In the world of collegiate basketball official practices started today. All over the country coaches are thinking about the roles that need to be filled on their teams for the upcoming season. “I love the makeup of this team,” said Anthony Grant, head coach of Virginia Commonwealth University’s men’s basketball team. Will this year’s Rams squad be […]
In the world of collegiate basketball official practices started today. All over the country coaches are thinking about the roles that need to be filled on their teams for the upcoming season.
“I love the makeup of this team,” said Anthony Grant, head coach of Virginia Commonwealth University’s men’s basketball team.
Will this year’s Rams squad be as good as last season’s 24-8 group? Better?
Without hesitation Grant, 42, said, “I don’t worry about last year.”
This year Grant got a jump on some of the coaches of teams he will face during the Rams 2008-09 season. The VCU team took a trip to the Bahamas in August — such trips are allowed by the NCAA every four years — which allowed the team to practice for 10 days and play three exhibition games (they won all three easily), so Grant has already seen his players on the floor, acting as a team.
Other than senior guard Eric Maynor, 6-3, 175, junior power forward Kirill Pishchalnikov, 6-8, 248, and junior small forward T.J. Gwynn, 6-4, 200, the other eight players are all sophomores or freshmen.
So, other than Maynor, the returning Colonial Athletic Association’s Player of the Year, it’s hard to say today which players will be on the floor more than 25 or 30 minutes a game when the season gets underway.
Grant said he will begin practices with various segments on skill development. “They will be running from Day One.”
After mentioning that he has a brother who has lived in Richmond for 20 years, the Miami native had some nice things to say about this city, citing the “quality of life” here.
At this point, three weeks before the Virginia Union exhibition at the Siegel Center (Nov. 7), the coach said he isn‘t concerned with any team or individual the Rams will be facing. “At this point, my main focus is us.”
After a second exhibition game, Virginia State on Nov. 12, the season will get underway on Nov. 16, when The Citadel will visit VCU. In addition to their CAA schedule, among the schools the Rams will play this year are: Rhode Island, East Carolina, Oklahoma, Hampton, New Mexico, Western Michigan and Richmond.
In addition to Maynor, Gwynn and Pishchalnikov, returning players are: sophomore forward Larry Sanders, 6-10, 220; sophomore guard Brandon Rozzell, 6-2, 180; sophomore guard Gerard Smith, 5-10, 170; sophomore guard Joey Rodriguez, 5-10, 170; sophomore forward Lance Kearse, 6-6, 232; sophomore forward Mick Brown, 6-4, 210; sophomore guard Ed Nixon, 6-4, 195.
The freshmen are: forward Terrance Saintil, 6-8, 230; guard Bradford Burgess (Benedictine High), 6-5, 207; forward David Hinton, 6-8, 217.
The Rams’ 52 wins under Grant are the most the university has ever won in consecutive seasons. Grant has surprised some basketball fans and pundits by refusing to chase other jobs, after so much success in his first two years at VCU. Maybe he’s partial to Richmond, or maybe Grant is just determined to take the W. Broad St.-based program to yet greater heights, before he moves on.
To put it plainly, this is a man who likes the job he has. “I try to learn something every day,” said Grant, “I’ve got to get better.”
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– Words and photos by F.T. Rea