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By Andy Lohman

Jan. 29, 2011 was a momentous day for VCU men’s basketball. The Rams defeated UNCW in crucial conference game, 79-70 in front of a sold out homecoming crowd at the E.J. Wade Arena at Siegel Center.

On Friday night, VCU played in front of its 100th consecutive sellout crowd, defeating Grambling State 94-65 on homecoming night.

VCU has come a long way since that January night. That spring, the Rams would make their historic run to the Final Four, defeating USC, Georgetown, Purdue, Florida State, and Kansas along the way.

Since then, VCU is one of just eight teams in the country to make seven consecutive NCAA tournaments, fueled by the high-press “havoc” defense and rowdy crowds that created a formidable home-court advantage.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

On that fateful January night in 2011, Joey Rodriguez led four Rams in double figures with 25 points. He was playing for head coach Shaka Smart, who was assisted by Mike Rhoades. Friday night saw Rhoades’ return to the Siegel Center for his first game as head coach. On his staff, returning to his alma mater as Director of Player Personnel: Joey Rodriguez.

Just like seven years ago, the VCU box score was filled with double-figure scorers. Justin Tillman, De’Riante Jenkins, and Johnny Williams all had 14, while Khris Lane and Malik Crowfield added 11 and 10, respectively.

The biggest constant across 100 sellouts, however, is the energy of the Siegel Center crowd, which was on full display Friday night. Tillman got the VCU faithful warmed up with a tough and-one for the Black and Gold’s first points of the game.

They got even louder when freshman Marcus Santos-Silva followed up a block on one end with a fastbreak lay-up on the other. They were louder still when Jenkins hit two consecutive 3-pointers to put VCU up 44-26 with 2:46 left in the first half.

But it wasn’t until the second half that the crowd noise reached its peak. Freshman guard Tyler Maye hit redshirt sophomore Issac Vann on an outlet pass, and Vann slammed home a tomahawk dunk, causing the Siegel Center to erupt with noise.

A Lane dunk in transition, and an acrobatic lay-up from Williams just added to the volume as the Rams pushed the lead to 68-35 and sealed the win.

With VCU in the driver’s seat for the last 12 minutes of the game, the consecutive sellout streak hit 100 in the same way that it started: with a Rams win. VCU is 87-13 at home in that stretch, a win percentage of .870.

After the win over the Seahawks in 2011, VCU improved to 18-5 and 10-1 in Colonial Athletic Association play. The Rams were certainly eyeballing the NCAA Tournament, but nobody could have predicted the Final Four run that was to come. Nor could anybody foresee the sellout streak that was to come.

Now the sellouts, and the NCAA Tournament appearances, are expected. The 2017-18 Rams, with nine newcomers and a new head coach, are somewhat of an unknown. What is known is that the havoc is in full effect, both with up-tempo basketball on the court, and 7,637 screaming fans in the stands.



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Joey Rodriguez, who helped lead the Rams to the Final Four in 2011, returns in 2017 as director of player development for the Rams.

By Andy Lohman

Joey Rodriguez had to take a circuitous route back to VCU, but the fan-favorite point guard from the 2011 Final Four team is now the Director of Player Development for men’s basketball.

“It’s just cool to be back, it brings back so many memories,” Rodriguez said. “We can take this thing to another level and that’s really exciting.”

After an outstanding career at VCU, where he ranks third in school history in both assists (580) and steals (237), and where he helped steer the Rams to a historic Final Four run in 2011, Rodriguez briefly played professional basketball in Turkey and Puerto Rico. He would then begin his coaching career as the Assistant Video Coordinator at Central Florida.

Following a year with the Golden Knights, Rodriguez dove into the realm of high school basketball, first as an assistant coach at Benedictine in Richmond, then taking the reigns as head coach of his alma mater, Lake Howell High School, in Winter Park, Fla. for the 2015-16 season.

“I learned a lot just being thrown into the fire with a great group of kids,” said Rodriguez of his first head coaching gig.

The experience helped him evolve as he transitioned off the court and onto the sidelines.



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Will Wade agreed to a new eight-year contract this week. He met with the media Wednesday to talk about it and the future at VCU.

Meanwhile, Joey Rodriguez, who wasn’t in Houston when he recorded this interview, but will be in Houston this weekend anyway, was on with Wes McElroy this morning to discuss VCU’s Final Four run in 2011 (The video doesn’t seem to want to embed, but click the link to hear the interview).


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Troy Daniels is averaging 3.5 points in 11 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.

Troy Daniels is averaging 3.5 points in 11 games with the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.


Troy Daniels ’13 (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Daniels has played fewer than 40 NBA games, but he’s already had an eventful career. Although he signed a two-year contract extension with the Houston Rockets in the offseason, Daniels was traded in December to the Timberwolves. The move has resulted in slightly more playing time for the former VCU sharpshooter (9.4 mpg to 6.4 mpg). Overall, Daniels is averaging 3.0 points, while shooting 32 percent (23-of-73) from 3-point range in 28 games this season.

Daniels was understandably one of the NBA’s feel-good stories last season. After averaging 21.5 points per game while setting 3-point shooting records at the Rockets’ D-League affiliate, Daniels earned a late-season call-up. Despite playing in just five regular-season games (averaging 8.5 ppg), Daniels averaged 17 minutes per game off the bench in the Rockets’ playoff series with Portland. In Game Three, Daniels broke a 116-116 tie with a 3-pointer with 12 seconds remaining in overtime. Houston won 121-116.

Larry Sanders ’10 (Milwaukee Bucks)
Sanders, hoping to bounce back from a 2013-14 season marred by injuries and suspension, was averaging 7.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in 27 games before taking a leave to deal with personal issues. Sanders said recently he is working through those issues and hopes to be in a position to play again at some point. It is unclear when he will return.

Sanders has averaged 6.5 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks shots per game in five seasons with the Bucks.


L.F. Likholitov ’02 (Krasny Oktyabr – Russia)
St. Petersburg, Russia native L.F. Likholitov has continues to plug away as a pro with Krasny Oktyabr, where he’s currently teaming with LeBron James’ high school teammate (and former European teammate of Jamal Shuler) Romeo Travis. The 34-year-old Likholitov has appeared in eight games this season and is averaging 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. Likholitov ranks second in VCU history with 207 blocked shots.




Hey, remember during Eric Maynor’s senior year, when he got a steal and actually dunked a ball against Hofstra? I bet you were wondering if he could actually do it up until that point. Evidence below:

This happened.

This happened.

How about last season against George Washington, when Troy Daniels got a steal and a sort of (lefty, no less!) dunk? You never saw it coming. Feel free to watch (3:12 of the video below):


As entertaining as those dunks were, you’d probably trade them in to see Darius Theus dunk in a game, right? Well, here you go. Thanks to Scott Day for unearthing this gem from Holland, where Theus is playing professionally. Check out the look at the end. My man is getting his money’s worth out of the moment.



Torey Burston is officially on the dunk clock.

EDIT: I felt compelled to include this photo, since this probably as close as Joey Rodriguez ever got to actually dunking in a college game. Toby Veal with the big assist.




Briante Weber averaged 5.4 points and 2.7 assists per game as a sophomore last season.

Briante Weber averaged 5.4 points and 2.7 assists per game as a sophomore last season.

One of the strongest corollaries with VCU’s decade of recent success has been its string of terrific point guards. Behind the heady play of guys like Dom Jones, Eric Maynor, Joey Rodriguez and Darius Theus, the Rams have piled up the wins.

As time passes, we remember the conference championships and NCAA appearances and forget that people once questioned whether or not these floor generals were up to the task. Although Maynor showed flashes as a freshman in 2005-06, people worried about his awkward jumper. Joey Rodriguez’s biggest problem when he took over as starting point guard in 2009-10 was that he wasn’t Maynor.  Similarly, Theus grabbed the controls after Rodriguez led the Rams to the Final Four. Try following that.

Although each torch passing felt like a crossroads to some, by the time each player graduated, they had forged an unforgettable legacy. With Theus gone, there’ll be another torch-passing in 2013-14. Logic and VCU Coach Shaka Smart have each suggested that the man to carry it – at least initially – will be junior Briante Weber. Last month, Smart praised Weber’s work ethic this summer and said the springy 6-foot-3 guard was the frontrunner at the point. “It’s certainly not set in stone, but it’s certainly his to lose,” he said. “If we played a game today, he’d get the lion’s share of the minutes.”



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Kirill Pishchalnikov defends Arkansas' Charles Thomas during the 2007 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.

Kirill Pishchalnikov defends Arkansas’ Charles Thomas during the 2007 Puerto Rico Tip-Off.


The post-Dagger days began in Puerto Rico.

It was in San Juan in 2007, at the first Puerto Rico Tip-Off, where we tried to find out if VCU, as a Goliath exterminator, had staying power. Nearly a week after rolling designated milk jug Maryland-Eastern Shore in the 2007-08 season-opener, VCU headed to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Anthony Grant, was, as Shaka Smart is today, THE rising star among college coaches. Eric Maynor, whose “Dagger” with 1.8 seconds left gave VCU its unforgettable, 79-77 upset of Duke in the first round of the NCAA Tournament the previous March, was a certified star. You could have sold his image on commemorative plates on QVC alongside those bearing Dale Earnhardt’s, if the NCAA allowed that sort of kitsch.

But while Grant and Maynor were known quantities, magnetic drawing cards with the goods to back it up, the rest was up in the air. People love NCAA Tournament upsets, they embrace the Princetons and the Bryce Drews, the Eric Maynors, the Cleveland States and the La Salles for weeks each March. But when the lights go out, most of them fade from the national consciousness. We rode high on the hog for months, but secretly, we wondered if Maynor’s “Dagger” was VCU’s 15 minutes; If the illogical food chain of college hoops would gobble us up and cast us back from whence we came, back to the obscurity of mid-majordom.

The tournament began in earnest. Grant’s recruiting class that year included Larry Sanders, Joey Rodriguez, Lance Kearse, Ed Nixon, Brandon Rozzell and Myk Brown, and transfer Kirill Pishchalnikov was also on board. Much of the publicity, and for a VCU recruiting class up to that point, it was significant, focused on Kearse and Rodriguez. Sanders was intriguing, but very much an unknown.




VCU is 2-1 against Richmond during senior Darius Theus' career.

VCU is 2-1 against Richmond during senior Darius Theus’ career.

RICHMOND, Va. – For a night, battle lines are drawn somewhere around Staples Mill Road. It’s West End versus Downtown when Richmond and VCU meet on the basketball court.

“I remember when I got the job here, several people came up to me and told me, I don’t care how you do all season, except you’ve got to beat Old Dominion and Richmond, and so I never forgot when they said that,” recalled VCU Coach Shaka Smart Tuesday.

In recent years, as both programs have risen to national prominence – VCU’s Final Four run in 2011 cemented its status, while Richmond’s Sweet 16 berth the same year did the same – so too has this long-running rivalry.

It’s always been a contentious fight, but lately, the stars have aligned to add flavor to this rivalry. In addition to each school’s NCAA tournament success, 19th-ranked VCU (16-3, 4-0 A-10) and Richmond (12-7, 2-2 A-10) are conference foes once again this season. A win is worth more than local bragging rights. It can alter the course of the Atlantic 10 Conference race.

Fans on both sides of the rivalry cast their stones annually, sometimes enough to whip players and coaches into the fervor. Smart said recently that in past years, players like Joey Rodriguez, known for his penchant for absorbing Internet chatter, and Richmond-native Brandon Rozzell enjoyed the buzz around town for games like this.



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PITTSBURGH – More to follow on VCU’s 90-63 win at Duquesne later, but a few pieces of housekeeping:

  • With the win, Shaka Smart improves to 100-31 all-time. He is the third VCU coach, joining J.D. Barnett and Sonny Smith, to reach that plateau. Smart reaches 100 wins in the 30th fewest games in NCAA history and is just the 12th coach to top the century mark in his first four seasons.
  • VCU’s victory was its 13th straight, the third longest in school history. The Rams won 16 in a row Jan. 18-March 13, 1981 and 15 straight Jan. 15-March 4, 1983.
  • Sophomore Treveon Graham scored 20 points in 21 minutes of play. It’s his fifth 20-point game of the season and his third in five games. Graham is averaging 20.5 points per game in his last six contests.
  • VCU knocked down 12-of-29 three-pointers Saturday, its most in five games.
  • Senior Troy Daniels buried two 3-pointers to become the fourth VCU player to hit 200 in his career. He joins B.A. Walker, Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess on that exclusive list.





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Senior Troy Daniels hit seven 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 25 points in Friday's win.

Senior Troy Daniels hit seven 3-pointers and finished with a career-high 25 points in Friday’s win.

RICHMOND, Va. – The Rams can move onto their holiday break with clear heads. VCU did what it was supposed to do in Friday’s 93-56 throttling of Longwood. There were no surprises, just a comfortable win where the Rams played to their ability.

The Rams kept the pedal to the medal, stomping out any fears of a lackluster performance and/or an overlooked opponent. In recent years, despite lesser opponents, that hasn’t always been the case in VCU’s last game before Christmas.

But rather than look ahead to Christmas ham and family time, VCU took care of business. The Rams scored the first nine points of the game and were up 19 by halftime. Although Longwood shot 44 percent in the first half, the Rams also forced 13 turnovers.

Whatever flaws VCU had on the defensive end in the first half were cleared up in the second when the Rams used a 17-0 run over an eight-minute stretch to turn the game into a 76-40 laugher. From there, it was all academic.

Senior Darius Theus, who finished with five points, five steals and nine assists, said the Rams were able to block out potential distractions.

“I think it’s hard for a lot of teams, but I think coming in and being ready to play separates good teams from okay teams, and I feel out approach was real good tonight,” Theus said. “Even though guys are excited about going home and being with their family, we only had one thing in mind. That was getting this win tonight.”


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