WILL VEGAS SPUR GRAHAM TO NBA?

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CIb7jZCWoAA7wswTreveon Graham, the second-leading scorer in VCU Basketball history, is hoping to find a home in San Antonio, via Las Vegas.

Graham, who was not selected in Thursday’s NBA Draft, will play for the San Antonio Spurs NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas July 10-20. He hopes to follow a path to the similar to that of former Ram Troy Daniels, who was not drafted in 2013, but managed to garner the attention of teams while playing for Charlotte during the Las Vegas Summer League. Daniels, currently a member of the Charlotte Hornets, has also played for the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves.

It’s unclear if Graham will also play in either the Orlando or Utah summer leagues, although it is not uncommon for a player to compete for multiple organizations during summer league season.

Below is the Spurs’ Vegas schedule, which strangely does not include the Carrot Top show at Luxor. But there’s still time. Meanwhile, NBATV will broadcast tons of summer league action again this year. The network has not published a schedule beyond July 11, but expect most, if not all, of Graham’s games with the Spurs to be broadcast.

UPDATE: Juvonte Reddic has announced he’ll play for the Brooklyn Nets’ summer league team in Las Vegas. I’ve updated the schedule with Brooklyn’s games. Reddic spent last season playing for two different teams in Italy.

UPDATE #2: I can’t update this post quickly enough. Bradford Burgess, who has been playing professionally in Belgium and Italy the last few years, as signed on to the Miami Heat’s summer team. He will play in both Orlando and Las Vegas.

The schedule below has been updated. Again.

VCU IN THE NBA SUMMER LEAGUE (All times listed as EST)

ORLANDO
Saturday, July 4
Miami vs. Indiana, 9 a.m. – NBATV

Sunday, July 5
Miami vs. Brooklyn, 5 p.m. – NBATV

Monday, July 6
Miami vs. Detroit, 5 p.m. – NBATV

Wednesday, July 8
Miami vs. L.A. Clippers, 5 p.m. NBATV

Friday, July 10
Championship

LAS VEGAS
Saturday, July 11
New York vs. San Antonio (Thomas & Mack Center), 4:30 p.m. – NBATV
Brooklyn vs. Cleveland (Cox Pavilion), 10 p.m.
Miami vs. Utah (Thomas & Mack Center), 10:30 p.m. – NBATV

Sunday, July 12
Milwaukee vs. San Antonio (Thomas & Mack Center), 6:30 p.m. – NBATV

Monday, July 13
New Orleans vs. Brooklyn (Thomas & Mack Center), 4:30 p.m.
Miami vs. Denver (Cox Pavilion), 8 p.m.

Tuesday, July 14
Portland vs. San Antonio (Cox Pavilion), 3 p.m.
Brooklyn vs. Chicago (Cox Pavilion), 5 p.m.
Miami vs. Boston (Cox Pavilion), 7 p.m.

July 15-20
Playoffs

SENIOR SITDOWN (THE FUTURE’S SO BRIGHT, BRI’S GOTTA WEAR SHADES)

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We recently had the opportunity to sit down with graduating VCU seniors Treveon Graham, Briante Weber and Jarred Guest to shoot a sort of all-encompassing video that looks back on their careers, as well as to the future. You’re going to have to commit roughly the same amount of time you would into watching a “Big Bang Theory”, but it’s worth it. In the past, you’ve only gotten snippets of what these guys were like, but here, you get a feel for them as people as never before. Let Briante Weber entertain you one more time.

PORTLAND NOTES: RUSSELL OFFICIALLY CRAFTY, BROOKS BREAKS OUT FOR VCU

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Ohio State freshman D'Angelo Russell is averaging 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season.

Ohio State freshman D’Angelo Russell is averaging 19.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this season.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Much of the talk surrounding VCU’s NCAA Tournament Round of 64 match-up with Ohio State has centered on Buckeyes’ star guard D’Angelo Russell, and for good reason.

Russell, a 6-foot-5 freshman, was recently named All-America by the United States Basketball Writers Association. The Louisville, Kentucky native ranks first nationally among freshmen in scoring (19.3 ppg) and is third in assists (168). Should he declare this spring, Russell is likely a top-five NBA Draft pick. NBADraftExpress.com has him third in its most recent mock draft.

VCU’s game plan will likely dedicate a chunk of attention to slowing down Russell, who has shown little difficulty adjusting to college basketball. A deft ball handler, Russell has also hit 90 three-pointers this year and leads Ohio State in rebounding (5.6 rpg). But it’s his passing skills that have people talking. From one-handed, laser bounce feeds to eye-popping spin passes in traffic, Russell’s vision, and the ability to get the ball into small spaces makes him especially dangerous.

VCU’s Michael Gilmore can vouch for Russell’s skills. They were AAU teammates with Each1 Teach1 in Florida. Gilmore soon realized that Russell wasn’t like other point guards.

“There would be times [in the huddle] where he’d just yell at me, roll, roll, roll after I set screens for him because after a couple of times where I didn’t think I was open,” Gilmore said. “I started trusting him with it. He’s a very good passer.”

Gilmore also has first-hand knowledge of how Russell’s scoring and passing ability play off of each other.

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FIXED IN A SNAP; RAMS FULFILL PROMISE TO FALLEN STAR

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VCU senior Briante Weber celebrates after the Rams topped Dayton 71-65 for the Atlantic 10 Championship.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Amid the chaotic celebration, Briante Weber hobbled over to the ladder. With the help of his teammates, he ascended toward the rim for the first time in weeks, and snipped the last remaining loop of the net. With the snap of the scissors, he freed the net from the metal rim and officially cut VCU loose of its late-season quagmire.

Weber’s symbolic act punctuated a dizzying VCU sprint to its first Atlantic 10 Championship. The Rams, preseason favorites relegated to the No. 5 seed after losing six of their final 11 regular season games, shocked the league with four wins in four days to claim the title. The final victory came Sunday, as the Rams held off Dayton 71-65 in a thrilling A-10 Championship Game at Barclays Center.

At the final buzzer, Weber, his right knee immobilized following season-ending knee surgery, hopped to midcourt to celebrate before breaking down in tears as he was mobbed by teammates.

It capped a week that redefined VCU’s season. Last week, the Rams were a team struggling to find an identity in the long shadow cast by Weber’s Jan. 31 torn ACL. For four years he had been the engine of VCU’s high-energy brand of basketball and the emotional backbone of the program. But as abruptly as Weber’s career was cut tragically short, VCU found its championship form.

“Words really can’t explain how proud I am of these guys,” said Weber, the first player to win three A-10 Defensive Player of the Year awards. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster for us, when I went out with an injury, and then us winning, losing, everybody hopping off the bandwagon and so forth.

“But just know behind closed doors we had our talks and all our emotional stuff; when we step in between those lines, from March to the last bit of February, we kind of found ourselves again and that’s what we need to keep building on that right now.”

Weber’s loss was devastating to VCU, which was ranked 14th at the time. But Sunday’s victory – one that seemed improbable as recently as Wednesday – allowed the Rams fulfill a promise they made to their fallen point guard.

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A-10 CHAMPIONSHIP VIDEO ROUND-UP

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SECOND CHANCES, JOHNSON’S RETURN TO FORM FUEL SECOND SEASON

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Melvin Johnson hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and scored 16 points to help lift VCU past Fordham Thursday.

Melvin Johnson hit 4-of-7 three-pointers and scored 16 points to help lift VCU past Fordham Thursday.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – An unfortunate consequence of poor shooting is the tendency to worry about more poor shooting. The key to breaking out, Melvin Johnson believes, isn’t more thinking, but less.

Johnson, who has battled shooting slumps this season, looked confident and comfortable Thursday as he stroked 5-of-8 shots, including 4-of-7 from three, to help pull fifth-seeded VCU to a 63-57 win over 12th-seeded Fordham in the second round of the Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament at the Barclays Center.

In his last two games, Johnson is 7-of-13 from three. He finished with 16 points Thursday and hit a critical trey with 2:31 remaining as VCU kept a persistent Fordham at bay.

His revival comes at a good time for VCU, which is looking to break out of a shooting funk, and needs scoring from any player not named Treveon Graham. As a whole, the Rams (23-9) didn’t find their shooting stroke Thursday. VCU shot .301 (18-of-59) from the floor, a fact which kept Fordham (10-21) knocking at its door for 39 minutes. But Johnson and Graham ultimately provided just enough baskets and VCU was able to track down enough of its misses to secure the victory.

The Black & Gold grabbed 20 offensive rebounds and turned those into an 18-12 advantage in second chance points. It wasn’t pretty, but it was enough.

The win sets up a third meeting this season with rival Richmond Friday at 2:30 p.m. at Barclays.

Johnson, a Bronx native playing in front of friends and family, is VCU’s most prolific 3-point shooter. But when shots stopped falling for him earlier this season, it got to him. The more he obsessed over missed shots, the more he missed them. He says it took a fresh perspective to help the ball start finding the bottom of the basket.

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FORDHAM POSTGAME

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JUSTIN TILLMAN BLOCKED SHOT

RICHMOND POSTGAME

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RECENT TRIALS REVEAL VCU CHARACTER

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Treveon Graham finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds - his 20th career double-double - for VCU Wednesday.

Treveon Graham finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds – his 20th career double-double – for VCU Wednesday.

RICHMOND, Va. – At some point, late in regulation of Wednesday night’s 67-63 double overtime loss to Richmond, as Treveon Graham took the ball for the umpteenth time, his lungs likely burning (and not just from all the floating sweater vest fibers in the air), his legs probably feeling like Jell-O, I wondered when his body would just quit. Shut down. Go on strike. Possession after possession I watched as he slogged through the clogged paint, took abuse and readied for more.

And that was before he willed an improbable VCU comeback into existence by – I don’t even know what to call it anymore – Grahamagic?

What followed was about an hour of the most emotionally draining, mathematically unlikely and just plain crazy basketball I’ve witnessed while on the VCU dime.

Teetering on the edge of full-on collapse early in the second half, VCU rallied from 16 points down to force overtime. With 2:06 left, the Rams were still down eight and shooting a very comeback-unfriendly 30-something-or-other percent. But then a steal and a few free throws, and a three and another steal and an airball and another steal and a couple of missed Richmond free throws and then a 3-pointer so deep Graham wouldn’t try it in H-O-R-S-E and then a ShawnDre’ Jones prayer that agonizingly bounced three times on the rim after the buzzer….and boom. Overtime, just that simple.

Oh, but wait. In overtime, VCU takes an eventual three-point lead with seven seconds left, fouls Richmond with 4.1 on the clock and then watches as Richmond purposely misses the second free throw, gets a perfect deflection off VCU and then runs a great inbounds play to tie the game. Double overtime, just that simple.

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SAINT LOUIS NOTEBOOK; GRAHAM LOOKS SHARP AGAIN

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Senior Treveon Graham scored a team-best 16 points in Tuesday's win over Saint Louis.

Senior Treveon Graham scored a team-best 16 points in Tuesday’s win over Saint Louis.

RICHMOND, Va. – It’s unclear who had more spring in their step Tuesday, Treveon Graham or VCU fans after seeing the Rams’ star look sharp in a 74-54 rout of Saint Louis at the Verizon Wireless Arena at the Stuart C. Siegel Center.

Graham has been nursing a high ankle sprain, originally suffered Jan. 13 at Rhode Island and re-aggravated Feb. 4 at George Mason. The injury has cost Graham three games this season, and VCU has lost two of them.

It’s clear the ailment has affected Graham’s explosiveness of late, a source of concern for fans aware of his importance to this team, especially given the loss of Briante Weber two weeks ago.

But Graham looked much like his old self in Tuesday’s win. He scored VCU’s first eight points against the Billikens. He appeared to have good lift on his jumpers and out-jumped several other players for an early tip-in. Graham finished with a team-high 16 points and six rebounds.

“Yeah, I felt pretty good today,” Graham said afterwards. “Every day I’m getting better and better. I just wanted to come out and be aggressive. If I came out aggressive, I felt like my teammates would come [along].”

VCU Coach Shaka Smart assured people that his trained eyes also saw a more dynamic Graham Tuesday night.

“It’s a big lift he gave us, because our other guys were struggling to score early in the game. I thought tonight was the best that he’s moved since he sustained the injury. So that was good,” said Smart. “He and our athletic trainer have been working really hard around the clock with treatment and different modalities to work on that thing. Sometimes it’s frustrating because it doesn’t seem like it’s doing much, but I thought tonight it was a different bounce that he had and explosiveness.”

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