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.

BRIANTE WEBER: JUST VISITING…

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Briante Weber’s back in town. The former VCU star recently completed a successful summer league stint for the Miami Heat in Orlando and Las Vegas, and has returned to Richmond to recharge. We caught up with him Tuesday, and the Rams’ all-time steals leader took a moment to reflect on his rapid professional ascent.

WHAT A TIME TO BRI ALIVE

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The soon-to-be Disney story that is Briante Weber’s basketball career continues to gain momentum. The former VCU Minister of Defense is busy blowing up ball handlers in the NBA Summer League with the Miami Heat.

It was always understood that Weber’s offense would need time to develop, and his 40-percent shooting in eight summer league contests doesn’t dispel that notion, but he’s looking more comfortable all the time. On Wednesday, Weber dropped in 18 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Weber also appears to be getting a handle on his role as a facilitator at the point.

On the defensive side of the ball, he’s Briante “Bleeping” Weber, G.O.A.T, esq. He’s averaging 4.3 steals per game combined in the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues, including two 6-steal contests and one 5-swipe game. In one game, Weber scored nine points, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out six assists and ripped six steals.

In all, Weber is averaging 8.8 points, 4.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game.

Weber is one of four VCU alums playing in NBA Summer Leagues. Treveon Graham shredded the Orlando Summer League with the Magic’s White squad. The second-leading scorer in VCU history averaged 16.0 points, while shooting .558 from the floor in five games. Graham is a member of Utah’s Las Vegas Summer League team, but hasn’t received much in the way of minutes. We’ll conduct a full investigation on behalf of Ram Nation shortly.

Melvin Johnson is playing with Houston in Las Vegas. He’s appeared in one game so far for eight minutes. He knocked down one 3-pointer in that contest.

Juvonte Reddic, meanwhile, has appeared in three games for the NBA D-League Select squad. He’s averaging 2.7 points and scored six Wednesday in a loss to Philadelphia.

TWO VIDEOS FOR THURSDAY

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New VCU Coach Will Wade made the rounds with the media Tuesday in Brooklyn.

New VCU Coach Will Wade made the rounds with the media Tuesday in Brooklyn.

Hey friends. Basketball season is practically breathing down our necks. I know this because the Atlantic 10 held its annual media day in Brooklyn Tuesday. Mike Voyack followed new Rams’ Coach Will Wade around with a camera as people asked him questions. Let’s have a gander:

Speaking of basketball. The Black and Gold Scrimmage is Saturday at the Siegel Center. It’s scheduled to tip off at 4 p.m. The rosters were recently released, and I’ve got to say Wade is really going to challenge that Gold team. Although it’s not set in stone, the Black team appears starter-heavy. On the flip side, this will be an opportunity for guys like Johnny Williams, Michael Gilmore and Doug Brooks to shine. Should be fun.

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The Black and Gold Scrimmage will be followed immediately by the first VCU Basketball Alumni Game. We released those rosters a few days ago. If you haven’t seen them, tighten up your social media game. Then, look here:

black-and-gold-GOLD TEAM

black-and-gold-BLACK TEAM

Look, there are a bunch of great names on these teams, but the big reveal is the expected appearance of Larry Sanders, who has not played publicly since leaving the Milwaukee Bucks (and the NBA) altogether last year. I don’t know if Larry’s in any kind of shape right now, but I’m hitching my wagon to the Black team. I base that solely on Calvin Duncan’s coaching abilities.

In other news, the Utah Jazz have released Treveon Graham, while Briante Weber has officially signed with the Miami Heat.

That's a good-looking jersey.

That’s a good-looking jersey.

Don’t fret, VCU fans. The Jazz initially signed Graham to a three-year deal with a small guarantee. There’s an excellent chance he’ll now end up with the team’s D-League franchise, the Idaho Stampede. By releasing Graham, the Jazz can keep him out of the D-League draft pool and place him in Idaho. The Houston Rockets employed the same tactic with Troy Daniels and the Heat will likely do the same with Weber.

That basketball stuff is all in good fun, but the video you really need to be watching is this one, featuring VCU Women’s Soccer senior Gabby Dyer. Gabby is quite simply a tremendous human being who has dedicated much of her time to community service and serving others. Please watch:

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BONUS: Check out these goals from VCU Women’s Soccer’s win at La Salle the other day. These are some great goals. That last one by Julia Suarez is insane. The keeper doesn’t even try to stop it.

BRIANTE WEBER EYES A NEW BEGINNING

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Briante Weber, VCU's all-time leader in steals and a three-time A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, continues to rehab a right knee injury.

Briante Weber, VCU’s all-time leader in steals and a three-time A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, continues to rehab a right knee injury.

Sometimes we don’t know how good we have it. Briante Weber flew around the basketball court in a VCU uniform for nearly four years, displaying a unique combination of speed, guile, explosiveness and enthusiasm I doubt we’ll ever see again. As much as we cheered his greatness, it was difficult to embrace it to the degree it deserved. That all changed on Jan. 31, when Weber tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus late in a game against Richmond. Weber’s brilliant career was over in a blink. He was 12 steals shy of breaking the NCAA career mark.

VCU overcame its post-Weber malaise to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship. The sight of a jubilant Weber – who continued to dress in uniform – ditching his crutches to hop to center court to celebrate reduced even some of the most iron-jawed VCU fans to misty-eyed messes.

In the months since, Weber has looked to resume his basketball career. Once an intriguing NBA prospect, Weber is fully immersed in the rehabilitation process. Weber is now more than five months removed from surgery and has begun playing in pickup games.

We sat down with Weber for an extended interview for the first time since his injury to find out his thoughts on his injury and the road back to playing Superman-like “Bri-fense”.

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Weber says a number of NBA teams have been keeping tabs on him (which I can independently confirm). He has signed with an agent and says he’ll be spending much of the coming weeks working out in California. Weber hopes to earn a tryout or invitation to an NBA training camp and is confident he’ll at least play in the NBA D-League this season.

 

SENIOR SITDOWN (THE FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT, BRI’S GOTTA WEAR SHADES)

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We recently had the opportunity to sit down with graduating VCU seniors Treveon Graham, Briante Weber and Jarred Guest to shoot a sort of all-encompassing video that looks back on their careers, as well as to the future. You’re going to have to commit roughly the same amount of time you would into watching a “Big Bang Theory”, but it’s worth it. In the past, you’ve only gotten snippets of what these guys were like, but here, you get a feel for them as people as never before. Let Briante Weber entertain you one more time.

FIXED IN A SNAP; RAMS FULFILL PROMISE TO FALLEN STAR

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VCU senior Briante Weber celebrates after the Rams topped Dayton 71-65 for the Atlantic 10 Championship.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Amid the chaotic celebration, Briante Weber hobbled over to the ladder. With the help of his teammates, he ascended toward the rim for the first time in weeks, and snipped the last remaining loop of the net. With the snap of the scissors, he freed the net from the metal rim and officially cut VCU loose of its late-season quagmire.

Weber’s symbolic act punctuated a dizzying VCU sprint to its first Atlantic 10 Championship. The Rams, preseason favorites relegated to the No. 5 seed after losing six of their final 11 regular season games, shocked the league with four wins in four days to claim the title. The final victory came Sunday, as the Rams held off Dayton 71-65 in a thrilling A-10 Championship Game at Barclays Center.

At the final buzzer, Weber, his right knee immobilized following season-ending knee surgery, hopped to midcourt to celebrate before breaking down in tears as he was mobbed by teammates.

It capped a week that redefined VCU’s season. Last week, the Rams were a team struggling to find an identity in the long shadow cast by Weber’s Jan. 31 torn ACL. For four years he had been the engine of VCU’s high-energy brand of basketball and the emotional backbone of the program. But as abruptly as Weber’s career was cut tragically short, VCU found its championship form.

“Words really can’t explain how proud I am of these guys,” said Weber, the first player to win three A-10 Defensive Player of the Year awards. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for us, when I went out with an injury, and then us winning, losing, everybody hopping off the bandwagon and so forth.

“But just know behind closed doors we had our talks and all our emotional stuff; when we step in between those lines, from March to the last bit of February, we kind of found ourselves again and that’s what we need to keep building on that right now.”

Weber’s loss was devastating to VCU, which was ranked 14th at the time. But Sunday’s victory – one that seemed improbable as recently as Wednesday – allowed the Rams fulfill a promise they made to their fallen point guard.

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A-10 CHAMPIONSHIP VIDEO ROUND-UP

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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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