Home Blog It’s That Time. Oh, It’s That Time…

It’s That Time. Oh, It’s That Time…

Justin Tillman's dunks during this year's men's basketball banquet received some of the loudest applause of the evening. The rising sophomore briefly considered leaving VCU after the departure of Shaka Smart but decided to stay, citing the "brotherhood" among Ram players.

As I was saying when I was so rudely interrupted…

It’s time to get back on that keyboard and usher in the VCU basketball season, and the WFWE**.

We’re going to start by reprising last season’s Black and Gold game recap. Yes, it’s a little cheesy to give you a recycled effort. I know that. Getting the rest of my life out of the way so that VCU basketball can take center stage is not an easy effort.

But here we are.

Consider this the warning shot across the bow. There’s a Stella in front of me. I’m back and better than ever, ready with a blitzkrieg of adverbs and analysis to give you a different and deeper look at our shared passion.

We’ve got five months together, and it will begin with a profile of new assistant coach Rasheen Davis. You will get that early next week and I promise you–you’re going to love this guy. Here’s a small sampling: he’s a basketball coach and prefers the background and his favorite movie is Grease. Yes, Grease.

WFWE** is new to us all, and I can’t wait. It starts now. We packed 10 years of drama into one offseason, and I’ve never wanted to see the ball bounce and the clock run more than I do right now.

There’s another Stella in front of me.

I don’t even know the numbers. Is it 70 consecutive sellouts? We are one of two programs in all of college basketball to win 24 or more games in every season since 2006? Was it four games in four days to win the Atlantic 10 tournament? What was the name of our last coach?

Does any of that even matter?

You know what happens when the basketball season kicks in. We get the Peppas, the Melvin. That Animal. Road trips. KBH. Ed’s hair. I’m positively foaming at the mouth.

Enough of that. You know the passion of VCU basketball. The family atmosphere, the togetherness. The feeling that had Shaka Smart declaring “I’ve never been at a place where the connection between the players and fans was so strong.”

Smart got that right. We have something very different, and very much better. The Beautiful One just showed me a bumper sticker that reads “Crazy for Capel.”

It’s always been that way at VCU. Special. It’s been special and different for decades, and with every new crop of players that tradition of passion and beauty is furthered.

Maya Smart said that “appreciation is the currency of success,” and we need to take that forward. Appreciate what we have and the journey on which we are about to embark.

I’ve got a lot and I could keep going, but in reality, well, I’ve got nothing. You know.

Enjoy. We’ve got this. I’ll see you tomorrow, and next week, and every doggone day until March. I’m going for a Stella.

So I chose this “reprint” to outline: don’t get excited about what you see or don’t see tomorrow afternoon. Enjoy it for what it is: a chance to see Our Guys Play Basketball.

It’s fun. So have fun.

**WFWE = Will Freaking Wade Era.

***

<From last year’s Black and Gold game>

On Wes McElroy’s radio show Friday, Melvin Johnson was asked which freshman caught his eye. Johnson immediate went to Jonathan Williams, calling him a bad boy, drawn out as baaaad booooy, and then explained: “When you’re talking about basketball and you say someone is a bad boy, that means he’s good, he’s extremely talented.”

Now I see what Johnson meant.

From my notes during the Black & Gold scrimmage, because it’s easiest and most real:

  • Melvin three off Williams pass. Smart cut to space. Williams knows what he’s doing.
  • Williams to Melvin again. Another space play.
  • Williams finds Johnson again–three times in eight minutes for open threes. Not much of that last year.
  • Williams to Tre. Don’t know assist total but kid makes every good pass. Has command of the basketball and puts himself in position to make plays.
  • Williams strong left hand–drives hard with it instead of protecting.
  • Williams strong entry pass to Mo to start 2H. Need post passing in the offense.
  • Stop and pop smooth for Williams.

You get the picture. To me, Jonathan Williams did not look like a freshman out there. There was a seasoning to his game. “He knows what he’s doing” is how I phrase it. Yes, there were six turnovers but that doesn’t change the overall picture of Williams, and why Johnson said what he said on Friday.

Williams is like buttermilk. He’s okay by himself, but when you add him to anything else, he makes it better. Think I’m wrong? Think about a biscuit, and then a buttermilk biscuit. Pancakes and then buttermilk pancakes. There’s hiking, and then there’s hiking the Buttermilk Trail.

***

It wasn’t the Buttermilk Williams Show, though. There were plenty of notes on the iPhone.

  • Stu is half-full 45 minutes prior to the tip of an intrasquad scrimmage. Signs and gold shirts like a regular season game.
  • Team doing various yoga poses as part of its pregame stretch.
  • Robby about four words into his introduction of Shaka, and the place rises to its feet for a standing ovation. No more introduction needed.
  • Shaka introduces the “new and improved number five, Doug Brooks.”
  • Graham double-clutch and then a Melvin three opens black team scoring. I could get used to that.
  • Graham an effortless pop three.
  • With an open shot, Doug Brooks passes to Guest for a layup. New and improved.
  • There’s a different veneer of confidence in Melvin. Confidence, not arrogance. Like he will make a shot not because he thinks he’s better than everyone else. More he will make a shot because he’s a good shooter.
  • Weber takes charge when needed to.
  • The game looks effortless for Larrier. Throwing up ugly looking shots but the kid is a natural.
  • Brooks rewards us with his second airball.
  • Gilmore great control of athletic body. Needs to figure it out, but has obvious skill.
  • Guest two offensive rebound stick backs–Shaka said do less and be more effective. Guest missed an 18-footer earlier and not even looking for that anymore.
  • Lewis all over the place.
  • Brooks misses a three–first Tillman, then Gilmore above everyone for rebound. Different kind of athletes.
  • Tillman showed frustration outwardly and I’m good with that.
  • Gold team up 10 and playing harder. Playing with an edge. Lewis, Gilmore, Weber looking like SOBs.

***

Here’s the thing: I went straight notes because analysis is fairly pointless. We all saw some things, and realize this is a different kind of freshman class. But keep in mind for most of the great plays somebody made, it was at the expense of another VCU player.

For me, the litmus test of a great Black & Gold game is whether or not the coaching staff saw what they wanted to see. For me, and I think for you, we saw exactly what we wanted to see: the VCU Rams back on the basketball court, and a clock was running.

You can see the makings, but don’t hang that national championship banner just yet. We haven’t even played the exhibition game, much less one that counts in the standings. I’m reminded of a Shaka Smart quote from last year that is better to frame this year:

A lot to work on, but a lot a to work with.

Comments are closed.