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.

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: 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.

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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WOMEN’S HOOPS DOWNS GEORGE MASON (VIDEO)

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Isis Thorpe dropped 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds Wednesday as the VCU Women’s Basketball team improved to 14-7 overall and 5-3 in the Atlantic 10. The Rams are right in the mix.

PERFECT CHEMISTRY: CLAY FINDS A HOME AT VCU

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Sophomore Chadarryl Clay is averaging 4.7 points and 2.1 assists per game this season for the 10-5 Rams.

By Nathan Heintschel

After transferring colleges, experiencing three coaching changes and living in three different states the last two years, static is not a word to describe VCU redshirt-sophomore guard Chadarryl Clay’s college career.

She’s experienced a career’s worth of adversity, but through it all, Clay has been able to maintain her focus on the court and in the classroom.

The daughter of Ardarryl and Naketa Clay, Clay grew up with her siblings Ardarryl Jr. and Aniyah in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Chadarryl’s father sparked her interest in basketball when she was four years old. Her love for basketball grew each year when her dad would shuttle her to “And 1” tour exhibition games in Chattanooga. She says she admired Allen Iverson growing up because his game resembled those in the “And 1” exhibitions. Clay says she modeled her game after Iverson, and Jason Kidd inspired her to choose the No. 5 for her jersey.

Clay attended Girls Preparatory School beginning in sixth grade. She developed the skills to balance school and athletics early. Her parents stressed grades before basketball, and while she could get away with a couple B’s on her report cards, she needed to earn A’s to continue playing basketball.

It was in high school that Clay developed a love for numbers and the sciences. She excelled in chemistry early, and following an internship at a pharmacy, Clay decided she’d found her career path.

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VCU MEDIA MINUTES (JAN. 5)

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With Davidson on deck and VCU riding six-game winning streak, Shaka Smart and players sat down with the local scribes and beautiful people of your television networks to chat. Also, VCU Women’s Coach Beth O’Boyle dropped by to update us on the 9-5 Rams.

SHAKA SMART

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BRIANTE WEBER, TREVEON GRAHAM, MO ALIE-COX

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BETH O’BOYLE

 

THORPE FINDS COMFORT, JUMPER IN WIN OVER HIGH POINT

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Sophomore Isis Thorpe scored a season-high 22 points in VCU's 81-59 win over High Point Thursday.

Sophomore Isis Thorpe scored a season-high 22 points in VCU’s 81-59 win over High Point Thursday.

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s a new year with a new coach and a new system, but Isis Thorpe started to look like her old self in Thursday’s 81-59 win over High Point.

Thorpe, a slick-shooting sophomore guard, scored a season-high 22 points to lead the Rams (6-4). It was her fifth career 20-point performance. Thorpe knocked down 8-of-12 from the field, including a season-best 5-of-7 from 3-point range.

It was a return to form of sorts for Thorpe, who knocked down a team-best 74 threes as a freshman and averaged 12.3 points per game, but shot just 25 percent (19-of-75) from 3-point range in her final 11 games. She came into Thursday’s game averaging 9.1 points while shooting 33 percent (10-of-30) from beyond the arc.

Thorpe stroked her first three triples of the contest and mixed in timely pump-fakes and dribble drives on the way to her best scoring output in 33 games.

“It’s about time I started hitting some shots, so that felt really good today,” she said. “It was just a great win for all of us as a team. We finally got to a point where we’re up with a lead and twisted the knife instead of letting them come back, so that was really great game that we had today.”

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PRESS CONFERENCE JAMBAROO

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On Thursday, we settled into the media room for a parade of press conferences as the VCU Men’s Basketball team prepped for Virginia and the VCU Women’s Basketball squad readied for Old Dominion.

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ROBINSON RETURNS ‘HOME’, POISED TO FORGE LEGACY AT VCU

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Keira Robinson handed out 200 assists last season as a freshman.

Keira Robinson handed out 200 assists last season as a freshman.

In many ways, VCU Basketball has been defined by its point guards. From Edmund Sherod to Rolando Lamb, Eric Maynor and Joey Rodriguez, the program’s most successful seasons, perhaps more than any other position, have been sparked by outstanding point guard play.

At least, that’s been true of the men’s program. The women’s team, however, has been notable for its post players, such as WNBA draft picks Quanitra Hollingsworth, Krystal Vaughn and Courtney Hurt. Not since Rochelle Luckett nearly15 years ago has a VCU Women’s Basketball point guard commanded the court in a starring role.

But that’s changing.

The next great VCU point guard may already be here. Keira Robinson burst onto the scene in 2013-14 with, statistically speaking, one of the best seasons by a VCU point guard in school history. As a freshman last season, Robinson doled out 200 assists in VCU’s high-octane offense, the third most in school history. She and teammate Isis Thorpe were the first VCU freshmen to average double digits in points per game since Hollingsworth in 2005-06.

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