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Freshman Terry Larrier is averaging 6.7 points per game this season.

Terry Larrier knows a little something about transitions.

The 6-foot-7 VCU freshman’s current adjustment is to college curriculums and the rugged style of Division I college basketball. It’s a been a period of change for the lanky wing player, who also happens to be VCU’s highest-ranked recruit in a generation.

High school basketball and college basketball are the same in that their names both contain the word “basketball”. Other than that it’s like going from Mario Kart to NASCAR. It’s not just that college basketball players are more skilled – they are – it’s that most of them are genetic wonders.

But for Larrier, it’s not the first time he’s faced such difficult transition far from home. The last one helped shape him personally, academically and athletically, and made his college career possible.

Although he is, like teammate Melvin Johnson, a Bronx, New York kid to the bone, Larrier spent his final two years of high school at The Phelps Academy in Malvern, Pennsylvania, located in the rolling rural patches west of Philadelphia. It couldn’t have been more different than The Bronx.

According to the 2010 United States Census, more than 1.4 million people reside in The Bronx. For every one of the borough’s 42 inhabitable square miles, there are an average of 32,000 residents. In Malvern, there are about 3,000 people living in the entire town.

Set back a couple hundred yards off a country road, Phelps is a private, all boys boarding school. The Phelps website depicts student life through images of smiling teens in Hollister sweatshirts framed by verdant backdrops. There’s also a direct link for students to order their school uniforms, khakis and navy polo on most days, from Land’s End.

“It’s basically in the middle of nowhere,” Larrier says. “I went from being in classes with 32 kids to six, 10 kids. It was a big change and transition for me, but it was something I had to do. It was the best thing for me.”





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Sophomore Mo Alie-Cox provided 10 points and 8 rebounds, and played stout defense, in VCU's 72-48 win Tuesday night.

Sophomore Mo Alie-Cox provided 10 points and 8 rebounds, and played stout defense, in VCU’s 72-48 win Tuesday night.

RICHMOND, Va. – There was a moment at the end of the first half Tuesday night where Mike Lonergan appeared close to earning a technical foul. Referee Tim Kelly clearly gave the George Washington coach a second look before Lonergan, protesting contact on VCU’s final possession of the half, cooled down and retreated to his lockerroom.

On second thought, he probably wishes he had stuck to his guns and picked up a couple of technicals.

Instead, he returned to the floor for the second half and watched powerlessly as VCU pulverized his Colonials squad 72-48. VCU actually led by as many as 29, and George Washington shot an abysmal 19 percent (5-of-26) from the field in the period as the Rams rumbled to their 12th straight win.

On paper, it was a contest between the Atlantic 10 Conference’s preseason No. 1 (VCU) and No. 2 (GW) teams. On the hardwood, it was no contest at all.

The Rams haven’t lost since Dec. 6, but still found a way to open people’s eyes Tuesday night. It was a performance impressive in both because of who the Rams beat and how they did it. It was the type of game that spoke to how good this VCU team can be. VCU, which has played one of the toughest schedules in the country, didn’t need to justify its top-15 ranking, but the Rams sure looked every bit like a top-15 team anyway.



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Freshman forward Justin Tillman finished with a career-high 16 points Tuesday.

Freshman forward Justin Tillman finished with a career-high 16 points Tuesday.

RICHMOND, Va. – Justin Tillman provided the lasting memory of VCU’s 78-51 rout of Belmont Tuesday night at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Siegel Center, but there was certainly more to his performance than one play.

Tillman, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Detroit, turned in his most impressive game of the young season with 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including a pair of thunderous dunks. It was the second straight solid effort for Tillman, who is giving Coach Shaka Smart plenty of reasons to find him more minutes.

He came into Tuesday’s game averaging 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds, but in his last two contests, Tillman has averaged 12.0 points, while shooting 11-of-13 from the field. His emergence, combined with the continued growth of sophomore Mo Alie-Cox, give VCU a reason to be optimistic about replacing the production of Juvonte Reddic in the post.

For Tillman, Tuesday’s effort was the culmination of a solid 10-game stretch to begin his college career. While each of VCU’s four freshmen has given the Rams’ encouraging moments, Tillman has been the most consistent. Smart believes that’s because Tillman keeps it simple.

“There is no pretense to Justin. There’s no nonsense. There’s no worrying about things that don’t matter,” Smart said. “He just plays, tries to follow the plan. If he makes a mistake, he’s hard on himself, but he doesn’t lose confidence. He just does what you want him to do. I think for that reason, in addition to his physical, gifts he’s going to be a terrific player here.”

Following Saturday’s double-overtime win over Northern Iowa, a game in which Tillman scored eight points, Smart said that the Detroit native had made the quickest adjustment from high school to college basketball of VCU’s touted recruiting class. It appears there are reasons for that. Despite his relative youth, Tillman says his approach is pretty straightforward.



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Senior Treveon Graham is averaging a team-leading 17.4 points per game.

Senior Treveon Graham is averaging a team-leading 17.4 points per game.

RICHMOND, Va. –VCU is going to need all the help it can get to beat No. 23 Northern Iowa Saturday night. The Panthers (9-0) roll into Richmond unbeaten and likely riding a wave of confidence. The Panthers also own a 77-68 win over VCU last season in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

“I think that Northern Iowa is playing better than they were last year…in fact, I know they are,” said VCU Coach Shaka Smart. “We’re certainly going to need to play better than we did last year.”

To beat the Panthers, VCU will likely need to utilize most, if not all of the offensive resources at its disposal. The Rams’ offense has been nearly as prolific as last year, but less balanced. Saturday, and moving forward, VCU Coach Shaka Smart knows the Rams will be better off if they can find scoring punch outside of senior Treveon Graham and junior Melvin Johnson, who are averaging a combined 34.5 points per game. That duo has accounted for 46 percent of VCU’s points this season. That’s due in part to Johnson and Graham’s outstanding play, but also because the Rams haven’t yet seen a reliable third option emerge.

Last year, five Rams averaged 9.4 points per game or better. Right now, only Graham and Johnson meet that threshold. There’s a steep drop-off between Johnson, VCU’s second-leading scorer (16.9 ppg) and Jordan Burgess, the Rams’ third-best scoring option (8.5 ppg) at this point.



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Terry Larrier scored 21 points in Thursday's win. He is the first VCU freshman to score 20-plus since 2011.

Terry Larrier scored 21 points in Thursday’s win. He is the first VCU freshman to score 20-plus since 2011.

RICHMOND, Va. – By the time Terry Larrier scored his first points Thursday, VCU had pretty much already smothered any hope Maryland Eastern Shore had of an upset bid.

But Larrier, and VCU’s other freshmen, kept flying around the court, making plays, and provided himself with a boost of confidence in an otherwise lob-sided affair. The Rams won in a 106-66 landslide, cracking the 100-point barrier for the first time since Jan. 2, 2013, but it wasn’t even really that close. All 14 Rams played, and no VCU starter was on the floor for more than 15 minutes. Most of the night, UMES faced a mish-mash of Frankenstein lineups.

However, Thursday was about more than padding stats. Larrier scored a game-high 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting, including 4-of-7 from 3-point range, and became the first VCU freshman to score more than 20 points in a game since Rob Brandenberg dropped 23 against Georgia State on Jan. 19, 2011.

Larrier’s sharpshooting was a welcome sight. VCU’s highest-rated recruit since Kendrick Warren, Larrier was 3-of-14 from the field in VCU’s first two games, including 1-of-9 from three. If you (unfairly, perhaps) lump in VCU’s exhibition game with Cal (Pa.), the Bronx native was 2-of-13 from long distance as a Ram.

But Thursday, Larrier’s stroke appeared more fluid as the game wore down and shots continued to fall. Maryland Eastern Shore is in the midst of a total rebuild and won just six games last year, but despite an obviously overmatched opponent, Larrier was happy to find his stroke.

“It definitely felt good, just getting it going, getting my confidence up. It felt real good,” Larrier said afterwards.

Larrier, a 6-foot-8, 185-pound wing, has been searching for a comfort level as he negotiates the faster, more physical style of play, as well as attempts to nestle into a role on a team replete with scorers. He certainly appeared to take a step in the right direction against the Hawks.

“Coming to college, it’s a totally different game,” Larrier said. “Guys are much bigger, faster, so I’ve still got to get accustomed to it. My confidence right now, my confidence is at a good level, but it needs to keep going up.”



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Melvin Johnson (center) led all scorers with 26 points in Sunday's scrimmage.

Melvin Johnson (center) led all scorers with 26 points in Sunday’s scrimmage.

RICHMOND, Va. – It certainly didn’t feel like a scrimmage, what with the stands full of black and gold-clad fans, the pep band in mid-season, bar-raising form, and players crashing into the benches for loose balls.

VCU Coach Shaka Smart put his 2014-15 team on display Sunday night in the annual intra-squad Black and Gold Scrimmage at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center. A crowd of 4,855 poured in to have a look, and they likely came away with plenty to talk about – and that’s without even talking about the basketball. It was an event with regular-season appeal, two weeks early.

On the floor, fans were treated to an up-and-down pace and some new faces, as well as a few familiar players who were anything but old hat.

Here are a few takeaways from the game, a 73-63 win for the Gold team, led by JeQuan Lewis and Briante Weber.

1-VCU fans are ridiculous in the best way possible. Much was made of last year’s Black and Gold Scrimmage audience of nearly 3,200. That’s pretty impressive for a intra-squad scrimmage. The first two schools I worked at in college athletics would’ve changed their mascots to the Fightin’ CPAs for a REGULAR SEASON crowd of 3,200 at one of their games. But 4,800? Are you serious? That’s better than the average attendance of seven Atlantic 10 Conference schools last year and just a shade below George Mason’s average crowd from 2013-14.



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Doug Brooks dribbles during last year's Black & Gold Scrimmage.

Doug Brooks dribbles during last year’s Black & Gold Scrimmage.

Up until now, you either needed CIA-level clearance from Shaka Smart or a grappling hook and a glass cutter to see the 2014-15 VCU Men’s Basketball team in action.

That changes on Sunday, Oct. 26 when VCU opens up the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center for the Black and Gold Game, a sort-of annual intrasquad scrimmage open to the public.

Here are six things to look for.

1-THE NEW GUYS: Remember the last time an incoming VCU recruiting class generated as much attention as this year’s freshman class? Yeah, me neither. The quartet of Terry Larrier, Justin Tillman, Michael Gilmore and Johnny Williams has received plenty of attention, and for good reason. ESPN ranked this group one of the 15 best in the country, so forgive us if we’re a little excited. Like, Briante Weber excited. Is Larrier rotation ready? Can Gilmore and Tillman solidify VCU’s frontcourt? Can Johnny Williams shoulder some of the point guard duties this season? The Black and Gold Game won’t answer those questions, but it’ll help us begin to form a picture.

2-MICROWAVE MELVIN: According to this recent feature in the Richmond Times-Dispatch, junior guard Melvin Johnson, who plays style of made-for-TV basketball, put some serious hours in at Franklin Street Gym this summer. Johnson says he was hoisting up about 500 three-pointers on most days, sometimes more. The Rams will need to replace the scoring punch of Juvonte Reddic and Rob Brandenberg. Johnson is a safe bet to pick up some of that slack.

3-OVERREACTIONS: Hey kids. I know none of us like to talk about this, but sometimes we tend to overemphasize the importance of things like an intra-squad scrimmage in October. Just because somebody blows up in an exhibition is no guarantee of a big season. Sure, Melvin Johnson hit five 3-pointers in last year’s Black and Gold Scrimmage, but I also gushed over Terrance Shannon’s heady performance and expected big things out of the Florida State transfer. While Shannon certainly provided some big plays for the Rams – plus one of the cooler put-back dunks I’ve ever seen – he never got entirely comfortable. I also loved Jairus Lyes quickness and playmaking in last year’s game, but he never could wrestle many minutes away from Briante Weber or JeQuan Lewis. Let the scrimmage serve as a piece of the bigger picture, not a predictor of greatness.



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Shaka Smart is set to open his sixth season as VCU coach.

Shaka Smart is set to open his sixth season as VCU coach.

RICHMOND, Va. – Shaka Smart understands the hype around his freshman class. He did recruit Justin Tillman, Jonathan Williams, Michael Gilmore and Terry Larrier, after all. But he’s also seen enough freshmen struggle to know that caution is often the best path.

“We have four freshmen who have done a really nice job since they got here in June,” Smart said Wednesday. “Right now they’re going through the typical freshman fall ups and downs and transitioning to getting physically ready for real college practice and the competition that comes with that every day.”

Smart will get a closer look at his freshman class’ transition soon. The Rams kick off full team practices Friday, six weeks prior to their season-opener on Nov. 14 against Tennessee in Annapolis.

No VCU recruiting class has garnered as much attention as this far-reaching quartet, which Smart and his staff tapped from Detroit (Tillman), New York (Larrier), Jacksonville (Gilmore) and Richmond (Williams). ESPN rated the class No. 14 in the country last year. Larrier, Gilmore and Tillman were all ranked in ESPN’s Top 100 players.

Larrier has received the bulk of the preseason hype. A consensus four-star and top-50 recruit, Larrier’s choice of VCU over UConn was seen by many as a coup for the Rams. A 6-foot-8 guard, Larrier possesses an advanced offensive game, as well as the length Smart covets in his high-energy, full court press.

“He’s going to help us a lot this year,” Smart said. “I think he’s going to have a big role. I would say similar to a Treveon Graham, a Melvin Johnson did as freshmen. Maybe a little bit more if he can put it together. It’s always interesting to see how freshmen are able to deal with everything that goes into being a freshman, and he’s just getting started with that.”




I don’t post a lot of mix tapes and dunk videos because they’re so overblown and generally of little use in actually evaluating a player’s on-court ability. You may have noticed that there are more than a few Division I basketball players that can dunk.

With all that get-off-my-lawn bluster aside, it’s hard not to enjoy watching this dunk from incoming four-star recruit Terry Larrier. Don’t project a career arc when you watch this. Just enjoy it for what it is. That doesn’t mean you should refrain from cooking up Terry Larrier nicknames. The season will be here before you know it.


In other news, it is now completely impossible to dislike Kevin Durant. Last night, Durant gave probably the best MVP award acceptance speech ever. The best part is when Durant addresses his mom directly (about 2:55 mark). Watch it.

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