Rather than celebrate this year’s senior class of Jarred Guest, Briante Weber and Treveon Graham for what they’ve done in their four years as VCU Rams, let’s first take a took at what they haven’t done.
In four years, the trio hasn’t played a home game in front of anything less than a sellout. That’s 60 home games and 60 sellouts. I’m still not convinced these guys even know what an empty seat looks like. The only time they see an empty gym is in practice. Heck, the Rams aren’t even used to playing in front of sparse crowds on the road. George Washington has sold out two home games the last two seasons, and they were both against VCU.
You know what else these guys haven’t done? They’ve really dropped the ball when it comes to St. Patrick’s Day. It’s always some excuse about being busy in the middle of March every year. Must have something to do with three straight – soon to be four – trips to the NCAA Tournament.
There’s more. Guest, Weber and Graham don’t know what it’s like to toil in relative obscurity. The Rams have been ranked 21 weeks in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll during their careers. In the 38 Division I seasons prior to their tenure, the Rams had been ranked a total of nine weeks. As of this writing, VCU has been ranked for 11 straight weeks in the AP poll.
They don’t know what it’s like to play games that nobody outside the arena can see. Nearly every game of their career has been televised. Every VCU game the last two seasons has aired on TV, the majority of them nationally. During Jeff Capel’s final season as coach in 2005-06, the Rams played a total of nine TV games. That includes a couple produced out of a converted bread truck. I’m actually not kidding about the bread truck. That really happened.
They certainly haven’t done a whole lot of losing. The trio has won more than 100 games during their careers at a rate north of 75 percent. They have a chance to be the first senior class to avoid a 10-loss season at some point in their careers since 1976. They’ve helped VCU extend a streak of nine consecutive seasons with at least 20 wins. Only 16 schools have won 20 games every year since 2006-07, and a handful of those teams won’t get there this season.
My cumbersome literary device aside, this is obviously a memorable senior class for a number of reasons.
Treveon Graham will go down as one of the greatest scorers in school history. If not for an ankle injury, he might be chasing Eric Maynor’s career scoring mark. Then, of course, there’s his game-winning three at Virginia last year. Oh, not to mention his coast-to-coast game-winner at Saint Louis. Yup, and his one-man wrecking crew effort on one leg earlier this season at Rhode Island. Right, then there’s the 34 points he scored in a double-overtime win at La Salle last year in a game he snatched from the jaws of defeat repeatedly. You get the point. He’s filled a career with moments like that.
Briante Weber may have seen his career cut short by a knee injury on Jan. 31, an excruciating end to an unforgettable four years, but his legacy is chiseled in stone. He obliterated VCU’s career steals mark – a record that stood for 28 years – by 117. He ranks third in NCAA Division I history in that category with 374. As gaudy as those numbers are – they’re insane, actually – it’s the unrelenting passion with which he played the game that made him one of the most beloved Rams in program history.
Guest was never a star, but he showed up every day and went to work. Four years as a vital role player. Four years of sacrifice for the team. He, like both Weber and Graham, will graduate this spring.
These guys aren’t the first seniors to win a bunch of games or go to the NCAA Tournament at VCU, but they’re special in their own right. This was Shaka Smart’s first recruiting class in the wake of the 2011 Final Four. This trio proved that 2011 wasn’t a one-year wonder. When the critics said that Shaka Smart reached the Final Four with somebody else’s recruits, these guys were the rebuttal. A fourth consecutive NCAA Tournament is within reach. They’d be just the second senior class in school history to accomplish that feat. They were the guys that slammed home – like a Weber windmill jam – that VCU is a PROGRAM. Winning is a tradition here, and it’s because of guys like Graham, Weber and Guest. They’re not just part of a wave of momentum. They ARE the momentum.
“All three of those seniors are hard working. They come in and do what they’ve got to do, and they’re always helping others do better. That’s just something I just got from them. They always get us in the gym, making us do stuff. Always talking, talking. That really rubbed off on me,” says redshirt sophomore Mo Alie-Cox.
The best part of all this is that there’s one more thing this class hasn’t done yet. They haven’t given us their final act yet, so enjoy the ride.