Practice makes perfect

Keira Robinson.  Photos by Skip Rowland.

Keira Robinson.
Photos by Skip Rowland.

When Virginia Commonwealth University opened the 62,000-square-foot Basketball Development Center in October 2015, it was a game-changer for the men’s and women’s basketball teams in every way, providing a state-of-the-art space for everything from morning practices and weightlifting sessions to afternoon naps and team meals.

“It’s a place for these athletes to not only work on their craft but to bond as a team,” says Daniel Ludwin, who was introduced to VCU basketball in 2009 by his friend David Boardman (B.S.’91/B). After just one game, Ludwin declared himself a “rabid Ram fan.”

Ludwin and Boardman both made pledges to support the construction of the practice facility. With private donors like them funding $14.5 million of the building’s approximate $25 million cost, the Basketball Development Center was the largest private fundraising project in VCU Athletics history.

“We pride ourselves at VCU in developing student-athletes into the best versions of themselves, and our supporters make that possible,” says Ed McLaughlin, associate vice president and director of athletics. “This facility is one of the top five in the country.”

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Former VCU star Treveon Graham signs with Charlotte Hornets

Treveon Graham averaged 16.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists during his final season at VCU.

Treveon Graham averaged 16.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists during his final season at VCU.

Former VCU guard Treveon Graham (B.S.’15/GPA) signed with the Charlotte Hornets, the team announced Tuesday.

Graham played for the Idaho Stampede of the NBA D-League last season, appearing in 46 games. He averaged 15.7 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists. He scored 20 or more points 11 times, including four games with 30 or more points.

 

Read more from the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

VCU basketball stars visit Richmond jail to shoot hoops, and inspire inmates and their sons

Torey Burston and Mo Alie-Cox greet fathers and sons during a break on the basketball court.

Torey Burston and Mo Alie-Cox greet fathers and sons during a break on the basketball court.

VCU basketball stars Mo Alie-Cox (B.S.’15/GPA) and Torey Burston embraced the smiling fathers and sons as they entered the classroom Wednesday at the Richmond City Justice Center.

The men — inmates at the Richmond and Chesterfield jails — and their sons, ranging from pre-schoolers to eighth graders, sat in rapt silence as the student athletes relayed their motivational message of hope, hard work and perseverance and then shared some dribbling and twirling techniques.

“This means a lot to me,” said Jerrylee Wright, holding the hand of his 4-year-old son, Jerrylee Jr., before heading to the gym with the group to play ball. “Being able to spend time with him on the basketball court is a blessing. Words can’t describe it. And just hearing the insights from Mo and Torey means a lot.”

Alie-Cox, who’s pursuing his master’s in Criminal Justice from the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU, and Burston, a homeland security and emergency preparedness major at the Wilder School, came to the jail as part of Hoops for Hope, a program sponsored by the Richmond City and Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Offices to help male inmates build relationships with their sons.

Hoops for Hope is part of the REAL — Recovering from Everyday Addictive Lifestyles — program at the Richmond jail, started by Wilder School alumna Sarah Scarbrough, director of internal programs. In the voluntary program, inmates to take classes in areas including parenting skills, anger management and remedial math. The men had to apply to participate in Hoops for Hope and were excited about meeting the players.

“I can’t say enough about the athletes coming here. They are role models and great examples,” said Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody Jr. “They’re helping the fathers in the program by being here. You can be a good father inside the jail, but you can be a better father outside the jail.”

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VCU squares off against UR in fourth annual Battle for the Capital

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Perhaps, as fans, we have less influence than we would like over the outcome of the on-court encounters between Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond. However, when the two basketball teams meet again at 7 p.m. on Feb. 19 at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, there is one way to put the friendly rivalry and competitive spirit to good use.

Battle for the Capital, an annual giving challenge pitting the alumni of the two universities against each other, runs this year Feb. 12-19.

The idea behind the battle is that each university scores a point every time it receives an online or credit card donation ($5 minimum) from its alumni. The winning university is the one with the most points at the end of battle week. Points are tallied only during the week that leads up to this season’s Atlantic 10 matchup on the court between the Rams and the Spiders.

A win this year would make a hat trick for VCU, which has won the past two of the three years the challenge has previously run.

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Beyond basketball: VCU stars Melvin Johnson and Mo Alie-Cox intern at the General Assembly

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Mo Alie-Cox and Melvin Johnson

When they aren’t at practice, class or study hall or leading the Virginia Commonwealth University men’s basketball team to yet another win, Melvin Johnson and Mo Alie-Cox can be found this semester interning at the General Assembly, getting a firsthand look at Virginia’s legislative process.

Johnson and Alie-Cox, both criminal justice majors in the L. Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at VCU, are standout starters for a Rams team that has soared to a 17-5 record and sole possession of first place in the Atlantic 10. The internships appealed to them because they wanted to gain experience and a better understanding of criminal justice policy.

“At the time, I didn’t know too much about it, but I thought it’d be a good experience, given that I’m a criminal justice major and I want to get to know people in the field,” Alie-Cox said. “The other day Coach [Will] Wade came up to us and was like, ‘Do you realize [interning at the General Assembly] is a big-time thing?’ I hadn’t really realized that until now, sitting here in the meetings and seeing all the work being done.”

Wade praised Johnson and Alie-Cox for being excellent student-athletes.

“We’re thrilled Mo and Melvin have the opportunity to volunteer at the General Assembly this semester,” he said. “They’ve been terrific examples for the other guys in our program in terms of maximizing the educational resources available to them. They’ve embraced the student-athlete ideal, and they’re two of the hardest-working guys in our program on and off the court. They may be terrific basketball players, but they’re each going to be incredibly successful in something other than basketball.”

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Mark your calendars for two September events

 

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Join the Rams’ men’s golf team as they welcome collegiate golfers from across the nation to the Country Club of Virginia, Sept. 21-25, for the 11th annual Janney VCU Shootout. One of the highlights of the shootout is the College-Am, presented by Cleveland Golf, which will be held Saturday, Sept. 19, on the club’s challenging Tuckahoe Creek Course. You can register to play in the College-Am or enjoy the multiday event as a spectator.

Take part in the third annual Alumni Charity Challenge, Sept. 30, and help raise 15,000 pounds of canned food for the Central Virginia Food Bank. VCU Alumni’s RVA GOLD Chapter is competing against 27 schools to donate the most canned goods (by weight!).

 

Athletics: VCU wins automatic berth in NCAA tournament

With his team in a slump and in danger of not making the Atlantic 10 tournament three weeks ago, VCU coach Shawn Stiffler was looking for something to spark his team.

So he made a few lineup changes. One involved moving freshman Daane Berezo and his high on-base percentage to the second spot and dropping junior James Bunn to eighth.

VCU now is on an 11-game winning streak and headed to the NCAA tournament. And Bunn turned out to be the right man in the right spot in Saturday’s A-10 championship game.

Bunn delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the bottom of the eighth as the fifth-seeded Rams took advantage of a two-base error on a routine fly and pushed across two runs. Bunn helped finish it in style with the first of two diving catches in the ninth to claim a 5-3 victory over Rhode Island, their first A-10 baseball championship and an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

VCU (37-22) will make its first NCAA appearance since 2010 and its 11th overall. The pairings for the 16 regional sites will be announced Monday at noon on ESPNU. The four-team regionals begin Friday and run through Sunday.

“Wow. Just a super exhilarating feeling,” said third baseman Darian Carpenter, who had a two-run triple that put VCU ahead 3-1 and was named the most outstanding player. “To see where we were and the odds we were facing, to just block it out and know we’re good enough to do what we wanted to do to get to our goal, it’s breath-taking. It’s amazing.

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Rams on the Road 2015 a success

During the 2014-15 VCU men’s basketball season, VCU Alumni hosted regional Rams on the Road events for alumni in New York City; Norfolk and Fairfax, Virginia; Washington, D.C.; and Davidson, North Carolina.

A special alumni and friends reception was held March 11 at New York City’s Tribeca Rooftop during the Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Tournament, March 11-15. The reception drew more than 200 attendees who enjoyed performances from the Peppas and Rodney the Ram, and remarks from VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D., Athletic Director Ed McLaughlin and Associate Vice President for University Alumni Relations Gordon McDougall. VCU Alumni also hosted pregame pep rallies at The KBH beer hall before each VCU game during the tournament and, in conjunction with the NYC and RVA GOLD alumni chapters, hosted 40 graduates of the last decade at a social.

Rams on the Road culminated at the NCAA Tournament in Portland, Oregon, with an alumni and friends reception at Bar XV. More than 40 alumni from across the country attended the event. Although the Rams fell to the Ohio State Buckeyes, those who made the trip to Portland enjoyed connecting with fellow VCU alumni.

Athletics: VCU President Michael Rao’s statement on the hiring of coach Will Wade

Following is a statement from Virginia Commonwealth University President Michael Rao, Ph.D., on the hiring of VCU men’s basketball coach Will Wade:

I am pleased to welcome Coach Wade back home to Virginia Commonwealth University. He is the ideal leader for our men’s basketball team; even more, he will be an excellent representative for our entire university.

I am grateful to Ed McLaughlin and his team for their quick and thoughtful leadership in recruiting Coach Wade. I also appreciate those who have continued to elevate our program and our university nationally — including our players and fans — which has allowed us to bring aboard a rising star like Will Wade.

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Athletics: VCU point guard Briante Weber featured in New York Times

Briante (left). Photo by Zach Gibson.

Briante (left). Photo by Zach Gibson.

An excerpt from the New York Times’ March 13 article:

For most of Virginia Commonwealth University’s 70-67 victory over Richmond on Friday afternoon in the Atlantic 10 conference quarterfinals in Brooklyn, Briante Weber sat in a chair next to the V.C.U. bench and leaned against the scorers’ table.

At times, Weber stood and cheered his teammates, but he made sure to exhibit caution. After all, he was wearing a brace on his right knee and had crutches by his side. He did not want to aggravate an injury that ended his college career but did not dampen his enthusiasm for the university or the basketball program.

Still, Weber almost seemed ready to compete. He wore his game shorts, sneakers and a V.C.U. warm-up jacket. He also clutched a gold Rams towel. During some timeouts, using his crutches he walked over to the team’s huddle.

After the game, Weber hung around the Barclays Center concourse speaking with his mother and other family members and posing for photographs with fans.

“I’m definitely happy with the outcome,” Weber said. “I can’t help the team out, but I try to help with my voice. That’s all I can do right now is be another coach out there.”

Read the full article at nytimes.com.