Kendrick Warren electrified fans and averaged 17.5 points and 9.9 rebounds for VCU from 1990-94.

Kendrick Warren electrified fans and averaged 17.5 points and 9.9 rebounds for VCU from 1990-94.

VCU fans, this is going to be akin to a fireside chat with your grandfather. You know the one, where he tells you about the old days and seems to speak in tongues, talking about sock hops and soda jerks.

The march of time and the recent success of VCU Basketball have given berth to brand new generations of Rams fans, ones who know little of the names Duncan, Henderson, Lamb, Watson and Hopkins. I urge you to learn them, know them and speak them often.

Which brings me to Kendrick Warren. There are many fans who don’t know the singular brilliance of Warren, an explosive forward who was a walking mixtape before mixtapes. Many longtime VCU fans would argue – and they’d have a really good argument – that Warren was the best or the most talented player ever to play for the Rams.

A former McDonald’s All-American in high school, Warren dunked his way to a then VCU-record 1,858 points, 1,049 rebounds and 43 double-doubles from 1990-94. He ranks second in VCU history in all of those categories. When people discuss VCU Basketball history, they often do so in these terms: J.D. Barnett’s teams from 1979-85, Kendrick Warren and then this new “golden age” since 2004. That’s because from 1986-2003, Kendrick Warren was the one shred of national relevance for a program stuck in neutral. It’s also the reason why Warren’s greatness is sometimes overlooked. While Calvin Duncan, Eric Maynor and even Gerald Henderson, to some degree, were the stars of successful VCU teams, Warren’s era was symptomatic of the program’s two-decade malaise. VCU was 62-55 and made one NIT appearance during Warren’s career.



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On March 9, Syracuse shot 32 percent and scored exactly 39 points in a 12-point loss to Georgetown. On March 16, Syracuse was pounded by Louisville 78-61. On March 2, Wichita State let Creighton shoot 70 percent – that’s SEVEN, ZERO – in a double digit loss. What do Syracuse and Wichita State have in common? They both went to the Final Four last year. And, do I even need to bring up those back-to-back blowouts VCU absorbed against George Mason and Old Dominion in 2011 before blowtorching to the Final Four?

So let’s move on from Thursday’s tough loss to Florida State. We needn’t speak of it again. It is what it is. There are more than FOUR MONTHS left in the season. The only thing that really happened last night is that, for the 44th straight year, the Rams will not go undefeated.

Moving on. Long Beach State lies in front of the Rams Friday. The 49ers are a program with a rich history. I don’t think the Rams will have any trouble getting up for this one.

These two schools have met exactly once in their histories. On Jan. 23, 1993, a Seth Greenberg-coached Long Beach team came to the Richmond Coliseum riding high in a 13-2 start, and promptly had its doors blown off. Kendrick Warren, VCU’s Lord of the Dunk, scored a game-high 27 points, and the Rams shot 53 percent to win going away. They 49ers did recover, however, and won the Big West Tournament and reached the NCAA First Round.



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Sophomore Treveon Graham leads the Rams in scoring (16.1 ppg) and is second in rebounding (6.0).

Sophomore Treveon Graham leads the Rams in scoring (16.1 ppg) and is second in rebounding (6.0).

Treveon Graham’s rapid development has helped mold VCU into a contender for an Atlantic 10 championship and is making Shaka Smart (who all but predicted this) look clairvoyant. In short order, the sophomore from Washington, D.C. has become the Rams’ best scorer and a rugged rebounder. At 16.1 points per game, Graham ranks seventh in the A-10 in scoring, the only underclassman in the top nine.

So, nobody’s disputing that Graham has been good – very good – this season. But I would argue that what you’ve seen through 22 games this season has been historically significant. Prior to this season, just eight VCU sophomores had averaged 15.0 points per game, and none since Dom Jones in 2001-02.

In VCU’s infancy in the 70s and 80s, the Rams churned out an impact sophomore every year or so, from Charles Wilkins to Gerald Henderson to Ren Watson to Calvin Duncan. But somewhere along the way, either VCU or college basketball (or both) changed. Sure, there were solid contributors as sophomores, but the truly elite, impact second-year players became pretty rare. More


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Evgeny Kisurin averaged 6.0 points and 5.7 rebounds for VCU during the 1992-93 season. He would become an Olympian with Russian in 2000.

To many VCU fans, Evgeny Kisurin’s time at the university was merely a one-year tease before he disappeared out of their collective conscience. Few may even know how close he came to being a part of Olympic history.

Kisurin, more commonly known to Ram fans as Eugene Kissourine, played basketball for VCU during the 1992-93 season and went on to become a member of Russia’s 2000 Sydney Olympic squad, a team that flirted with a stunning upset.

Eight years removed from the “Dream Team” in Barcelona, the talent gap between the Americans and the rest of the world was closing. In the quarterfinals, Russia pounced on a USA team that included Vince Carter, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton. In a physical, contentious matchup, the Russians stormed to a 10-point lead and led by five at the half. It was the Americans’ smallest lead at intermission since 1988.

It was a clear wake-up call for the U.S., which rallied in the second half to win 85-75. The United States went on to win gold, while the Russians eventually lost to Canada – and former VCU guard Sherman Hamilton – in consolation play and finished eighth.

It’s been 12 years, but that loss to the Americans still tugs at Kisurin a bit.

“Team USA came back and beat us, but not without a fight,” the 43-year-old Kisurin said recently.



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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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Sophomore Rob Brandenberg scored 23 points in a game against Georgia State last season.

Sophomore guard Rob Brandenberg will look a little different on the basketball court this year.

It’s not because he’s worked out hard in the weight room over the offseason, which we’re told he has. It’s because Brandenberg, who excited VCU fans as an athletic and energetic slasher as a freshman, will be wearing No. 11 this season, a change from No. 23.

Brandenberg chose the No. 23 prior to his freshman year at VCU and wasn’t aware that the number was once owned by Kendrick Warren, the second-leading scorer in program history. Warren’s No. 23 jersey was retired several years ago.

“Just out of respect, I want to leave that jersey alone because that’s his jersey and when people remember No. 23, they remember Kendrick Warren,” Brandenberg said.

“I thought to myself, I don’t want to be associated with another guy, because no matter what happens in my career, they’re going to remember him, so I just thought, let me start my own legacy and switch to No. 11.”

Brandenberg wore No. 1 at Gahanna Lincoln High School in Ohio, but chose No. 11 in deference to Larry Sanders, who wore the number from 2007-10. Sanders was drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2010 NBA Draft.

Last season, Brandenberg appeared in 39 games and averaged 4.9 points and 1.7 rebounds. He also knocked down 31-of-89 3-pointers (35 percent). Brandenberg recorded games of 23 and 22 points, the most by a VCU freshman in more than 10 years. Following the graduation of guards Joey Rodriguez, Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell, Brandenberg figures to play a more prominent role this season and will have a chance to build a legacy for the No. 11 jersey.

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