TERRY LARRIER, MAN IN TRANSITION

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Freshman Terry Larrier is averaging 6.7 points per game this season.

Terry Larrier knows a little something about transitions.

The 6-foot-7 VCU freshman’s current adjustment is to college curriculums and the rugged style of Division I college basketball. It’s a been a period of change for the lanky wing player, who also happens to be VCU’s highest-ranked recruit in a generation.

High school basketball and college basketball are the same in that their names both contain the word “basketball”. Other than that it’s like going from Mario Kart to NASCAR. It’s not just that college basketball players are more skilled – they are – it’s that most of them are genetic wonders.

But for Larrier, it’s not the first time he’s faced such difficult transition far from home. The last one helped shape him personally, academically and athletically, and made his college career possible.

Although he is, like teammate Melvin Johnson, a Bronx, New York kid to the bone, Larrier spent his final two years of high school at The Phelps Academy in Malvern, Pennsylvania, located in the rolling rural patches west of Philadelphia. It couldn’t have been more different than The Bronx.

According to the 2010 United States Census, more than 1.4 million people reside in The Bronx. For every one of the borough’s 42 inhabitable square miles, there are an average of 32,000 residents. In Malvern, there are about 3,000 people living in the entire town.

Set back a couple hundred yards off a country road, Phelps is a private, all boys boarding school. The Phelps website depicts student life through images of smiling teens in Hollister sweatshirts framed by verdant backdrops. There’s also a direct link for students to order their school uniforms, khakis and navy polo on most days, from Land’s End.

“It’s basically in the middle of nowhere,” Larrier says. “I went from being in classes with 32 kids to six, 10 kids. It was a big change and transition for me, but it was something I had to do. It was the best thing for me.”

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SAINT LOUIS NOTEBOOK; GRAHAM LOOKS SHARP AGAIN

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Senior Treveon Graham scored a team-best 16 points in Tuesday's win over Saint Louis.

Senior Treveon Graham scored a team-best 16 points in Tuesday’s win over Saint Louis.

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s unclear who had more spring in their step Tuesday, Treveon Graham or VCU fans after seeing the Rams’ star look sharp in a 74-54 rout of Saint Louis at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Graham has been nursing a high ankle sprain, originally suffered Jan. 13 at Rhode Island and re-aggravated Feb. 4 at George Mason. The injury has cost Graham three games this season, and VCU has lost two of them.

It’s clear the ailment has affected Graham’s explosiveness of late, a source of concern for fans aware of his importance to this team, especially given the loss of Briante Weber two weeks ago.

But Graham looked much like his old self in Tuesday’s win. He scored VCU’s first eight points against the Billikens. He appeared to have good lift on his jumpers and out-jumped several other players for an early tip-in. Graham finished with a team-high 16 points and six rebounds.

“Yeah, I felt pretty good today,” Graham said afterwards. “Every day I’m getting better and better. I just wanted to come out and be aggressive. If I came out aggressive, I felt like my teammates would come [along].”

VCU Coach Shaka Smart assured people that his trained eyes also saw a more dynamic Graham Tuesday night.

“It’s a big lift he gave us, because our other guys were struggling to score early in the game. I thought tonight was the best that he’s moved since he sustained the injury. So that was good,” said Smart. “He and our athletic trainer have been working really hard around the clock with treatment and different modalities to work on that thing. Sometimes it’s frustrating because it doesn’t seem like it’s doing much, but I thought tonight it was a different bounce that he had and explosiveness.”

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NO, YOU WILL NOT BE GOING BASELINE ON JUSTIN TILLMAN

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The only thing that would make this highlight better would be a special effects explosion, because Justin Tillman blocked the world out of Saint Louis’ Ash Yacoubou on this play. If this happened to me, I would fake an injury and go back to the lockerroom and curl up in a ball.

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In other news, here are tonight’s pressers.

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EDIT: BONUS AWESOME VIDEO
Here is VCU’s bench reacting to Torey Burston’s first career basket, a 3-pointer, no less.

GAMEDAY WITH ‘THE SONS OF SHAKA’

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Meet Matt Greene, Manny Juranis, Gary Watkins and Brian Curran, also known as ‘The Sons of Shaka’.

On Jan. 31, I got to hang out with some of VCU’s most fervent – and entertaining – basketball fans, The Sons of Shaka. Following VCU’s Final Four run in 2011, Manny Juranis, Gary Watkins, Matt Greene and Brian Curran decided they needed to take their fandom to the next level. They started dressing up for big games in elaborate, coordinated costumes like professional wrestlers, referees, players and the like. On this particular day, they showed up as KISS.

SHAKA TALKS SLU (MEDIA MINUTES)

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A rematch with Saint Louis is on deck here in wintery Richmond. Shaka Smart met with the media Monday to talk about it.

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And, in case you missed it, here’s Coach Smart following VCU’s win over George Washington Saturday.

TYRON MCCOY’S STILL GOT IT

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Tyron McCoy was a heck of a player for VCU from 1991-95. In the last 25 years, two VCU players have scored 40 points in a game. One is Willie Taylor. The other is Tyron McCoy, who scored 1,456 of them during his career.

McCoy later had a long professional career, mostly in Germany. Today, he’s the coach of the Artland Dragons in Germany’s top pro league. Apparently, he’s still getting some shots up on the side.

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I think my favorite part of this video is everybody’s reaction. So chill. Uh, bro, your coach in an Armani suit just sank a 40 footer. Can we at least high-five or something?

A CONVERSATION WITH DARIUS THEUS

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I had an opportunity to catch up with former VCU point guard Darius Theus recently. We actually shot two videos, the first of which you see below. The second will be available soon. Enjoy.

SHAKA SMART MEDIA MINUTES (FEB. 9)

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Shaka Smart looks back at Saturday’s tough loss at St. Bonaventure and ahead to Wednesday’s game with La Salle.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

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Sophomore Doug Brooks provided nine points and solid defense in VCU's 72-60 win at George Mason.

Sophomore Doug Brooks (having his face reconfigured above) provided nine points and solid defense in VCU’s 72-60 win at George Mason.

Last night at George Mason, VCU’s cup runneth over…with adversity.

Given the season-ending injury suffered by senior point guard Briante Weber days earlier, the Rams were already faced with an emotional road game Wednesday night. How would VCU regroup mentally? Would the impact of Weber’s injury linger? How would the Rams replace his contributions on the court?

If you said to yourself, ‘Wow, VCU sure does have a lot to deal with tonight,’ you’d be like the rest of us. Except Fate. Fate laughed and gave the Rams another scoop.

Treveon Graham re-aggravated his right ankle injury and played just 12 minutes last night. When he exited the game for good, VCU trailed 26-19. If you responded at that moment with a litany of colorful four-letter words, not even your grandma would admonish you.

Instead of packing it in, VCU, led by its stable of underclassmen, gritted out a 72-60 win at the Patriot Center. That means that VCU was plus-19 last night against George Mason without Weber and Graham. Look, the Patriots may be struggling, but winning on the road without two of your three best players is pretty darn impressive, regardless of opponent.

Mo Alie-Cox didn’t fill up the box score, but he did make a couple of spectacular plays down the stretch and also did a splendid job of limiting Shevon Thompson’s post touches. Oh, and there was this:

Dougie Brooks’ game has matured by leaps and bounds over last year. Melvin Johnson (17 points) and JeQuan Lewis (13 points, 4 assists) led the way with heady playmaking.

It certainly won’t get any easier for VCU. The Rams head to the hinterlands of New York State to play at St. Bonaventure team that just won at Davidson, especially if Graham cannot go. But if Wednesday’s game was any indication, the Rams are going to battle every night, regardless of who is on the floor.

 

BRIANTE WEBER AND THE MORNING AFTER

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Do you know how much VCU fans love Briante Weber? I thought I did, but I was not prepared for the all-out blitz of emotion pouring from the souls of the VCU faithful. On Saturday night, I wrote a column on my couch in a blur with a pit in my stomach and a stiff drink on the coffee table. Within 10 hours it had become the most read post in this six-year history of this blog.

Today, Shaka Smart addressed the media for the first time since Weber’s injury. While George Mason awaits on Wednesday, Weber’s status dominated his weekly presser.

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Meanwhile, it’s time to start picking up the pieces. For the fans, that means it’s time to celebrate an incredible career. Weber averaged 6.8 points per game as a Ram, and yet, he’s one of the most beloved players in school history. And here’s why:

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