BLACK & GOLD SCRIMMAGE: 6 THINGS TO WATCH

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Doug Brooks dribbles during last year's Black & Gold Scrimmage.

Doug Brooks dribbles during last year’s Black & Gold Scrimmage.

Up until now, you either needed CIA-level clearance from Shaka Smart or a grappling hook and a glass cutter to see the 2014-15 VCU Men’s Basketball team in action.

That changes on Sunday, Oct. 26 when VCU opens up the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center for the Black and Gold Game, a sort-of annual intrasquad scrimmage open to the public.

Here are six things to look for.

1-THE NEW GUYS: Remember the last time an incoming VCU recruiting class generated as much attention as this year’s freshman class? Yeah, me neither. The quartet of Terry Larrier, Justin Tillman, Michael Gilmore and Johnny Williams has received plenty of attention, and for good reason. ESPN ranked this group one of the 15 best in the country, so forgive us if we’re a little excited. Like, Briante Weber excited. Is Larrier rotation ready? Can Gilmore and Tillman solidify VCU’s frontcourt? Can Johnny Williams shoulder some of the point guard duties this season? The Black and Gold Game won’t answer those questions, but it’ll help us begin to form a picture.

2-MICROWAVE MELVIN: According to this recent feature in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, junior guard Melvin Johnson, who plays style of made-for-TV basketball, put some serious hours in at Franklin Street Gym this summer. Johnson says he was hoisting up about 500 three-pointers on most days, sometimes more. The Rams will need to replace the scoring punch of Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg. Johnson is a safe bet to pick up some of that slack.

3-OVERREACTIONS: Hey kids. I know none of us like to talk about this, but sometimes we tend to overemphasize the importance of things like an intra-squad scrimmage in October. Just because somebody blows up in an exhibition is no guarantee of a big season. Sure, Melvin Johnson hit five 3-pointers in last year’s Black and Gold Scrimmage, but I also gushed over Terrance Shannon’s heady performance and expected big things out of the Florida State transfer. While Shannon certainly provided some big plays for the Rams – plus one of the cooler put-back dunks I’ve ever seen – he never got entirely comfortable. I also loved Jairus Lyes quickness and playmaking in last year’s game, but he never could wrestle many minutes away from Briante Weber or JeQuan Lewis. Let the scrimmage serve as a piece of the bigger picture, not a predictor of greatness.

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POINT OF CONTENTION…AND OTHER TIDBITS

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Excitable and always entertaining, Briante Weber may be also be VCU's solution at point guard.

Excitable and always entertaining, Briante Weber may be also be VCU’s solution at point guard.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart got to the point Wednesday.

In a meeting with members of the local media, the VCU coach provided insight into the Rams’ point guard situation for the upcoming season. Following the departure of senior Darius Theus (graduation) and Teddy Okereafor (transfer), the most logical choice to trigger the offense is rising junior and Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Year Briante Weber.

It’s sound reasoning. Weber showed considerable improvement from his freshman season when backing up Theus last year. He started in place of an injured Theus in a win at Old Dominion on Dec. 7 and provided an 8-point, 9-rebound, 10 assist, 5-steal performance. He turned the ball over just once in that game. Weber averaged 5.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 steals per game last season and posted a point-guard friendly 2.4-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But Weber hasn’t played the position in college for any extended period of time. The excitable ballhawk has been something of a hybrid in college, a defensive disruptor with opportunistic tendencies on offense.

The only “true” scholarship point guard on the roster will be well-regarded incoming freshman JeQuan Lewis from Tennessee. Classmate Jairus Lyles played a fair amount of point guard in high school, and Smart says he’ll also be in the mix.

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