WHAT A TIME TO BRI ALIVE

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The soon-to-be Disney story that is Briante Weber’s basketball career continues to gain momentum. The former VCU Minister of Defense is busy blowing up ball handlers in the NBA Summer League with the Miami Heat.

It was always understood that Weber’s offense would need time to develop, and his 40-percent shooting in eight summer league contests doesn’t dispel that notion, but he’s looking more comfortable all the time. On Wednesday, Weber dropped in 18 points, including a pair of 3-pointers. Weber also appears to be getting a handle on his role as a facilitator at the point.

On the defensive side of the ball, he’s Briante “Bleeping” Weber, G.O.A.T, esq. He’s averaging 4.3 steals per game combined in the Orlando and Las Vegas Summer Leagues, including two 6-steal contests and one 5-swipe game. In one game, Weber scored nine points, grabbed 10 rebounds, dished out six assists and ripped six steals.

In all, Weber is averaging 8.8 points, 4.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game.

Weber is one of four VCU alums playing in NBA Summer Leagues. Treveon Graham shredded the Orlando Summer League with the Magic’s White squad. The second-leading scorer in VCU history averaged 16.0 points, while shooting .558 from the floor in five games. Graham is a member of Utah’s Las Vegas Summer League team, but hasn’t received much in the way of minutes. We’ll conduct a full investigation on behalf of Ram Nation shortly.

Melvin Johnson is playing with Houston in Las Vegas. He’s appeared in one game so far for eight minutes. He knocked down one 3-pointer in that contest.

Juvonte Reddic, meanwhile, has appeared in three games for the NBA D-League Select squad. He’s averaging 2.7 points and scored six Wednesday in a loss to Philadelphia.

VIDEO: CATCHING UP WITH TROY DANIELS

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Hi Troy!

CANDY BARS, GOLFING FOR DOLLARS & HOOPS NUGGETS

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It's a good idea to keep these away from me.

It’s a good idea to keep these away from me.

I don’t spend much time talking about fundraising on here, mostly because I’ve never been very good at it. I once ate $18 worth of Caramellos, about half my inventory, that I was supposed to sell for Pony League baseball. I had to mow my grandmother’s lawn to pay myself back. I learned two things from the experience. No. 1, Caramellos are delicious. No. 2…what was I talking about?

Moving on. Thankfully, there are plenty of people in and around VCU Athletics who make sure we have the resources necessary to compete and provide an all-around excellent student-athlete experience. In recent years, a group of women close to the program has stepped up with an effort to carry the torch for women’s athletics here at VCU.

The annual VCU Women’s Golf Tournament, now in its second year, is a product of their efforts. In just two years, the tournament has become one of VCU’s largest fundraisers. Tremendous effort.

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Meanwhile, we’ve reached what is basically the midpoint for fall sports, and a few programs are starting to find themselves.

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NBA TRAINING CAMPS OPEN

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Troy Daniels aims for an expanded role in Charlotte this season.

Troy Daniels aims for an expanded role in Charlotte this season.

As of Tuesday, all NBA training camps had opened, which means a couple of former VCU stars are back to work.

For Troy Daniels, training camp won’t be so much about making the Charlotte Hornets’ roster as it is convincing Coach Steve Clifford to expand his role. Daniels, who was traded twice last season, arrived in Charlotte in February and saw action in just 11 games with the team. In his first six weeks with the Hornets, Daniels played in just four games. It wasn’t until the final weeks of the season that Clifford finally called Daniels’ number. Daniels averaged about 26 minutes in the Hornets last four games of the season and knocked down 12-of-26 three-point field goals during that stretch. Daniels topped 15 points three times during that stretch, including a 24-point effort to end the year.

During an interview this summer, Clifford said Daniels would see more action, but how much remains unclear. It’s worth noting the Hornets finished last in the NBA in 3-point shooting (.318) last season. I’m sure Clifford has noticed.

Daniels has been limited early in camp by a strained hamstring, but it’s not expected to linger.

Meanwhile, here’s Troy’s face:

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JAZZ DEAL PROVIDES INTRIGUING OPPORTUNITY FOR TREVEON GRAHAM

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Treveon Graham averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season.

Treveon Graham averaged 16.2 points and 7.1 rebounds per game last season.

The Freight Train is ready to chug across the Great Salt Lake.

The Utah Jazz officially announced the signing of Treveon Graham Monday. Terms were not disclosed, but Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders and others are reporting Graham’s deal as a partially guaranteed 3-year contract.

Graham, who was not selected in the NBA Draft in June, played for the San Antonio Spurs in the Utah and Las Vegas summer leagues and averaged 7.8 points per game. Graham was said to be receiving interest from a handful of teams following his summer league stint and had been weighing his options.

This deal is an intriguing one, and could pay off for Graham. The Jazz currently have 13 players signed to guaranteed contracts for 2015-16. That includes injured point guard Dante Exum, who is expected to miss the entire 2015-16 campaign.

Source: RealGM.com

Source: RealGM.com

Graham will most likely try to win a spot at shooting guard, but could also play small forward in small lineups. With that in mind, it’s important to note the contracts of Elijah Millsap (who shot 34 percent from the field last season) and Chris Johnson are currently non-guaranteed.

NBA rosters are limited to 15 players in total, although only 13 can be active on a given night. Teams are allowed to carry 20 players during training camp and can then allocate four (up from three in previous years) cut players to their D-League affiliates. While teams do not retain exclusive rights, and can be signed by any NBA team, it does keep allocated players out of the D-League draft and allows teams to place them with their affiliate. Utah, in case you were wondering, is affiliated with the Idaho Stampeders in Boise. The Houston Rockets developed Troy Daniels in this very same manner.

By joining the Jazz for training camp, Graham has given himself an excellent chance to remain under the team’s umbrella. Even if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, there’s a very good chance the Jazz will place him in Idaho and give him a chance to develop.

Seven former VCU players have appeared in an NBA game.

BRIANTE WEBER EYES A NEW BEGINNING

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Briante Weber, VCU's all-time leader in steals and a three-time A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, continues to rehab a right knee injury.

Briante Weber, VCU’s all-time leader in steals and a three-time A-10 Defensive Player of the Year, continues to rehab a right knee injury.

Sometimes we don’t know how good we have it. Briante Weber flew around the basketball court in a VCU uniform for nearly four years, displaying a unique combination of speed, guile, explosiveness and enthusiasm I doubt we’ll ever see again. As much as we cheered his greatness, it was difficult to embrace it to the degree it deserved. That all changed on Jan. 31, when Weber tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus late in a game against Richmond. Weber’s brilliant career was over in a blink. He was 12 steals shy of breaking the NCAA career mark.

VCU overcame its post-Weber malaise to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship. The sight of a jubilant Weber – who continued to dress in uniform – ditching his crutches to hop to center court to celebrate reduced even some of the most iron-jawed VCU fans to misty-eyed messes.

In the months since, Weber has looked to resume his basketball career. Once an intriguing NBA prospect, Weber is fully immersed in the rehabilitation process. Weber is now more than five months removed from surgery and has begun playing in pickup games.

We sat down with Weber for an extended interview for the first time since his injury to find out his thoughts on his injury and the road back to playing Superman-like “Bri-fense”.

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Weber says a number of NBA teams have been keeping tabs on him (which I can independently confirm). He has signed with an agent and says he’ll be spending much of the coming weeks working out in California. Weber hopes to earn a tryout or invitation to an NBA training camp and is confident he’ll at least play in the NBA D-League this season.

 

WHAT’S BREWING FOR GRAHAM, DYKSTRA?

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Former VCU shortstop Vimael Machin is playing for South Bend, the Chicago Cubs' 'A' affiliate in the Midwest League.

Former VCU shortstop Vimael Machin is playing for South Bend, the Chicago Cubs’ ‘A’ affiliate in the Midwest League.

VCU Athletics’ Mike Voyack had an opportunity to catch up with Treveon Graham recently, which isn’t easy, considering how well Graham moves for a man of his size. No matter, Voyack, camera in tow, wrangled Graham for an interview to update us on his pro prospects. Graham, you’ll remember, is coming off a solid performance with the San Antonio Spurs’ summer league teams in Utah and Las Vegas. Graham averaged 7.8 points and shot 46 percent for the Spurs in 10 games overall. From the sound of it, Graham will have options, and you shouldn’t be surprised if he ends up in an NBA training camp this fall.

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Meanwhile, it’s been somewhat of a breakout year for former VCU Soccer star and all-around good guy Andrew Dykstra. After years of bouncing around the MLS in Chicago and feeder leagues like the USL, Dykstra appears to have found comfort for D.C. United. Injuries have thrust him into a regular starting role and he’s been making the best of it. To wit, Dykstra was recently nominated for MLS “Save of the Week” for the third time (vote here).

D.C. United (12-7-5) currently sits in first place in the MLS’ Eastern Conference. The United are 3-3-1 with Dykstra in goal.

When he’s not busy making great saves, Dykstra is making great brews. Last year, D.C. Brau invited Dykstra to tour its brewery, and recently, D.C. United shared this video of Dykstra’s home brew operation.

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In baseball news, it appears that Vimael Machin, one of the stars of VCU’s recent NCAA Super Regional run, is settling in at the pro level. A 10th-round selection of the Chicago Cubs organization, Machin is currently playing for South Bend, the Cubs’ A-ball affiliate. Although Machin is still waiting for his signature swing to come around at the plate, he’s still flashing the glove.

Machin has already played third, short and second in his 21-game pro stint. He is hitting .186 in 80 at-bats.

RAMS GET HOT IN NBA SUMMER LEAGUES

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VCU alum Troy Daniels led Charlotte with 16 points and 14 rebounds Tuesday.

VCU alum Troy Daniels led Charlotte with 16 points and 14 rebounds Tuesday.

Two former VCU standouts tore it up in NBA Summer League action Tuesday. As if we had any doubt. You and I know what guys like Troy Daniels and Treveon Graham can do on the basketball court, but it’s nice for them to remind NBA eyeballs from time-t0-time.

Daniels and Graham are in very different situations. Daniels, who is open more often than 7-Eleven, has a guaranteed contract for this season and has a fairly secure roster spot. During Tuesday’s game with the Nets, Hornets’ GM Rich Cho said that Daniels would get minutes this season. Graham, on the other hand, is trying to channel his inner Troy Daniels by going from undrafted rookie to NBA veteran. He certainly helped himself Tuesday.

Daniels, who never averaged more than 3.3 rebounds per game in his VCU career, grabbed 14 caroms against the Nets in Orlando and scored 16 points in a 64-55 win. You might not have expected that, but you certainly counted on Daniels to light it up from 3-point land, and he did, knocking down 4-of-6 triples on the way to a 16-point effort.

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In three summer league games, Daniels is averaging a team-best 15.7 points, while shooting a robust 55 percent (11-of-20) from three. He’s also pulling down 7.7 rebounds per game, which is, if you don’t mind me saying, very Treveon Graham-like. Here’s Daniels’ postgame interview.

Just because, here’s a Troy Daniels highlight mix. Spoiler alert: copious amounts of 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, Graham, playing for the Spurs in the Utah Summer League, got busy Tuesday against the Jazz with 17 points in 21 minutes of burn. In two summer league games, Graham is averaging 10.5 points, while shooting 64 percent (7-of-11) from the field.

San Antonio already has a deep roster, especially with the additions of LaMarcus Aldridge and David West, but Graham certainly has the kind of attributes that seem to work in that organization. Right now, he’s trying to convince the Spurs that he either deserves a spot on the team as the third shooting guard behind Danny Green and Manu Ginobili (both established) or that he can hold his own as an undersized small forward amid a group that includes Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson and Reggie Williams. Of that SF group, only Leonard is a lock. Marco Belinelli’s departure to Sacramento certainly opens the door a crack. Also, food for thought, this is probably Ginobili’s last season.

Graham and the Spurs will play again Thursday at 7 p.m. EST against the Celtics. That game will be broadcast on NBA TV.

 

 

TALE OF THREE CITIES; DANIELS ON THE MOVE IN 2ND NBA SEASON

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VCU alum Troy Daniels is averaging 2.7 points and shooting .317 from 3-point range this season.

VCU alum Troy Daniels is averaging 2.7 points and shooting .317 from 3-point range this season.

Troy Daniels is technically a Houston resident – he has a town home there – but he’s officially been living out of a suitcase the past couple of months.

It’s been a whirlwind second NBA season for the former VCU sharpshooter. Daniels, briefly a playoff hero for the Houston Rockets last season, has been traded twice since December. Despite the shuffling of zip codes, Daniels is still happy to be wearing in NBA uniform, regardless of where the team is located.

“It’s fun to even be considered by an NBA team, and I just appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given,” he says.

For now, and presumably for the near future, he’s a Charlotte Hornet, but he also thought he’d be a Houston Rocket for a while, until the team dealt him to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Dec. 19. Before he’d even had time to pick out a favorite grocery store, he and teammate Mo Williams were traded to Charlotte on Feb 10.

It’s actually Daniels’ second tour of duty with the Hornets. Daniels played for the organization’s summer league team and earned a training camp invite as an undrafted free agent in 2013.

The irony is that Charlotte, then known as the Bobcats, cut Daniels, which actually may have helped launch his NBA career. He was quickly signed by Houston, which stashed him with its Rio Grande D-League team. Daniels flourished in Rio Grande’s revolutionary, 3-point-heavy system, as the Roanoke, Virginia native set a D-League single-season record for threes.

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VCU RAMS IN THE PROS: MEN’S BASKETBALL

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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.

NBA

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.

OVERSEAS

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.

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