What to expect: VCU seniors

Come March, VCU’s seniors could be the difference between an unforgettable run and an early departure.

Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic were two of the best to ever put on the Black & Gold, but when it came crunch time at the end of last season, neither was able to step up and tip the scale in favor of the Rams. Similar shortcomings by this year’s seniors will undoubtedly leave VCU short of the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year. Fortunately, Treveon Graham and Briante Weber are two the most skilled and consistent players of the Coach Smart era.

#21 Treveon Graham

  • 6-foot-6, 220 pounds
  • 28.3 MPG, 15.8 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 APG, 0.9 SPG

There is plenty of excitement surrounding the highly ranked recruits VCU is attracting right now, but Treveon Graham is a constant reminder that what happens on campus is more important than any ranking.1 Despite being a two star recruit out of Washington D.C., Coach Smart told Graham he was capable of being the all-time leading scorer at VCU.2 Graham is currently 509 points short of Kendrick Warren for second-place at VCU and 604 points behind Eric Maynor for the top spot.

Graham scored 544 points during his sophomore campaign and 553 points last season, and he would need to average 17.3 PPG for 35 games to tie the record. He averaged 17.6 PPG in the month of March. Graham was one of three players to attend the Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Chris Paul camps this summer, he was named a preseason All-American by the Blue Ribbon Yearbook. Graham also join Kendall Anthony and Patricio Garino as the only returning all-A-10 players from last season, and he is likely to earn several all-conference honors during his final campaign.

More important than any stat or award is what Graham brings to the team. Like his predecessor Bradford Burgess, he has mastered creating mismatches as an undersized power forward. His combination of strength and speed is almost impossible to defend when he drives the lane, and he’s a capable 3-point shooter.

Last season, he was VCU’s most clutch player. His game winner against Virginia will forever live in VCU lore, and his 34-point, 12-rebound, “put the team on his back on iso play after iso play,” double-OT performance against La Salle is almost on par with the Eric Maynor dismantling of George Mason in 2007.

Long story short: Treveon Graham is one of the best basketball players in the country this year. Down six points with 50 seconds remaining in a game, there’s no better player to have on the court. His diverse skill set and strictly-business attitude will give him an opportunity to put together a senior campaign not seen since at VCU since Eric Maynor, or maybe ever.

#23 Jarred Guest

  • 6-foot-8 • 225 pounds
  • 9 MPG, 1.6 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.2 APG, 0.4 SPG

Jarred Guest is a talented forward who has stayed buried on the depth chart behind Bradford Burgess or Treveon Graham, has lacked the strength to play meaningful minutes at the five, and has struggled with foul problems.

He excels in his role as the madman: the big man in the press who guards the inbound pass and uses his length to push the ball towards interceptors. He grabbed 43 offensive boards and 37 defensive boards last season and he is a capable midrange shooter.

Early in his sophomore year, he scored 17 points, grabbed 6 boards, blocked a shot, and snagged a steal in only 16 minutes against Stetson. Guest has never gotten close to replicating the performance. He averaged just 7.9 minutes last March and his position is going to be incredibly competitive this season. The arrival of freshmen Michael Gilmore and Justin Tillman has only further complicated his role.

Guest will likely occupy a role similar to Toby Veal during the 2010-11 season. He’ll be asked to clean up the glass and defend, but he’s also more explosive than Veal. Jarred Guest has the tools to contribute this season. His success will depend on his ability to enter the game and immediately have an impact.

#2 Briante Weber

  • 6-foot-2 • 165 pounds
  • 28.9 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.9 APG, 3.5 SPG

It’s simply tough to believe that Briante Weber is gearing up for his final campaign at VCU. The man has embodied HAVOC! for the past three seasons, and the thought of his absence is unsettling. Not to fear, he has one last opportunity to expand upon his unbelievable legacy while chasing his first ever conference title.

The Rams need Weber to be a senior leader–the kind of vocal leader that has been lacking since the departure of Darius Theus. Weber didn’t do his team any favors when he stole an iPhone on July 24th from VCU’s Cary Street Gym. The petit larceny charge was dropped after Weber returned the phone and completed 50 hours of community service. The transgression will force Weber to miss VCU’s closed-door scrimmage against Florida, the Rams’ exhibition game against California (Pa.), and their opener against Tennessee. The absence should encourage the development of younger players, but it will cause Weber to miss crucial minutes running the offense leading up to late November games against Villanova and Michigan / Oregon.

The maturation of JeQuan Lewis and addition of Jonathan Williams should give Weber more opportunities to play off of the ball, but he will still be the Rams’ main point guard this season–an area where he still has room to improve. VCU’s offense regressed from 21st nationally in adjusted efficiency to 107th after the departure of Theus. Some of this can be attributed to Juvonte Reddic, but the Rams simply weren’t as crisp with Weber at the helm. With more weapons than ever, Weber will have the opportunity to change the narrative this season.

The Rams compensated for their shortcomings on offense with remarkable defensive efficiency, and HAVOC! defense starts with Briante Weber. He owns the VCU career steals record at 296. He needs 365 to set the Atlantic 10 record and 385 to set the NCAA record. More importantly, the Weber tornado disrupts ball-handlers in ways that can’t be expressed in box scores. If it takes 12 seconds to get the ball to the top of the key, and if that ball is in the small forward’s hands instead of the point guards, then the offense is going to struggle.

With Mo Alie-Cox expected to expand his role, the combination of Weber swiping balls at the front of the press and “Mo Says No” on the back line will give VCU opportunities to shut down opposing offenses. Briante Weber is the most entertaining defensive player in the nation to watch and he has the potential to be VCU’s leader this season. He just needs to overcome his offseason mistake while focusing on being the best teammate possible.

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Come March, seniors can be the difference between an unforgettable run and an early departure. Look no further than the difference between VCU in 2011 and VCU last March. The play and leadership of Treveon Graham and Briante Weber combined with the grit of Jarred Guest have the potential to lead Coach Smart to his first season title and a deep run in the Big Dance since 2011.

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Photos by: Will Weaver

  1. VCU’s top-ranked recruits from 2010 and 2011 are playing for low-major teams right now. 
  2. Follow Treveon Graham and Briante Weber on the record watch page. 
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Aaron Williams

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

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