New Virginia Commonwealth University head basketball coach, Will Wade, gestures during a press conference at the school in Richmond, Va., Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Wade's arrival was marked by the departure of several recruits. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)
Steve Helber
April 29, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Will Wade's first few weeks as VCU's basketball coach have been a whirlwind that shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon, and even a revolving door of player departures has been no surprise.

Freshman forward Terry Larrier, the highest-rated prize in last season's freshman class, has asked for and received a release from his commitment to VCU, Wade said Wednesday.

Larrier averaged 6.6 points and 3.0 rebounds in a little more than 18 minutes per game this season. His request came on the heels of similar requests, also granted, from the three recruits that signed to come to VCU next season. The three all signed before Shaka Smart resigned to go to Texas.

''I knew all three of the recruits were going to ask out of their letters of intent,'' Wade said. ''I knew that there were two or three players that would be a possibility of leaving. ... We've got a plan. We've got guys who want to come. We'll be fine.''

Wade has already found two replacements, signing Korey Billbury, a shooting guard transferring from Oral Roberts, and high school senior forward Gerron Scissum from Hunstville, Alabama. Billbury will be available to play right away.

With three scholarships available, Wade said he still has a few items on his wish list.

''We're going to add a transfer to sit out. I think that's important,'' he said. ''I'd like to add a big kid inside so we don't just get punked in the paint, and I'd like to add another scorer.''

The Rams almost lost another player when freshman forward Justin Tillman asked to be released from his scholarship, but Tillman changed his mind a few days later. Wade said the rest of his roster is ''solid.''

''The reality is we've got a lot of guys excited about being here, a lot of guys excited about what's going on and if you're not excited about being here, it's not going to work anyway,'' he said.

Wade, who spent the last two seasons as the coach at Chattanooga after four years as one of Smart's assistants, had familiarity with most of the players on the Rams', but has worked to reconnect with them, and to get to know the players he wasn't familiar with as well. Every day, he said, he tries to have lunch and dinner with a different player.

The Rams will employ a pressing style similar to what they did under Smart, though Wade said they will mix it up quite a bit and use a 2-2-1 press that backs into a zone about 30 percent of the time.

VCU under Smart was vulnerable when facing teams with experienced guards, often giving up a handful of easy layups, but Wade said the key is changing the look so that the opponent doesn't know what's coming.

''If we trap the first pass all the time, then they'll get used to that. If we don't trap the first pass all the time, they'll get used to that,'' he said, running through scenarios. ''You've got to change your pickup point, change your trapping points, change your angles, change where you run from.''

On offense, he said, the Rams will reverse the ball quite a bit and always look to get the ball into the paint and build off that, whether by trying to score inside and kicking it out for open shots.

The Rams will shoot more 3-pointers from the corner, and fewer from the wing, he said.

It's a style that helped the Rams in Smart's six seasons become a top 25 team and get to five straight NCAA tournaments, along with selling out the Siegel Center for more than 50 consecutive games.

The exodus of players has made the job more challenging, Wade said, but caution is also required.

''Not going to mortgage the long term for the short term,'' he said.

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