Hoops scrimmage highlights new roster

The men’s basketball team enters the 2013-14 season ranked 15th nationally in the recently released coaches poll.

Nathan Heintschel 
Contributing Writer

The VCU men’s basketball team played its annual “Black & Gold” intrasquad scrimmage at the Siegel Center Sunday on Oct. 13 in front of nearly 3,200 fans.

The Gold team defeated the Black team 72-56, but an emerging position battle, new rule changes and added depth to VCU’s roster headlined the event.

“I enjoyed seeing our guys out here,” head coach Shaka Smart said after the scrimmage. “We got so many new guys. It was great having them out on the Siegel Center floor for the first time. As I told them in the locker room after we got done, we have a lot to work on. We (also) have a lot to work with.”

Smart also said the scrimmage was a means of experience for his players to play in front of referees. The NCAA implemented new rules this offseason that are perceived as potential hindrance to the Rams’ Havoc style of play.

“There are a lot of significant new rules that our guys have to adjust to,” he said. “It’s interesting they’re really gonna call hand checking and your hands on the ball handler a lot tighter. But tonight there was not a lot of fouls called which hopefully is a good sign. Hopefully our guys are learning to play without fouling.”

VCU has led the NCAA in steals and turnover percentage the last two seasons while ranking 305th in the nation for personal fouls per game. The Black and Gold teams combined for 20 personal fouls, 30 turnovers and 19 steals.

The Rams return six players that earned valuable tournament experience in the A-10 conference championship and the NCAA Tournament.

Sophomore guard Melvin Johnson spent his freshman year providing points off the bench, but the second-year guard used the scrimmage to assert himself as one of VCU’s volume scorers. Johnson shot 10-19 (52 percent) from the field and 5-7 (71 percent) from the three-point line.

Smart believes the inner team contest was a good way for players to begin defining their roles on the roster.

“(Johnson) does that in practice but it’s a whole different deal when you’re out here in a game,” Smart said. “I’m not sure if he’ll get 19 shots every night. But he’s definitely shown he’s going to be assertive.”

The starting point guard position is up for grabs now that Darius Theus graduated, and multiple players are competing for the position. Junior Briante Weber, senior Rob Brandenburg and freshman JeQuan Lewis shot a combined 12-21 (57 percent) from the field and 5-11 (45 percent) from the three-point line. The trio of guards also combined for 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 17 turnovers and six personal fouls.

The team returns two of its top scorers from last season: senior Juvonte Reddic and junior Treveon Graham. Reddic shot 5-9 (55 percent) from the field including 0-2 from the three-point line, with eight rebounds and two assists. Graham had a double-double that included 5-10 shooting from the field and 5-7 from the free throw line. The junior added 10 rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The event also gave fans a glimpse at redshirt freshman Jordan Burgess, who sat out last season. The Midlothian, Va. native played with flashes of brilliance and finished the scrimmage shooting 3-10 from the field with four rebounds, five assists and three steals.

The first-year player should see considerable playing time in 2013-14, Smart said.

“Burgess practiced last year and if he would have played last year he would have been one of our top six players,” Smart said. “He’s going to play a lot and he’s going to be a guy that really figures into everything.”

Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon was another newcomer that made early impressions. He shot 6-9 (66 percent) from the field with seven rebounds, one assist, two blocks, and two steals. Shannon made 4-8 free throws while trying to stifle his laughter as the VCU Peppas heckled him every time he got to the line.

The Black and Gold teams combined for an impressive 50 percent shooting from the field and 37 percent from the threevvvpoint line with 56 rebounds, 35 assists and four blocks altogether.

One stat that the Rams will look to improve is their free throw percentage. The Rams shot an average just around 70 percent from the charity strike in the 2012-13 season, ranking them 153rd in the nation. During the scrimmage, however, the Rams shot just 14-24 (58 percent).

VCU will play an exhibition game at the Siegel Center on Nov. 2 against California University (Penn.), but the time has yet to be determined. The regular season home opener is scheduled for Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. against Illinois State.

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