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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VIDEO: A DEBUT TWO-FER FOR O’BOYLE ERA

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New VCU Women’s Basketball Coach Beth O’Boyle turned her team loose this past weekend and the Rams responded with wins over Wagner and Presbyterian. Friday night’s 84-75 win over Wagner included a career performance for sophomore Camille Calhoun. The power forward provided 21 points and 16 rebounds.

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While Friday was all about offense, Sunday was a chance for the Rams to shine on defense. VCU held the Blue Hose to just 10 second half points in a 55-36 win.

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The Rams travel to Liberty on Tuesday.

 

VIDEO: SHAKA SMART/BETH O’BOYLE WEEKLY PRESSERS

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The 2014-15  season gets underway (officially) for both the VCU Men’s and Women’s Basketball teams on Friday, Nov. 14. The men are headed to Annapolis, Maryland to the campus of the Naval Academy for the Veterans Classic. The Rams will take on Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. The women’s team, meanwhile, will be home for Wagner. Tip is set for 7 p.m.

Both coaches sat down (dispelling fears they’d conduct interviews while standing) with the media this week to talk about their respective season openers.

SHAKA SMART

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BETH O’BOYLE

MEDIA DAY NOTES: KIKI CAN, O’BOYLE BUILDS TRUST, ROYSTER IMPRESSES

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Beth O'Boyle kicks off her first season as VCU head coach on Nov. 14.

Beth O’Boyle kicks off her first season as VCU head coach on Nov. 14.

RICHMOND, Va. – VCU fans saw an array of skills last season from then-freshman point guard Keira Robinson. New Rams’ Head Coach Beth O’Boyle believes that’s just the beginning for the Columbia, South Carolina native.

In her first season with the Rams, Robinson averaged 11.4 points per game and handed out more than six assists per game. Her 200 assists were the most ever by a VCU freshman and the third most in program history. She also led VCU with 71 steals.

On Tuesday, Robinson, an Atlantic 10 Conference All-Rookie Team selection last season, was named to the league’s Preseason Third Team. As a freshman, she displayed impressive playmaking skills – arguably the best by a Ram since Rochelle Luckett from 1998-2002 – in the Rams’ wide-open offense. While O’Boyle says her style of play will differ from former Coach Marlene Stollings’, the Rams will still play up-tempo. She also believes a switch to man-to-man (VCU was almost exclusively a 2-3 zone team under Stollings) and some additional full-court press looks will lead to more steals and more transition basketball.

All of that is good news for Robinson, whose length and vision allow her to see the floor and find teammates in transition. Robinson’s guidance of O’Boyle’s motion offense will be essential. The Rams will look to replace A-10 scoring leader Robyn Parks, who averaged 21.6 points per game last season.

“I think they did an excellent job of getting the ball to Robyn with a variety of quick-hitters, but with her graduation, we’re going to look at different ways to score, and I think one of the ways is through our motion. I think it’s tough to scout. I think Keira and Chadarryl Clay will be able to create scoring opportunities for their teammates,” O’Boyle said Tuesday at A-10 Media Day.

It was clear last season that Robinson had the physical tools to play the point at a high level, so O’Boyle is turning her attention to the intangibles. She’s expecting Robinson to lead the Rams with her play.

“Keira got a ton of experience on the floor last year, and her next step is taking that experience and becoming a team leader,” O’Boyle added. “When you can take that and help your teammates play better. I think Kiki is going to continue to do a lot of great things this year.”

RAMS PICKED 10TH
VCU was picked 10th in the A-10 Preseason Poll, released Tuesday. The Rams finished 22-10 overall last season and reached the first round of the WNIT, but O’Boyle says the poll won’t impact the way she operates.

“[Our players will] look and see the rankings, and I’m sure it’ll motivate them, but for us it’s not where we begin, it’s where we finish,” she said. “I hope it does motivate our players and it motivates them to work hard. But we’re just focused on the day-to-day and building our team identity.”

NEW KID IN TOWN
O’Boyle is cognizant of the fact that just one player on the Rams’ roster, junior college transfer Ashley Pegram, was signed on her watch. It’s one of the reasons she and her staff have been working overtime to build a rapport with the team.

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