VCU basketball alumni will once again gather at the Siegel Center, this year doing so before the Rams tip it up in a Final 4 rematch against the Bulldogs of Butler University.
Among them will likely be a number of Ram greats — Calvin Duncan has been a staple at VCU home games for years, Dominic Jones can be seen roaming the hallways of late, Final 4 heros Brandon Rozzell and Ed Nixon are at nearly every game since returning from pro careers overseas — but currently, only four are recognized as the greatest.
Henderson, Duncan, Warren, Maynor. Those four names make up the ultimate VCU hoops fraternity — their career accomplishments earning them G.O.A.T. status and with that, a permanent reminder of just how great they were in there times on the court.
For VCU basketball alumni there is no greater honor than to join the elite foursome whose jerseys hang from the rafters.
Which got me to wondering…who’s next? And if you were to hang a former player’s jersey from the rafter, who would you choose?
Below is a list of names I think belong at the top of that discussion, in no particular order…
1. Bradford Burgess (2008-2012): Consider Burgess VCU’s Brett Favre. Not only did No.20 log more minutes than any other Ram to wear the uniform (4,572), he is the NCAA’s all-time leader in consecutive starts, passing some guy named Patrick Ewing for the honor. In his four years with the program, the Midlothian native climbed all the way to No.4 on VCU’s all-time scoring chart, posting 1,684 career points at VCU. Burgess earned the nickname “Big Shot Brad” after hitting a huge shot as a freshman to help the Rams cement a win at rival Richmond, then as a junior hit one of VCU’s most memorable shots, an overtime game-winner against Florida State to lead VCU to their first and only Elite 8 appearance. Burgess had 26 points that game, hitting a RIDICULOUS 6-of-7 three point attempts in a game VCU proved to need every last one. Burgess ranks second all-time in that category with 231 career makes from deep. Then of course there is the matter of that Final 4 appearance. Burgess was a major part of six VCU NCAA tournament wins and averaged 15 points in his VCU record nine NCAA tournament games as a Ram.
2. Larry Sanders (2007-2010): Larry Sanders was one of the premier big men to ever wear the black and gold, but doesn’t own the career numbers one would typically need to have their jersey hung among VCU’s best. That said, Sanders also owns the distinction of being the ONLY early entry Ram to get drafted, being selected with the 15th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks after Sanders’ junior season. That sparks a whole new debate, and one that at VCU is unique to Sanders alone: does NBA success warrant a banner? Sanders put up solid numbers at VCU (third all-time in double-doubles, fourth in blocks in only three seasons) but was mostly drafted as a high-upside player with the fifteenth pick. After two quiet seasons in Milwaukee, the third time has been a charm for Larry, averaging highs in minutes (25.5), points (8.4), rebounds (8.5) and blocks (3.1). Sanders has been a breakout star for the Bucks, and in a season in which many wondered if there would be room on the roster for the big man to shine. Sanders’ 3.1 blocks leads the league, I REPEAT…LEADS THE NBA, despite averaging under 30 minutes per game. In one game this season, Sanders even tied a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Bucks record 10 blocks in his first-ever triple double as a pro — 10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 blocks. Sanders is a legitimate contender for the NBA’s most improved player and is grabbing headlines as a fan favorite in Milwaukee, much like he did in his time here at VCU.
3. Joey Rodriguez (2007-2011): Let me give you the numbers real quick: 211 career 3-point field goals (third all-time), 580 assists (third), 237 steals (second), 1 George Lopez performance (first). There’s also that matter of our little trip to Houston in 2011. Rodriguez was a major piece of the VCU group that won a ridiculous 103 games. His navigation of the Rams offense in March of 2011 was a thing of beauty at 7.6 assists per contest. Dealing with some homesickness issues and the pressure of following the great Eric Maynor, Rodriguez left VCU for Rollins College upon Anthony Grant’s departure for Alabama. Both Shaka Smart and VCU fans everywhere are glad he came back.
4. Rolando Lamb (1981-1985): It’s no wonder former UConn star Jeremy Lamb was an NBA lottery pick…his dad could ball. Rolando hit the original “dagger” for VCU, a buzzer beating jumper in the NCAA tournament’s first round against a Northeastern team coached by the legendary Jim Calhoun Rolando’s son would eventually end up playing for. Rolando was a deadly guard, and a part of one of VCU’s best recruiting classes ever, joining Ram legend Calvin Duncan in one of the toughest backcourts we’ve ever seen at VCU. Lamb ranks tops all-time at VCU in 3-point field goal percentage, hitting 47.3% of his attempts as a Ram, as well as career steals at 257. Lamb helped lead his team to three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, winning a game in each, and helped earn VCU a No.11 national ranking during their 1984-85 season, the highest regular season ranking by any VCU team. Lamb never played an NBA game, but was drafted with the 53rd overall pick by the Seattle Supersonics in 1985.
5. Jamie Skeen (2009-2011): I know I know, Skeen has no chance, mostly because he played only two seasons with the Rams and posted significant numbers in just one of those. But I throw his name on the board as a sign of RESPECT to the ONLY Ram to EVER be named to an NCAA tournament’s All-Tournament team, doing so with his dominating play during VCU’s run from First 4 to Final 4. Skeen averaged 17.5 points and 6.6 rebounds during that run, hitting 55% of his threes including 4-7 from deep in his 26 point, 10 rebound performance against Kansas — a team that included three NBA lottery bigs. Skeen is also my all-time No.1 favorite interviewee. He once dropped the term “buttholes” in an official press conference, and when asked what he was doing when he heard VCU had received an at-large bid to the 2011 tournament, said he didn’t know initially because he couldn’t answer the phone due to all the sauce on his hands from eating chicken wings at a nearby restaurant. Love his sense of humor, but mostly loved his game. In my opinion Skeen is the most skilled player I’ve seen at VCU, but I doubt my opinion gets his banner lifted very high off the ground.