’s all-time leader steals, the team’s emotional fulcrum and the personification of Smart’s “Havoc” tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee in a loss to Richmond. His VCU career is over. He is 12 steals shy of the NCAA record. Life can be so unfair sometimes.
I’ve never pretended this blog was objective, and I’m definitely not going to start tonight. Learning the extent of Weber’s injury earlier was an absolute gut-punch. I have, never in my 12-year career in college athletics, ever felt so deeply for a student-athlete as I do at this moment.
I’ve been fortunate to have a courtside seat, both literally and figuratively, to Weber’s career. I’ve never covered anybody like him.
From his singular brilliance as a defender to his hilariously playful quirks to his unfettered exuberance, he is one-of-a-kind. Every gameday looked like Christmas morning to this guy. He played with his heart on his shooting sleeve. Briante Weber played with an enthusiasm you simply cannot fake.
I’ve never seen a player approach the game of basketball with the same passion as Weber. I’ve watched him check into basketball games the last four years. Let me tell you straight: nobody was as excited to check into a basketball game as Briante Weber. Every time. Every minute on the bench was one minute too long.
On the floor, he basked in the waves of adoration from the crowd, let it wash over him, and like a conductor, often signaled for more, pushed it toward crescendo.
This job lets me get close enough to these players that I get just a hint of their dreams and a whiff of what it feels like to chase it. It’s intoxicating and beautiful. Watching Weber do it was somehow better than that.
As for what this means for the Rams moving forward, that’s a column for another day. I just don’t have it in me tonight, man. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter much right now.
But don’t make this column a eulogy for Briante Weber’s career. I refuse. Won’t allow it. I’ve watched him play like a jet-fueled video game cheat code for four years and do it with a level of energy I can only describe as volcanic. I refuse to write off a guy like that. I am squarely on the Weber bandwagon from here to wherever he wants to drive it.
My heart goes out to Weber tonight and to his teammates. Those guys are like family to each other. Each man a brother. They’re all hurting tonight.
Tonight was a crushing blow for Weber, for VCU, for all of us who have invested emotionally in these four years. But if there’s one thing that Weber’s career has taught me it’s that there’s an ebb and flow to waves of emotion, and while this is most certainly the valley, there’s a peak ahead.
I’ve enjoyed covering Briante Weber more than any other student-athlete in my career in college athletics. I’m looking forward to covering his comeback even more.