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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WHERE ARE THEY NOW? : NICK GEORGE

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Nick George starred for VCU from 2002-06 and ranks 10th in school history with 1,546 points.

Nick George starred for VCU from 2002-06 and ranks 10th in school history with 1,546 points.

By Chris Cullum – @chris21cullum

It’s no stretch to say that VCU recruits student-athletes from all over the world. Just look at a roster for any given sport and, more often than not, you’ll see an athlete that came from abroad to be a VCU Ram.

To watch international athletes competing alongside local recruits on the field for the Rams is an undeniably enjoyable part of college athletics.

Ideally, if these athletes decide to return home once their collegiate days are done, they have forged a strong enough bond with VCU to take what they’ve experienced here and pass it on to those around them, wherever on the globe that may be.

Enter former Ram basketball player Nick George.

George, a native of Manchester, England, enjoyed great success at VCU. He ranks in the top-10 in career points and rebounds and was a two-time All-CAA First Team honoree. In 2003, he was voted CAA Rookie of the Year, and in 2004, he helped lift VCU to a CAA Championship and the school’s first NCAA Tournament appearance in eight years.

Following his VCU career, George worked out for several NBA teams and participated in the NBA’s Summer League with the Golden State Warriors. Halfway through camp, however, he got a call for an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up: a 3-year contract offer from an Italian team, Universo Treviso Basket.

Despite his successful career as a Ram, George admitted that his game didn’t translate right away to the style of play used overseas.

“It took me awhile to adjust to the European game,” said George. “My first year was a big adjustment period. What you’re taught in the States is completely different from the European game.

“I guess it’s just the style of play. It’s a very technical game, there’s so much attention to detail. For example, I used to take a very huge first step, but once I got overseas they taught me to dribble the ball first and then attack the basket. Just small details in the style of play.”

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RAMS IN THE PROS: SANDERS SURGES

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Former Ram Larry Sanders (center) is averaging 8.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game this season.

Former Ram Larry Sanders (center) is averaging 8.0 points, 8.4 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game this season.

It looks like Larry Sanders is starting to figure out this NBA thing.

The 24-year-old former VCU star and current Milwaukee Buck is enjoying a breakout season. Selected 15th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, Sanders is beginning to deliver on the promise Milwaukee saw on film and in workouts.

Through a quarter of the season, the 6-foot-11, 235-pound center was averaging career-highs of 8.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Sanders is shooting 54 percent from the floor, and as of this writing, his 3.0 blocks per game average was tied for the league lead.

Last season, Sanders averaged just 3.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. But a strong preseason and training camp earned him increased playing time from Bucks’ Coach Scott Skiles. Sanders responded with 10 points and seven rebounds in an opening-night victory over the Boston Celtics.

On Nov. 30, Sanders recorded his first career triple-double with 10 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in a loss at Minnesota. His 10 blocks tied the franchise record, set by Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Abdul-Jabbar later took to Twitter to congratulate Sanders.

Sanders followed with 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks against the Celtics the next night.

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TURNING POINT: THE MICHAEL DOLES GAME

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VCU averaged a Verizon Wireless Arena-record 6,645 fans per home game in 2010-11.

Mike Litos relays a fond, albeit embarrassing memory from his freshman year at VCU. It was 1986, J.D. Barnett had already packed up and left for Tulsa. Although they did not know it at the time, the Rams were sliding into an extended period of mediocrity. Like Haley’s Comet, the program would emerge to win a conference title in 1996 before heading back into another orbit of so-so basketball around the sun, or something like that.

Litos grew up on Tobacco Road, where basketball is religion and your affiliation with Duke or North Carolina (no offense, N.C. State) is akin to being a Hatfield or a McCoy. Schools always packed the house and you had to get to the game at least an hour ahead of time to get a seat in the student section.

Those experiences are what caused Litos to convince his roommate and a couple of other guys to catch the first bus down to the Richmond Coliseum for the Rams’ home-opener that season. After much prodding, they relented.

“When we got there,” he says sheepishly. “We joined the other four students in the building in the student section.”

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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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WEDNESDAY, ADDAMS

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First and foremost, let’s plug tonight’s LIVE BLOG. Drop by to catch up on all the action from tonight’s VCU-William & Mary contest, as well as what I ate for dinner and my thoughts on the plight of the duck-billed platypus.

Secondmost, um, if that’s a word. On Facebook yesterday, I posted the trivia question: Which Ram owns the highest scoring performance against William & Mary in VCU history?

ANSWER: Nick George, who dropped a career-high 36 points on the Tribe on Feb. 23, 2005 in a 91-69 rout at the Siegel Center. Another interesting note. VCU recorded 29 assists that night. That’s a ton. Nobody got the right answer, so you guys win nothing. Thanks for playing. Better luck next time.

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