Q&A WITH JOEY RODRIGUEZ

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Joey Rodriguez led the CAA in assists his final two seasons in a VCU uniform.

VCU Assistant Athletic Director for Athletic Communications Scott Day recently caught up with former VCU point guard Joey Rodriguez to get his take on playing professionally and this year’s Rams.

SD: First of all, how’s it going down in Puerto Rico?
JR:
It’s going pretty well. I am backing up one of the best point guards to ever come out of Puerto Rico, so I’m learning a lot and playing a solid role on the team.

SD: How is this year different than last year in Puerto Rico?
JR: First and foremost, I’m not traveling back and forth. I am enjoying it here this year. Knowing I am working to provide for my family and I. I’m contributing on a good team and getting paid doing what I love.

SD: How does the team look this year?
JR:
We’re 2-2 right now. We’re still missing some players that are in China and Argentina.

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THE GROWING SEASON

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Junior guard Darius Theus is averaging 7.9 points and 4.7 assists this season.

In one dizzying 54-second stretch, it was obvious how much Darius Theus had grown into his role as VCU’s point guard and playmaker.

It was Dec. 4 and the Rams were watching a huge lead disintegrate against George Washington. The Rams’ 19-point advantage had been whittled to 62-56 with less than five minutes left. Momentum had shifted decidedly in the Colonials favor. It was at that moment that Briante Weber found Theus in the corner for a 3-pointer. Theus entered the game as an 18-percent career 3-point shooter, but neither player hesitated.

On the Rams’ ensuing possession, Theus darted past a defender and to the rim, scoring the bucket in traffic while drawing the foul. George Washington never recovered and the Rams cruised to a 75-60 victory.

Two plays do not a season make, but Theus that sequence showcased the junior’s impressive growth as he moves into the role of floor general for the Rams this season. After backing up Joey Rodriguez for two years, Theus is averaging 7.9 points and 4.7 assists a game, both career highs. Through 12 games, Theus’ 49 percent shooting from the field was a marked improvement over his 39 percent career average. While his statistical gains imply improved physical skills, the 6-foot-3 Portsmouth, Va. native says his success begins with his mental approach to the game.

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WE WERE MERELY FRESHMEN

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Larry Sanders averaged 4.9 points and 5.2 rebounds as a freshman in 2007-08

They say youth is wasted on the young. I just think those of us in the post-30 crowd hate that The Jersey Shore has taken over MTV. When I was a college freshman, I could run a sub-5:00 mile, sleep three hours a night and had great hair (true story). Of course, I didn’t know what I was doing half the time, and I didn’t care.  The experience, one painful lesson at a time, was all worth it. It made me better personally and professionally (at least, that’s what I’m going with).

There are six freshmen on this year’s VCU Men’s Basketball team. Statistically speaking, the Rams are the 10th-youngest team in the country. They’re all great basketball players. They wouldn’t be here otherwise. But there are going to be mistakes, plenty of youthful mistakes. Enough to cause Shaka Smart to lose some of his hair…wait…let’s move on.

The point here is that these guys are all great talents, it’s just a matter of getting the best out of them. It’s going to take time. You’ll see it some nights and others you might shake your head. It’s rare to find a guy ahead of the curve, who can come in and dominate right away. Just like I didn’t come in and just dominate the blogging game. It took years of experience to be this awesome.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

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Today’s photo courtesy of Joey Rodriguez. This tweet got me thinking, what if? What if Rodriguez picks one of the other schools in this stack of letters? We’ll never know, and I think we’re all pretty happy about that.

ALL APOLOGIES

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Jamie Skeen was named All-CAA Second Team at the end of the 2010-11 regular season. He was not on any of the All-CAA preseason teams.

On Tuesday, the Colonial Athletic Association will hold its annual men’s and women’s basketball media day in Arlington, Va., where it’ll reveal its Preseason All-Conference Teams. I think this is the perfect opportunity to apologize for my profession and the rest of my media brethren. These preseason All-Conference teams, they’re our fault.

I know how fun it is to prognosticate, to predict how an entire season will shape up on a single sheet of paper. Believe me, I’ve done it and enjoyed the heck out of it.

As a former voting member of both the All-CAA Men’s and Women’s awards body, I have contributed to this affliction for the preseason crowning of the best of the…well, I don’t know, actually. What are we rewarding people for with these preseason All-Conference teams again?

It’s a simple equation. Take last year’s All-Conference team, subtract the graduating seniors, injured players and suspended/ineligible/dismissed troublemakers. Move everybody up into the available spots. Then, with what’s left, take some educated guesses to fill the remaining slots and voila! You have voted for your very own preseason All-Conference team.

There’s the rub. There’s little or no science to this. We’re not rewarding an accomplishment, unless we’re talking about last year’s accomplishments, which we already rewarded – last year. It doesn’t – and can’t – account for so many unforeseen circumstances. How about an underperforming junior who figures it out as a senior? May I present, Jamie Skeen? How about the player whose career arc levels off, like, say, Julius Wells? What about new transfers or breakout freshmen?

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THOUGHTFUL THURSDAY: JOEY RODRIGUEZ

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…NOT CONSTANTINOPLE

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Joey Rodriguez is headed to Istanbul, Turkey to play professional basketball. I asked him today which team, but he couldn’t pronounce it. I’ll just wait for the press release in Turkish.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T IS SPELLED E.S.P.Y.

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‘sup?

GRADUATION…SWAG

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Really nice video here from VCURamNation.com, which gave Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell and Ed Nixon a camera to use during graduation. Special guest appearances in this video by Larry Sanders, Shaka Smart, Anthony Grant, Darius Theus, the back of Troy Daniels’ head and others.

CATCH ME IF YOU CAN

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Joey Rodriguez has averaged 8.0 points in three BSN contests.

Don’t let anybody tell you that Joey Rodriguez can’t multitask.

Just to give you a taste, here’s how Rodriguez’s week looks, from Sunday, May 1 through this Saturday, May 7:

Sunday, May 1: One night after scoring nine points in a win for San German of the Puerto Rican professional basketball league, the BSN, Rodriguez flew back to Richmond, Va. and continued to prepare for final exams.

Monday, May 2: Rodriguez estimates he spent about six hours in tutoring sessions and working on final projects. Rodriguez is scheduled to graduate at the end of May with a degree in criminal justice.

Tuesday, May 3: Class, plus interview with some hack blogger.

Wednesday, May 4: Class and VCU Senior Awards Banquet.

Thursday, May 5: His girlfriend, Ciera, is 21 weeks pregnant. On Thursday morning, they will find out the sex of the baby. At 5 p.m. that evening, Rodriguez will be a guest at the White House for a Cinco de Mayo celebration.

Friday, May 6: Joey has a 7 a.m. flight to Puerto Rico and will play in a game later that evening. On Saturday, he will fly back to Richmond.

Got all that? That’s a tad different from your average college senior’s schedule. My senior year consisted of waking up at noon, locating lunch and then happy hour. Senioritis was in full effect by spring. I sprinkled in some class here and there.

“It’s been fun. It’s tiring,” Rodriguez says, matter-of-factly. “I’ve got a pregnant girlfriend I’m trying to take care of. I’m trying to make her and then deal with school and then play in Puerto Rico.”

Rodriguez has been going like this for weeks. Just three days after the NCAA Tournament ended for VCU, Rodriguez was in Los Angeles as a guest on Lopez Tonight, George Lopez’s late night talk show.

When San German drafted Rodriguez in April, he told the team that he’d have to finish up school first. But the team told him they could fly him down on the weekends for games. So far, the nutty schedule means that Rodriguez has played in more games (three) than practices (two). In those three games, Rodriguez has averaged 8.0 points and 1.7 assists in 12.3 minutes per game.

San German is located in southwestern Puerto Rico, about an hour and a half from San Juan. The BSN season runs from March through July, so Rodriguez also hopes to play in Europe in August.

“It’s a good league. It’s not easy,” Rodriguez said. “It’s more Americanized basketball…so it’s up and down, which fits me perfect. It’s going to help me get ready for Europe too because you’re playing against grown men.”

Rodriguez is also a teammate of former Ram Jesse Pellot-Rosa. Although they never played on the same team – Pellot-Rosa’s final season was 2006-07, a year before Rodriguez’s arrival – they know each other well. Pellot-Rosa frequently works out at VCU in the offseason. In Puerto Rico, Rodriguez has been living across the street from Pellot-Rosa, and the two former Rams have been hanging out together.

“It’s the best thing that could’ve happened to me,” Rodriguez said. “He’s over there and we hang out every day.”

Meanwhile, graduation is set for May 21. Rodriguez says he will be there.

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