What to Expect: VCU junior and transfers

Today I’ll also focus on former Rams around Division-I basketball.

The reclassifications of Mo Alie-Cox and Jordan Burgess, and the transfer of Justin Tuoyo, have left Melvin Johnson as the only junior at VCU. Today I’ll also focus on former Rams around Division-I basketball.

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#32 Melvin Johnson

  • 6-foot-3, 195 pounds
  • 22.4 MPG, 10.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.9 APG

The fight is won or lost far away from any witnesses. It is won behind the scenes, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights. Muhammad Ali

Melvin Johnson’s play this season could dictate VCU’s ceiling. The 2013-14 Rams’ defense was elite, but their offense left plenty to be desired at times. When Melvin Johnson established himself as the Rams’ second scorer behind Treveon Graham, they were a different force than when Johnson’s shots wouldn’t fall.

Fortunately, Coach Smart said Melvin Johnson might have spent more time in Franklin Street gym this summer than anybody except Troy Daniels. The work is promising for a player that has always oozed talent but has struggled with circumstances.

Johnson didn’t commit until the July before his freshman season. The decision came after showing up on campus at Miami. Early during his freshman campaign he struggled with a hip-pointer injury and the steep learning curve of HAVOC!.

Last season was more promising as he played consistently well including a 27-point outburst on 8-of-11 3-point shooting in only 19 minutes against Virginia Tech. Late in the season, Johnson started five of six games after only starting two games in his entire career. But adversity struck when he sprained his knee in the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. The injury revealed how much VCU needs bursts of offense from their replacement for Troy “The Human 9-0 Run” Daniels.

Offensively, Johnson needs to combine the strengths of his freshman season with the strengths of his sophomore season. In his first year, Johnson finished 23-of-81 (.238) from 3-point range but was unstoppable driving the lane where he hit playground shot after playground shot and branded his automatic floater “The Melvin.” Johnson would finish 74-of-153 (.484) from 2-point range.

During his second year, the floater always seemed to rim out, and he finished 57-of-138 (.413) from 2-point range. But his 3-point shooting progressed towards elite at 66-of-167 (.395).

VCU should benefit from the progression of Johnson, but Johnson should benefit even more from the progression of his teammates. Improved shooting at most positions should give him more clean looks from 3-point range, and the maturation of speedster JeQuan Lewis and the addition of slasher Jonathan Williams should give Johnson plenty of catch and shoot opportunities.

If Johnson can shoot 40% from 3-point range and 50% from 2-point range while averaging 13 or 14 points per game, the 2014-15 VCU Rams should have the offense to win Coach Smart’s first regular season title–and to get to the second weekend of the tournament for the first time since 2011.

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Reco McCarter

  • Senior • Campbell Camels

Reco McCarter is one of the most interesting Rams of all time. The significance of the buzz surrounding him is tough to understand in the post Final Four world. His mixtape helped VCU fans survive the long, dark, cold months of the summer of 2010 offseason.

On-campus McCarter never lived up to his off-campus legend. He redshirted and was forced to watch the Final Four run from the sideline. Then VCU lost an insane amount of talent, but McCarter was buried so deep in the depth charts that fans would regularly chant “RECO!, RECO!, RECO!” during home blowouts.

McCarter transferred and ended up at Campbell where he is now the star. His first season was mixed, but last season he started all but one game on a 12-20 team while averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, and 1.2 SPG. On January 2nd, he went for 29 points (8/8 2PFG) and 5 assists/no turnovers against ECU, but his team still lost.

What McCarter lacks in polish he makes up for in entertainment value and perplexing decisions. McCarter plays every position on the floor. He is capable of playing point guard but Campbell’s best lineups had him at center according to head coach Kevin McGeehan. The southpaw attempted 118 3-pointers last season despite only making 28. He turned the ball over 37 times in the month of February. He compensated by shooting 104-177 (.588) from 2-point range.

Basically, when McCarter isn’t making mistakes while trying to will his team to a victory, he’s splitting defenders and delivering posterizing dunks, or he’s stealing the ball and doing this in the open court:

It’s probably impossible to catch McCarter on television, but keep your eyes peeled on the internet because something tells me the Reco McCarter show is far from over in Buies Creek, NC.

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Teddy Okereafor

  • Junior • Rider Broncs

The most impressive play in Teddy Okereafor’s 58 games as a Ram was buried in the depths of the VCU’s 53-78 loss to Michigan in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. Michigan was on a 4-on-1 fast break that looked like an unstoppable wave a maize and blue, but Okearafor somehow stripped the ball from one of four players probably now on NBA rosters.

Okereafor never had the opportunity to show off his true skills at VCU. He was an old-school floor general on a team built for defense and running and gunning. Rider is extremely excited to add his skill set, and he should have an opportunity to shine.

He was the captain of Bronc’s scout team while sitting out last season and the scout team usually beat the starters in practice. Okereafor was an exceptional Ram whose skills never fit and who never strung together enough minutes to look comfortable. At Rider, the opposite will be true, and the results should be entertaining.

Rider plays at Kansas on November 24th and at Michigan State on November 27th.

Justin Tuoyo

  • Sophomore • Chattanooga Mocs

After sitting out last season, Tuoyo joins former VCU assistant Will Wade at Chattanooga. The excitement surrounding the addition of Tuoyo to “Chaos” is palpable. Wade didn’t have the talent or athleticism to successfully run his system during his first campaign but still managed to finish 18-15–3rd in the league after being predicted to finish seventh. He was named Southern Conference Coach of the Year.

At 6-foot-10, Tuoyo is four inches taller than anyone on last season’s roster, he is familiar with pressing, and he is a capable shooter. Most importantly, his 7-foot-2 wingspan gives him a shot-blocking ability that will be unmatched in the league. It’s tough not to imagine him having three very successful years in the Southern Conference.

The Mocs will play Wisconsin and Butler this season at the Battle 4 Atlantis. It’s definitely worth flipping on the game for 20 minutes to follow the Shaka Smart coaching tree.

Jairus Lyles

  • Sitting out • Robert Morris Colonials

Lyles will sit out the 2014-15 season before joining the Colonials. Robert Morris caught headlines after beating Kentucky in the 2013 NIT Tournament. The Colonials will need talent starting in 2015-16, and Lyles is one of their highest rated recruits in history. Lyles’s career should end in 2018, which is crazy considering he committed to VCU in 2012.

Photos by: Will Weaver

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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