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16 VCU

Nov. 18, 2013
Nov. 18, 2013

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Nov. 18, 2013

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16 VCU

2012--13 RECORD 27--9 A-10 12--4 (2ND) WHAT'S BACK MINUTES: 63.0% POINTS: 70.3% REBOUNDS: 67.4%

This is an article from the Nov. 18, 2013 issue

The wordHavoc doesn't just describe the Rams' panic-inducing defensive pressure; it also personifies the program's full-throttle ethos. And it looks—and sounds—as if VCU's new starting point guard was genetically engineered for the team's system. Junior Briante Weber has a 48-inch vertical, and his arms are relentless windmills. Just as important, he calls the Rams "my team" and provides an endless sound track of chatter at every practice. "He's the most energetic person I've ever met," says coach Shaka Smart. "You want guys like that. That's who we want to be."

Atlantic 10 foes know Weber as a menacing defender who got steals on 7.6% of VCU's defensive possessions last season, which led the nation. His offense needs work, though. He averaged just 5.4 points and shot 22.5% from three as Darius Theus's backup. So every weekday this summer, Weber made 700 treys, focusing on locking his elbow to prevent short-arming. Knowing that some of his shooting woes were due to fatigue, he fired all those jumpers after running sprints that replicated the quick bursts—paint to wing and three-point line to corner—he runs in Smart's full-court press.

The Rams are one of just eight programs to have won games in three consecutive NCAA tournaments. To make it four they must adjust to rule changes eliminating hand checking and arm bars. Smart has been training his team to "show the officials your hands," and VCU coaches have officiated practices tightly.

Smart is optimistic about how VCU's offense, which depends on a mix of driving and ball screens, will benefit from the new rules. Treveon Graham, a 6'6" slasher, and big man Juvonte Reddic should have clearer lanes to the basket without hand checking. "Every drive should be a scoring drive," says Smart.

Let the Havoc begin.

Projected Lineup (2012--13 STATS)

PG BRIANTE WEBER

JR. 6'2" 5.4 PPG 2.7 APG

SG ROB BRANDENBERG*

SR. 6'2" 10.4 PPG 1.4 APG

G TREVEON GRAHAM*

JR. 6'6" 15.1 PPG 5.8 RPG

PF JUVONTE REDDIC*

SR. 6'9" 14.6 PPG 8.1 RPG

F TERRANCE SHANNON†

SR. 6'8" 7.9 PPG 5.6 RPG

BENCH

G JEQUAN LEWIS‡

FR. 6'1" 24.9 PPG 5.5 APG

G JORDAN BURGESS‡

FR. 6'5" 17.5 PPG 7.5 RPG

*RETURNING STARTER

†FLORIDA STATE STATS

‡HIGH SCHOOL STATS

COACH SPEAK

SHAKA SMART (5TH SEASON)

SIWhat will your offense look like this year?

SS In the half-court, we set a lot of ball screens, a lot of driving into gaps. I do think we have a team this year where we can throw the ball inside to Juvonte Reddic and Terrance Shannon and maybe some of our younger and bigger guys as they get better. Hopefully, we'll bang a lot of threes too.

SIAny new looks on defense?

SS You'll see a little more variation. That doesn't mean we get away from our style. I don't like zone, but we can play 2--3 or 3--2. We've worked on it more and against it more. Hopefully we'll be hard to guard man-to-man. We have a couple of new presses that we worked on, but I can't tell you what they are, brother. Last year we played almost always with a small team, with Treveon Graham at the four. This year we'll have a little more versatility, play big or small, strong or long.

Tournament Tracker

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

FINAL FOUR

ROUND OF 32

ROUND OF 32

SWEET 16

'09--10

'10--11

'11--12

'12--13

'13--14

PHOTOAL TIELEMANS/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (SMART)PHOTOJOHN BIEVER FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WEBER)PHOTOGREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDCHART