MIKE RHOADES MEDIA MINUTES (DEC. 12)

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AGAINST TEXAS, RAMS CAME UP BIG

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Freshman Marcus Santos-Silva (8 points, 6 rebounds) was one of several VCU “bigs” who impressed Tuesday.

By Andy Lohman

Tuesday night was big in every way.

The return of Head Coach Shaka Smart was big. The man who took the Rams to the Final Four was back in the house that Havoc built. As he walked out before player intros, his ovation was big. A fan base with a cathartic recognition of a former leader. But it was nothing compared to how big the noise would get.

The Siegel Center was ear-splittingly loud, a volume that felt like it was going to cause seismic activity.

“The fans were crazy tonight, unbelievable,” senior forward Justin Tillman said. “It definitely brought us a lot of energy.”

The crowd was big. The 105th consecutive sellout was recorded at 7,637, but it would have been believable at 10,000. The arena pulsated with every swell of action, a black and gold orchestra conducted by a manic Mike Rhoades, who urged Ram Nation to get loud whenever the Longhorns reached the free throw line.

The match-up was big. VCU is a young team looking to turn the corner, and had a shot at a signature win for an NCAA Tournament resume. Texas is as big of an athletic department as you can get. A Big 12 school, from the state where everything is bigger, with a nine-figure revenue mark.

Finally, the matchups were big. Texas forward Mohamed Bamba stands at 6-foot-11 and is a likely lottery pick in the NBA Draft. VCU’s big men were up to the challenge, fueling a big comeback in the second half. In just over eight minutes, the Rams erased a 57-38 Texas lead and took a 63-62 advantage with 3:52 to play.

The man that hit the go-ahead three-pointer was VCU’s 6-foot-7 forward, Khris Lane.

“Oh man, it was amazing,” Lane said of the crowd when his three went down. “I said something to myself, but I couldn’t even hear what I said to myself because it was that loud.”

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FROM THE BLOG: RAMS CELEBRATE 100TH SELLOUT IN OPENER

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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.

MEDIA MINUTES: OCT. 31 (MIKE RHOADES DEBUT)

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Basketball season is bearing down on us. Here’s VCU Coach Mike Rhoades in his debut weekly press conference to size up the current status of his team and to take a look at Friday’s exhibition with Virignia Union.

INSIDE A-10 MEN’S BASKETBALL MEDIA DAY

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Enjoy this look at Mike Rhoades’ and Justin Tillman’s trip to Atlantic 10 Conference Media Day in Washington, D.C.

VIDEO: BLACK & GOLD GAME

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RODRIGUEZ EYES NEW CHAPTER IN VCU RETURN

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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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TWO VIDEOS WORTH YOUR TIME

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VCU Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Rhoades spent three seasons at Rice University in Houston. He still owns a home there, and he and his family still have many friends in the city. It’s no surprise Rhoades has been heartbroken by the stories and images coming out of Houston, which has been ravaged by flooding produced by Hurricane Harvey. It’s one reason why Rhoades has begun mobilizing efforts to help out those in need in his former city. Learn more:

In lighter fare, JeQuan Lewis is preparing to chase his dream of playing in the NBA. He’ll be in camp with the Milwaukee Bucks this fall, fighting for a roster spot.

ALL RHOADES LEAD HOME

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rhoades-presserOn Friday, I figured I was going to have plenty of time to properly catalogue all the weeds in my lawn. Nope. I’ll just cut it short again and hope nobody notices.

There are whirlwinds, and there are whatever you want to call the last 48 hours here at VCU. Has a fan base ever experienced such a wild swing of emotions in such a short period of time? I’ll let you guys figure that out (The answer is no, by the way).

On Monday night, when the news broke, my first thought was, ‘We need to go get Mike Rhoades’. I figured that could be in a few days. I can’t rent a car in the amount of time it took Ed McLaughlin to fly to Houston and pick up Rhoades.

People want to know what they’re getting in Mike Rhoades. From my experiences, I’ll say this: I have not yet met a person with a negative thing to say about Mike Rhoades. He is, in fact, revered here, in Ashland, Eastern Pennsylvania, pretty much anywhere he’s spent enough time to get a cup of coffee. I find him to be as authentic as they come. A guy from a small town in coal country, he’s hard working and down-to-earth. He excels at forging relationships. One other thing, and this is important. Mike Rhoades lives for competition. He wants to win at everything. We’re in great hands, folks.

I can’t predict the future, but I get a sense that VCU and Richmond really mean something to Mike and his family. You could see that when Jodie Rhoades, his wife, was overcome with emotion Tuesday during Mike’s introductory pep rally…uh, I mean, press conference. You could see it when Mike spoke to his mom in the crowd. “We’ve been on this ride a long time, and the ride stops here, at VCU.” He told her.

During one of my first interviews with Mike back in 2009, he told me that he – then the head coach at Randolph-Macon – and Jodie used to spend their date nights here at the Siegel Center, watching the Rams. They might have to start going to the movies now.

RHOADES ON BLUE-COLLAR MENTALITY

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Great clip here from VCU Assistant Coach Mike Rhoades on the Rams’ coaching staff wearing blue collar work shirts last week. Considering Rhoades is a guy who once had his teeth knocked out in practice, you can feel pretty comfortable taking his word on these types of things.

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