If there’s one thing VCU’s Shaka Smart is most passionate about when it comes to his approach to the game of basketball, it’s an extreme attention to detail.
Even in practice, every jump shot, free throw, rebound, assist and hustle stat for all VCU players is recorded by a member of the team’s staff and later reviewed by Smart on paper and on film, with direct implications for playing time on the line.
The third-year head coach’s meticulous day-to-day evaluation of his players is indicative of Smart’s well-documented dedication to improving the VCU men’s basketball program, which is not only a job but an obsession for him and the rest of Rams’ coaching staff. Smart, associate head coach Mike Rhoades, long-time assistant Will Wade and others, have stated multiple times that they quite simply don’t have much going on in their lives other than their families and basketball.
The result is that nothing goes unnoticed in practice for the Rams, and certainly no play, no matter how seemingly minor will ever go overlooked in a game. The obsessive coaching staff of VCU leaves no doubts in any player’s mind as to what their particular role on the team is, and which shots they should and should not be taking.
This weekend at the Battle 4 Atlantis, it became very clear which players the coaches have handed the role of primary scorers for the foreseeable future. The shot distribution tells the story, and may be a big indicator of what is to come for VCU’s offense this season.
Treveon Graham took 12 shots from the floor in each of the Rams’ games in the Bahamas over Thanksgiving weekend, which was a team-high in Thursday’s win over No. 19 Memphis as well as Saturday’s loss to No. 13 Missouri. He also got to the free-throw line a combined 16 times over the weekend and led the team with 54 points.
Graham, a sophomore combo two-three guard out of the Washington, D.C. area, took over as a starter at the beginning of the season for VCU’s sixth all-time leading scorer Bradford Burgess. He got to the free-throw line at a higher per shot rate than any Ram player last season as a freshman and was expected to be among the team’s leading scorers in his second year.
So far, he’s been the team’s primary shot-taker and point producer and we would expect that trend to continue.
Juvonte Reddic hoisted up the second-most shots of any Ram (33) in the Battle 4 Atlantis and was also the team’s second-leading scorer with a distant 36. For the most part, the offense was running through Graham and Reddic’s hands and by no coincidence: Double-digit field goal attempts should be expected night-in night-out from the two most reliable options on an offense which at times has looked brilliant and other times ugly to open the year.
While Graham and Reddic have the hot hands now, players such as Darius Theus, Troy Daniels, Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg will have their nights as well.
The perennially streaky Brandenberg went 5-of-5 from 3-point range in Thursday’s win over Memphis, while Daniels, who Smart has said is the best shooter he’s ever coached, hit at least two threes in all three games at Atlantis and is averaging a team-high 2.8 three-pointers made per game through six.
The Rams’ wealth of scoring options will present Smart and the VCU coaching staff with lots of difficult decisions when it comes to playing time over the next few months, but for now it appears Graham and Reddic are primed for highly productive 2012-2013 campaigns as VCU’s main targets.