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.

A BRAND NEW ADAEZE

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Junior Adaeze Alaeze is enjoying a breakout season for the VCU Women's Basketball team.

Junior Adaeze Alaeze is enjoying a breakout season for the VCU Women’s Basketball team.

By Chris Cullum

Coming into this season, VCU’s women’s basketball team was looking at what could only be described as a fresh start. Five players, who had accounted for nearly half of the scoring last year, were departing the program, leaving this year’s squad with just two upperclassmen. A whole new coaching staff was introduced. Growing pains were sure to follow.

Enter Adaeze Alaeze. The junior from Baltimore has seen a spike in her numbers this season as one of the elder statesmen of the squad. This year she’s playing over 10 minutes per game more than she did last season, and her scoring and rebounding numbers have nearly doubled.

The heavier workload was something Alaeze expected to see this season, acknowledging that with a young team, everyone had to step up in different ways. Also, with a new coaching staff came clean slates, and it’s clear that she’s made the most out of the situation.

“I think Coach would agree that most of the time I lead by example,” she said. “In practice I’m always going hard. It was kind of a given to set an example, since it’s my third year here.”

Early in the season, with the Rams in the midst of a six-game road trip, those growing pains made an appearance. However, despite a 2-4 record on the trip, VCU (14-9, 5-5 A-10) rattled off eight wins in its next 10 games. It could be an arbitrary end point, or it could have signified the point when a new coaching staff and a young roster found its groove. Alaeze sits squarely in the latter camp.

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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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ABOUT BRIANTE…

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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.

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