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Step By Step…

Success, like beauty, is not an event. Neither just happens and neither is the product of one or two factors. Both develop over time and both have been labeled fleeting. In some cases, but not all, that's true. Fortunately, we can influence those in our own lives. I think both success and beauty are more like your body and exercising. If you feed it and nurture it, you can run forever.

Success and beauty are concepts really, not things. They aren't given.

Oh there are people who are born with proportional faces or have the gift of writing beautiful prose from attractive and/or gifted parents, and there are college basketball programs that land blue chip players on an annual basis because of their long record of success. However neither is a guarantee of anything.

Two of the most boring clichés ring true—beauty's root resides on the inside because it encompasses the whole of a being, and success resides in the work that puts you into a position to succeed when the opportunity presents itself. Just because someone says you are beautiful doesn’t truly make it so; nor does success boil down to one factor or one recruiting victory.

Beauty, and success, are interpretive outcomes. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I ask you: was last season a success?

And there's the rub. Perhaps, five years from now, we may look back and say Monday, September 16, 2013 was that day, the day that offered some sort of validation that VCU basketball became a success. But we will be wrong. That day was part of the feeding and nurturing of the VCU basketball program, which continues to move forward.

Now don’t get me wrong. It was a big step to land that kid with that ranking, but it was nonetheless simply the next step. Do you really think guys like Treveon Graham, who is on pace to become the school’s alltime leading scorer, or Briante Weber, who could actually lead the country in steal percentage for all four years of his career, or Melvin Johnson, who brings sexy to VCU basketball, are going to lay down? Nope. What's more, the goal is Monday being the first of many days like that.

With nurturing, it only gets better from this point, just as it only got better after The Dagger and quite frankly just as it has gotten better after 2011.

It’s a beautiful piece to this success, this nurturing and these steps forward. It’s encapsulated in what I believe is a clarifying statement from the coaching staff: “There are only two positions—on the bench and on the floor.” The implication is clear–success is not an event. It isn't given to you; however it's a possible outcome if you nurture it.

So don’t look forward and don’t look back. The path to success is indeed a beautiful path. Walk the path with your head up. Savor this moment, and then keep moving forward.

VCU basketball isn't about one day or one person. It's about all of them.

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Side note: the Black and Gold game is less than one month from now. Thankfully, you will get to read about basketball stuff. For now, let me drop two Shaka Smart quotes on you that will appear in Blue Ribbon. Buy the book for the rest.

“We lost three of the most unselfish guys I've ever been
around. None of those guys were all conference players in the A10,” he says. “There's
the basketball stuff we need to replace with those guys, but it's much more
important to replace who those guys are. They were VCU guys from start to
finish of their career.

Anytime you lose guys like that the question becomes can
you as a team step up in terms of being connected. Darius was a phenomenal
connector. One question is: can Rob and Juvonte, who have had very nice
careers, can they become guys that as seniors be connectors and fill the level
of camaraderie and love we need as a team and connect us.”

And on Melvin Johnson:

“He’s as good of an offensive player as we have, not in
terms of being an athlete, but he has a feel, skill, savvy, confidence. He’s
got that stuff,” says Smart. “Where he needs to get better is the mental and
emotional part of game; how do you handle adversity and prosperity, can you be
a level-headed guy that honors the process of what leads to success?”

The biggest key for him as you watch us this year,
sometimes sophomores that played as freshmen, because there is an expectation
on Mel's part and really everyone's part, is that he's going to take that jump
and he can. But sometimes you expect that it's going to happen, and when there
is a rough stretch or tough game you get a sense of cognitive dissonance, like
'what's going on?, this doesn't make sense.' You have to stick with the process
whether things go well for a day or a week or poorly.”