BEGIN AGAIN

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The VCU Women’s Basketball team had something of a breakthrough 2015-16 campaign, advancing to the A-10 semifinals and the WNIT. A big chunk of that team is back – with some new pieces – and optimism permeates the program. Let’s do this.

VIDEO ROUND-UP: MEDIA DAY, GAME-WINNERS & COSTUMED BASEBALL

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A lot to unpack here, so let’s get to it. We’ll have for-real basketball in four days. I’m not sure what you’re going to do with yourself for the rest of the week, but hang in there.

In the meantime, it’s Halloween, and certain folks around here take that pretty seriously. The VCU Baseball team, for example:

Speaking of hoops, the Atlantic 10 Conference held its annual media day downtown last week, which gave Coach Beth O’Boyle a chance to wax ecstatic about this year’s Rams. Her program is coming off a 23-win campaign, and optimism surrounds the 2016-17 season.

There’s a little VCU hoops alumni news as well. Final Four hero Jamie Skeen, who missed much of last season with a knee injury, is headed to training camp with Charlotte’s D-League team in Greensboro.

By now you’ve likely heard that Briante Weber was among the Miami Heat’s final cuts. But the team has made it clear they like Weber’s upside and want to continue to develop him, so they’ve sent him back to its D-League team. It sounds like he’ll get plenty of opportunity there.

Finally, a great moment from this weekend. Julia Suarez provides a game-winning goal in the 92nd minute against Richmond on Sunday. Doesn’t get much better than that.

CRIBS – VCU BASKETBALL DEVELOPMENT CENTER EDITION

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Join us, if you will, on a “Cribs”-inspired tour of VCU’s Basketball Development Center with Torey Burston, Mo Alie-Cox, Camille Calhoun and GG Goodhope.

SWEET MUSIC, SWEET HOOPS

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Great feature from the Atlantic 10 Conference on the musical backgrounds of several Rams has contributed to their success on the basketball court, and in turn, has contributed to VCU’s 13-4 start.

 

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VIDEO: MEN’S, WOMEN’S TEAMS CRUISE IN SEASON OPENERS

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Men top Prairie View A&M

Postgame

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VCU Women Rout Coppin State

ON THIS DATE: A PHENOM DEBUTS

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On this date in 2005, Quanitra Hollingsworth made her VCU debut in an exhibition win over Virginia Union. She was 16 years old.

On this date in 2005, Quanitra Hollingsworth made her VCU debut in an exhibition win over Virginia Union. She was 16 years old.

On this date 10 years ago, 16-year-old Quanitra Hollingsworth – the nation’s youngest college basketball player – made her VCU debut, scoring 15 points while grabbing eight rebounds in an 82-50 exhibition win over Virginia Union.

Hollingsworth’s debut kicked off one of the one of the more transcendent careers in VCU history and jump-started the VCU Women’s Basketball program. Hollingsworth, who turned 17 just prior to the official 2005-06 season-opener, averaged 14.7 points and 11.1 rebounds per game as a freshman for the Rams. She was named CAA Rookie of the Year and Freshman All-America by Women’s Basketball News Service.

A native of Chesapeake, Virginia, Hollingsworth was a gifted student who skipped the fifth and sixth grades and graduated high school at 15. A 6-foot-4 center, Hollingsworth drew both interest and intrigue from college coaches. While her basketball skills were raw and age was a concern, Hollingsworth’s gifts were apparent. She was simply more athletic than nearly every post player she encountered. She enrolled at VCU at 15 and redshirted the 2004-05 season.

Hollingsworth’s VCU career culminated in the Rams’ first NCAA Tournament bid in 2008-09. She scored 1,604 points and grabbed 1,114 rebounds in four seasons and her jersey was retired prior to her final home game. Hollingsworth ranks third in school history in points, second in rebounds, third in blocked shots (162) and second in double-doubles (55). She was later selected No. 9 overall in the WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx.

Prior to Hollingsworth’s arrival, VCU had reached the postseason just once in program history. Since she helped the Rams to a WNIT bid in 2007-08, VCU has received six postseason berths.

In the years since, Hollingsworth has enjoyed a successful professional career in Europe and the WNBA. In 2012, she played for Turkey in the Olympic games in London.

VIDEO: VCU BASKETBALL DEVELOPMENT CENTER DEDICATION

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Well, the doors are officially open at the VCU Basketball Development Center. The teams have been practicing inside the facility for a week or two, but we officially cut the ribbon Monday. Other than a few bells and whistles, everything is up and running, and man, it is truly impressive. It can’t help but elevate both VCU’s men’s and women’s basketball programs.

PROGRESS REPORT: VCU BASKETBALL DEVELOPMENT CENTER

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We recently had an opportunity to check on the progress of the VCU Basketball Development Center (yes, we’re trending away from “practice facility”). Have a look around.

CATCHING UP WITH VCU GLOBETROTTER AND OLYMPIAN QUANITRA HOLLINGSWORTH

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Quanitra Hollingsworth, who starred for VCU from 2005-2009, is averaging 3.7 points and 3.2 rebounds for the the WNBA's Seattle Storm this season.

Quanitra Hollingsworth, who starred for VCU from 2005-2009, is averaging 3.7 points and 3.2 rebounds for the the WNBA’s Seattle Storm this season.

VCU made waves in 2004 when it signed an unknown 15-year-old from Chesapeake, Virginia named Quanitra Hollingsworth. The 6-foot-5 center, who skipped two grades in middle school, made her debut for the Rams a year later as the nation’s youngest player. She became more than a fascination. Hollingsworth led VCU to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009 and became the No. 9 overall pick of that year’s WNBA Draft. Her jersey is one of three retired by VCU. She’s won championships in Europe and played in the 2012 Olympics in London for Turkey. Hollingsworth is still just 26 years old.

This summer, following a one-year WNBA hiatus to fulfill commitments to the Turkish National Team, Hollingsworth returned to the WNBA with the Seattle Storm. She’s averaging 3.7 points and 3.2 rebounds off the bench for the Storm this season, but Hollingsworth, who is fascinated by computers and cuisine, has always been about more than basketball.

We recently caught up with the 2009 VCU graduate.

CK: How’s it feel to be back in the WNBA?
QH: It’s good. I obviously haven’t played back at home in quite a few years, and to just be able to play in front of so many of my friends and family, it’s good because it’s definitely not something you get overseas.

CK: How does the game overseas compare with the WNBA?
QH: Over there game a little slower and more structured, probably less athletic with more shooters more fundamentals. Over here it’s more athletic. Everyone is the best of the best. Sometimes overseas you meet a team or some players that aren’t on the same level.

CK: There’s good money to be made overseas, compared to what most WNBA players make. I’m assuming coming back wasn’t really a question of economics.
QH: For me, I simply wanted to be back in America this summer. I play against most of these players overseas, so I can’t say I was missing the competition, but to be back home is important to me.

CK: How is Seattle treating you?
QH: I’m actually enjoying it. The only thing I was concerned about was the weather, but the weather has been beautiful.

CK: Between your Turkish National Team commitments, the WNBA and European ball, do you ever take a break?
QH: There’s no such thing as an offseason unless you decide not to play. I think as long as you’re taking care of your body, you’re fine. Mentally, it doesn’t get as exhausting as people expect because if you love this, it’s not going to be as draining.

CK: You played for Turkey in the 2012 Olympics. How would you characterize that experience?
QH: In some ways it was overwhelming, but it was like I was dreaming. You’re in the same place with all of the best athletes from every sport in the world. Even some of the best players never make it to the Olympics.

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PEGRAM REALIZES VCU, DIVISION I DREAM

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Sophomore guard Ashley Pegram is VCU's third-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game.

Sophomore guard Ashley Pegram is VCU’s third-leading scorer at 9.3 points per game.

RICHMOND, Va. – You can tell how badly Richmond native Ashley Pegram wanted to play at VCU by the way she talks about it. A smile advances on her face as the soft-spoken sophomore describes the experience in glowing terms. It’s almost emotional.

You can tell how badly Pegram wanted to be a Ram the way she talks about the time it almost didn’t happen. During her sole, outstanding season at Chesapeake Junior College in Maryland, Pegram caught the attention of then-VCU Head Coach Marlene Stollings. It seemed like a perfect fit. But after the season, Stollings, the Rams’ fiery second-year coach, accepted a job at Minnesota. In the wake of Stollings’ departure, Pegram became uneasy as she contemplated her future.

“That really discouraged me,” she said. “Right when I signed, I found out they were leaving.”

It didn’t matter that Pegram had recently finished a season in which she averaged better than 23 points per game and was named a Junior College All-American. There was uncertainty. Beth O’Boyle was hired to replace Stollings. Pegram wanted to be at VCU, but would O’Boyle reciprocate?

“When she called, it was a relief to know that they were still going to try to recruit me,” Pegram said.

When O’Boyle assured Pegram she’d have a place on VCU’s roster, the former prep star was overcome with joy. It was where she wanted to be all along.

“It was one of the best feelings of my life,” Pegram said. “I just felt like my dream came true. I was so excited.”

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