Last October, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams had so much unproven talent on their roster that even speculating about lineups and rotations was a waste of time, but by March, the team looked like a well oiled “HAVOC” machine. Here’s a look at the pieces of that machine.
A season in the shadow of greatness
Last week we recapped the accomplishments of VCU as a team in A season in the shadow of greatness: after the Final Four VCU finds success
Last October, the Virginia Commonwealth University Rams had so much unproven talent on their roster that even speculating about lineups and rotations was a waste of time; players like Briante Weber and Treveon Graham contributed in so many unexpected ways despite little preseason hype. At the same time, amid high expectations, Reco McCarter and Heath Houston failed to take the next step in their games.
After losing Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez, Brandon Rozzell, and Ed Nixon to graduation, the new-look Rams stumbled through the first few games of the season. By March, the team looked like a well oiled “HAVOC” machine.
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- 32.3 MPG, 13.4 PPG, 5 RPG
Bradford Burgess did it all; read about his storied career here.
- 31.2 MPG, 8.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 1.9 SPG
At the beginning of the season Coach Smart wrote “Darius=Team” and “Team=Darius” on a whiteboard. Successor to Eric Maynor and Joey Rodriguez, there were questions at the beginning of the season as to whether Theus could carry on VCU’s tradition of great point guards. Theus answered. His presence transformed the Rams on offense and defense. #10 also made a name for himself in clutch situations. Theus seemed to always have an answer late in the game–including the go ahead shot against Wichita State with 12 seconds remaining.
Looking Forward: If the CAA tournament is any indicator, next year’s squad will be Theus’s team. #10 is primed to have a fantastic senior campaign. If he can develop his 3-point shot and shoot 33% from range next season, the Rams offense will open up in ways not seen since Joey Rodriguez manned the 1 spot.
Highlight: Despite only scoring 21 points in the CAA tournament, Theus took home the Most Outstanding Player award. Only Eric Maynor (twice) and Dominic Jones have earned that honor before while wearing Black & Gold. Theus has ice in his veins and the ability to make everyone on the court better, both on offense and defense.
- 24.4 MPG, 10 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG
With the departure of Brandon Rozzell (781), Joey Rodriguez (69), Jamie Skeen (36), and Ed Nixon (31), the Rams needed a new 3-point threat to emerge and play alongside the established Bradford Burgess. Troy Daniels answered the call by setting VCU’s single season 3-point record at 94. According to Coach Smart, Daniels has always struggled to transfer his greatness in practice to games, but it appears #30 is over the hump.
Looking Forward: With the predicted reemergence of Rob Brandenberg, Daniels might start fewer games and play fewer minutes, but he will likely improve his 38.1% 3-point shooting and push his new VCU record even further.
Highlight: While the Rams have historically been a second half team, the Rams blew several large first-half leads this season. In the CAA tournament finals VCU led Drexel by 16 points at halftime. After a furious second half comeback by Drexel, Troy Daniels drained 4 straight free-throws in the final 19 seconds to seal the 59-56 victory.
- 2.8 MPG, 0.6 PPG, 0.3 RPG
VCU’s lone walk-on, David Hinton has never played significant minutes, but he has always shown the ability to impact the game in small spurts.
Looking Forward: Don’t expect Hinton’s minutes to increase next season, but he will still play a role for VCU. Every team needs those guys who just do their job and set an example.
Highlight: Since arriving at VCU, Hinton has studied boxing to improve his toughness, and it paid off against Wichita State in the NCAA tournament. Playing only five minutes, Hinton drew two key charges from Garrett Stutz. Hinton’s front-court defense against the extremely talented Shockers was important to the victory, and he boasted an impressive +6 points while on the court.
- 27.2 MPG, 10.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.3 SPG
Juvonte Reddic made the leap and successfully elevated his game during his Sophomore campaign. Even more so than Jamie Skeen or Larry Sanders, Reddic has the perfect combination of size and speed to thrive in Coach Smart’s system.
Looking Forward: One year from now, VCU could be sweating bullets over Reddic’s NBA decision. #15 has the body and speed to be an NBA power forward and his face-up game is pretty impressive. As VCU’s shooting improves next season, Reddic will have more room to operate, and he could easily be VCU’s leading scorer and rebounder while posting an impressive steal average. Don’t worry, Reddic has two seasons left and his best basketball is still ahead of him.
Highlight: It’s tough to remember a more dominant performance than Juvonte Reddic’s first half against William & Mary in the Siegel Center. At halftime Reddic had 19 points, five rebounds and six steals. Even more surprisingly, Reddic was the only player on either team without a foul, even after 37 minutes of action.
- 25.8 MPG, 9 PPG, 1.8 APG, 1.2 SPG
Entering the season Rob Brandenberg was expected to be one of the premier guards in the conference. As a freshman he showed exceptional flashes of brilliance. After struggling to find his shot (including an 0-10 performance against Georgia State), Brandenberg eventually lost his starting spot to Troy Daniels during the 16th game of the season. Brandenberg rebounded and scored double figures in five of the Rams’ last eight games.
Looking Forward: The sky is the limit for Rob Brandenberg, but he struggles with consistency. If he improves his jump shot while simultaneously committing himself to driving the lane more, Brandenberg could be the premier scorer in the CAA.
Highlight: Rob Brandenberg went off on Northeastern in CAA tournament. #11 played extremely well as he scored 19 points, grabbed four rebounds, dished out two assists, and grabbed two steals while committing no turnovers.
- 15.4 MPG, 3.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG
No player looks like he’s working harder when on the court than DJ Haley. Last offseason Haley bulked up his seven-foot frame which added much needed muscle to the Rams’ lineup.
Looking Forward: The more Haley learns to play like a seven footer, the more trouble he is going to cause other teams. Most teams, especially CAA teams, simply don’t have the size to handle Haley when he asserts himself. Next season could be Haley’s time to shine as a rebounder and a defensive force.
Highlight: In February, Haley posted his first career double-double. Against Towson he scored 10 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, snatched three steals, blocked two shots, and set up Coach Shaka Smart for one of the greatest sound bites ever with his fast break dunk. After the game Coach Smart commented, “sometimes I like to the let the big dogs get out and eat.”
- 18.8 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.1 SPG
Shaka Smart and Co. are always supportive and confident in their young players, but Weber was this season’s biggest surprise. A 2-star recruit from Chesapeake, #2 earned national attention for his energetic on-ball defense. Weber led the nation in steal percentage at 7.01%, and despite only playing 18.8 minutes per game he racked up 77 steals (12th nationally, 1st in the CAA). Jay Bilas named him co-best on-ball defender with Aaron Craft from Ohio State University. And Jay Bilas is far from VCU’s biggest fan.
Looking Forward: If Weber can continue to polish his offensive skills, he could end up the heir apparent to the coveted VCU point guard position. A freshman with incredible defense but developing offense is significantly better than the opposite. To make things even better, Weber has a shot at setting the NCAA career record for steals (385) and the VCU single season record (88 by Rolando Lamb).
Highlight: On December 29th (his 19th birthday) Weber scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished out four assists and snatched five steals in an overtime victory against Akron.
- 4 MPG, 0.9 PPG, 0.6 RPG
Even with the loss of Heath Houston to injury, Guest never saw the freshman minutes many thought he would. Despite needing to bulk-up, Guest proved to be a capable rebounder in his limited minutes. Guest also went 6-6 from the charity stripe against Hofstra. Talk about confidence! Not many freshmen, much less big men, can drain freebies like that during their first extended minutes in a college game. If history tells us anything, Coach Smart likes confidence.
Looking Forward: While on the court, Guest looked good despite his need to bulk up. If Guest spends enough time in the weight room this summer, he will be able to add valuable depth to the Rams’ front-court.
Highlight: Guest scored six points (6-6 FT) and grabbed six boards against Hofstra on January 2nd.
- 3.8 MPG, 0.6 PPG, 0.2 RPG
A former Auburn commit, Heath Houston has yet to realize his true potential. Coach Smart had high praise for his play during summer practices but a foot injury cut the red-shirt freshman’s preseason short. When Houston finally saw minutes, he never played enough to build momentum. A right knee injury that required surgery finally sidelined #24 for the final 18 games of the season.
Looking Forward: ESPN openly speculated that Houston has played his final minutes as a Ram. If #24 can recover from his surgery and is as talented as Coach Smart claims, Houston could easily becomes VCU’s backup at the power forward spot next season. Unfortunately for Houston it will be an uphill battle especially with incoming forwards Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tuoyo.
- 16.8 MPG, 7 PPG, 3.2 RPG
The youngest player on the team, Treveon Graham is one of the Rams’ most exciting youngsters. At 6′-5″ Graham looks like a drive-happy Bradford Burgess. Despite being the Rams’ 7th or 8th man, Graham scored double digits eight times, and his ability to draw fouls is unmatched on the team.
Looking Forward: Graham draws a very high six fouls per 40 minutes, but he only shoots 63% from the charity stripe. Last season a majority of the Rams’ practice time was spent on defense, but this summer Graham needs to work on his shot. If he can improve his free-throw shooting and 3-point shooting then he could become one of the Rams’ all-time great scorers. #21 has the skills to be a serious threat to crack the top-10 in VCU career scoring.
Highlight: In the CAA tournament VCU was tied 26-26 with Northeastern at halftime. #21 went off, scoring 16 points on 6-9 shooting (3-5 from 3-point range). Needless to say, the next three years are promising for Graham.
- 5.5 MPG, 0.8 PPG, 0.7 APG
The Ram’s highest ranked recruit in 2011, Okereafor will have to wait his turn at a program with a great tradition of point guards. #5 hasn’t proven himself as an incredible scorer but he is an extremely quick ball handler that should be able to help the Rams in the half-court offense–where they have the most room for improvement next season.
Looking Forward: Okereafor lacks the versatility of Darius Theus and Briante Weber, but he brings skills to the table that VCU’s other point guards lack. #5 probably won’t play significant minutes next season, but he will still be able to find ways to contribute while waiting his turn.
Highlight: Just like Graham, Okerafor had a strong game against Northeastern in the CAA tournament. He scored eight points, dished out two assists, and snatched a steal in 14 minutes of action.
- 1.5 MPG, 0.6 PPG, 0.2 SPG
Reco McCarter will likely go down as the most famous Ram to never play meaningful minutes for VCU. Even before he arrived on campus, his highlight reels from high-school (incredible dunks!) had all of Ram Nation excited. Unfortunately he only averaged 0.6 minutes and 0.2 points per game.
Looking Forward: Reco McCarter is a ridiculously athletic 6′-7″ small forward with a good jump shot and incredible dunking ability. Since he has already burned up his red-shirt, McCarter will likely transfer to a Division II school, and he will probably be very successful.
Highlight: McCarter played his final minutes as a Ram on February 8th against Towson University. During his career high four minutes, #25 grabbed a steal at mid-court and then slammed down his first and only dunk in Black & Gold.
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Best Offensive Player: Bradford Burgess
Burgess didn’t become VCU’s fourth most prolific scorer by being an offensive slouch. He did it by being a versatile undersized “power forward” with a killer 3-point shot and a very high free-throw percentage. Burgess wasn’t without his struggles as he leapt into the uncharted territory of being the lone senior for VCU, but #20 could still flat out score.
Best Defensive Player: Briante Weber
Briante Weber is probably the best on-ball defender to ever play at VCU. Despite only playing 18.8 minutes per game, Weber finished second on the single season steals list, only 11 steals short of Rolando Lamb’s record from 1984-85. Don’t worry, Weber has three more seasons to top that record.
Most Improved Player: Treveon Graham
Plenty of VCU players deserve this superlative, but Treveon Graham successfully fought through a difficult transition from high school into the college game. Entering the season, Treveon Graham was VCU’s most promising freshman scoring threat but he struggled to get the basketball in the hoop. In his first eight games as a Ram, Graham shot 3-23 (13%). Something changed against the University of Richmond on December 19th, and Graham shot an impressive 16-27 (59.3%) over his next four games–including a career high 18 points against UAB. After having one of the most anemic starts on the team, Graham finished strong and ended up as the team’s leader in points scored per minute at .417, a mere .002 ahead of Bradford Burgess.
Most Likely to be a Coach: Bradford Burgess
The most versatile Ram on the court, Burgess has thrived under two very different coaches. He still has his best basketball ahead of him, but if his post game demeanor or knowledge of the game is any indication, Burgess will one day turn in his sneakers for a pair of dress shoes and a whiteboard.
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The future is very bright for the VCU Rams. Shaka Smart and Co. are recruiting very effectively and every recruit brings something new to the team. Even with the loss of Bradford Burgess, the Rams will be great next year as players mature and as the roster adds Jordan Burgess, Mo Alie-Cox, and Justin Tuoyo.
The Black & Gold started to look pretty good in March 2012, but the young Rams still have yet to realize their true potential.
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- 3-pointers made during the 2010-2011 season. ↩
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