Got home last night, edited a game video, put the kids to bed, walked the dog and watched a great Boardwalk Empire finale, so you’ll have to forgive me for the somewhat late “instant reaction”. Bullet point style, here we go…
On each player
-JeQuan Lewis: Minus the fouls, Lewis looked like a top-3 player on this team. JeQuan had 9 turnovers in his freshman B&G game but fumbled just one last night versus three asssists and 19 points. But what I loved most about his game was his ability to score from anywhere on the court. Eight of his points came from the free throw stripe where he shot a team-high 10 of those attempts. I love that stat. Oh and he was 3-4 from deep. Quite a game from a serious talent with a ridiculously bright future at VCU.
-Briante Weber: Weber looked like a senior out there: confident, comfortable, commanding. Nice to see his three steals but even more impressed with his seven assists to one turnover and 6-of-10 shooting. Flawless performance. Just one game, but I expect big things from Weber this year, not just on defense, but on offense as well.
-Justin Tillman: The first thing that comes to mind with Tillman is that he is a serious finisher. Tillman won’t leave easy buckets on the front of the rim, he will guarantee you those points. Tillman and Gilmore seemed to platoon in and out so seems like he wasn’t given a ton of time to get into rhythm but you can tell he is going to be a force for VCU in due time. Didn’t look like a freshman one bit and gives VCU that depth we’ve heard so much about in the off season. If his game last night was somewhat “quiet” with several dunks on 3-4 shooting, I can’t wait to see what it looks like when he makes some noise.
-Jordan Burgess: Jordan did his typical quiet Jordan thing, playing his always solid defense, but oh by the way…was also 3-3 from the field including 2-2 from deep. If Jordan’s shot proves to actually be more accurate this year he is going to be a problem for opposing teams.
-Jarred Guest: Guest, or “The Sheriff” as Shaka called him, was quiet in the first half but put together a second half flurry that included some nice dunks and a steal at the top of the key turned coast-to-coast basket that was very Juvonte Reddic. 5-8 from the field, six rebounds, would love to see those kinds of nights from Guest this season and I definitely think he’s capable of doing so.
-Doug Brooks: Brooks game-high three steals to just one foul is a very positive sign. Shots weren’t falling for Doug (0-4 from deep) but I also saw Troy Daniels post a similar line the other night for the Houston Rockets. Brooks has great size and energy, just needs the shots to fall. Shaka believes in that shot, so I trust they will definitely fall in due time.
-Michael Gilmore: Hard to say I was surprised by Gilmore’s performance with him coming in as ESPN’s No.77 prospect out of high school, but I LOVE what this guy is going to bring to VCU. I feel like a lot of the guy’s Coach Smart has recruited to VCU have been real nice guys, which I love, but sometimes on the court you want a real jerk on my team. Gilmore seems to have the right amount of jerk in him to give people problems on the court. See the picture to the right that I took of some of the guys the other day. You see what I’m saying? This dude could have given two #&*&s about me asking to take their picture for Ram Nation, and while he won’t be inviting me to hangout anytime ever, I LOVE that he brings some serious attitude to go along with that ridiculous frame and versatility. Gilmore’s upside is unreal.
-Jonathan Williams: The first thing I noticed was Williams joking around with Coach Smart like they grew up together. Give me a point guard with that comfort level with our head coach and I’m a happy guy. Add to that the fact that he looks like Barry Sanders on a basketball court and I’m even happier. Once again, Williams did not look like a freshmen and seemed at ease running the offense. His seven assists looked a lot better than his six turnovers, but keep in mind, the guy defending him is the reigning A-10 Defensive Player of the Year who will be chasing down the NCAA’s all-time steals record this season.
-Mo Alie-Cox: Mo led all players with a game-high eight rebounds in just 22 minutes but I thought otherwise had a bit of an off night. I expect Mo to make a big step this year so I’m not freaked out by one game against what I consider a really good team (go Gold Rams) but thought he’d do a little more in this exhibition than 0-1 from the field with one block.
-Treveon Graham: The Freight Train is so good that I need more. Graham was 5-7 from the field for 14 points and a perfect 3-3 from long range, but those seven attempts were only the third most on his team and tied for the seventh most by all players. A part of that reality is Graham is a smart player who isn’t forcing dumb shots, but a GREAT player in my mind needs to challenge themselves beyond that. Graham will go down as one of the greats in VCU history and has a legit shot to own our all-time scoring record. I hope his B&G game attempts will be his lowest of the season. Double digits attempts in all games unless we’re blowing out a team by 20 (which will happen…a lot).
-Terry Larrier: I thought it was worth noting that Terry tied Melvin Johnson for most minutes played (26). If you look at who played the most minutes in last year’s B&G game those guys basically became our go-to guys. Larrier is long, athletic and skilled, and while his shots weren’t falling (I thought he forced some looks late, went just 1-10 on the night), you just know he’s going to have some big nights for VCU.
-Melvin Johnson: Seeing Melvin out there last night made me realize two things: 1) We really could have used him in last year’s A-10 Final and NCAA tournament (he missed due to an injury sustained in the A-10 semis against GW) and 2) He’s actually stepped up his game a bit. Mel went off in last year’s B&G game so it wasn’t a surprise to see him do the same. 8-16 shooting including 5-10 from deep, like JeQuan, Mel looked dangerous whenever he had the ball. With Rob Brandenberg graduating you can expect Mel’s shots to increase so don’t be surprised if and when he leads the team in scoring this season.
-Torey Burston: Torey was one of a number of lighting quick guards out there but I thought he could’ve benefited from a little more pace at the point. Burston had just one turnover but no assists and added three fouls in his 13 minutes.
-Antravious Simmons: Anyone else notice how smooth Tre’s stroke was at the free throw line? It was 5-5 smooth. Tre looked very solid out there in his 7-point, 2-rebound performance in 15 minutes of play for Black. He has nice size and just an all-around mature game. Plug him in whenever and I’m confident in his ability to provide valuable minutes for the Rams this season.
On Siegel Center upgrades
-New scoreboard: Literally a huge addition to the Siegel Center, the scoreboard looks great but will look even better when it’s used for highlights, etc that will come with all these nationally televised games.
-New sound system: The sound system sounded fine but I’m of the opinion that it probably wasn’t being used to it’s full potential, which is understandable with a new toy with that many buttons. It was clear enough during the music but truth be told, I couldn’t really hear what Coach Smart was saying when introducing the players from my position courtside. The songs sounded great but I think will sound even better once the crew operating the PA gets some experience under their belts.
-The Peppas: These guys and girls get a ton of credit already but I feel like they raised the bar even higher last night by introducing their new “haka” prior to playing “It’s Havoc You Fear”. I had no idea that was coming and when it came I couldn’t get enough of it. Ryan K and crew are already in midseason, hell, postseason form already.
-Lighting: There were no upgrades in the lighting but my annoying self has to chime in on the lighting in the Siegel Center. While we’re making the Stu awesome, would it be possible to dim some of the lights (or reduce the wattage of the bulbs) in there around the concourse? I’m going to assume the answer is no, which is unfortunate, because I think I’m going to need to up my SPF when filming games this season. We’ve added an LED ribbon under the Tommy J West Club and a gigantic four-sided HD video board to the Center of the Stu, both of which are plenty bright. If we’re going to add extra light I think it would make some sense to subtract some as well so we don’t fry all the fair skinned Ram fans in attendance this year (we have a white ceiling that reflects all that light). This is basically all about ambiance. There have been so many great additions to the Stu but to get the building to reach full shine potential, it’s time to do a little subtraction, and to me, that’s by making the Siegel Center floor feel more like the grand “stage” it is by putting the spotlight on the action on the court and not the gray walls that enclose the building. Honest critique or total nitpick? Interpret however you choose.