On VCU’s trip to Italy in early August, the Rams came away with a 48 point win and a 71 point win, but more importantly spent time focusing on appreciation, which head coach Shaka Smart said at Atlantic 10 Media Day on Oct. 4 is a core value of the program.
VCU opened its trip with a 118-71 victory over Amici Del Campero, a game in which Teddy Okereafor had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. The Rams followed that up with a 103-32 win over Kosarkaski Klub Zeta from Montenegro. VCU forced 39 turnovers in the game and shot 54 percent from the floor.
“Basketball wise, the competition was not very good,” said Smart. “You saw the scores, but we did not by any means try to run up the scores. We stopped pressing at halftime, it could’ve been a lot worse but we’re aggressive because that’s how we play. We wouldn’t be any good if we weren’t aggressive.”
Smart added the team’s three or four best player played the least out of anyone, which opened opportunities for other players such as a second year point guard like Okereafor to get minutes and show what they can do for an extended stretch.
Despite not being challenged much on the court in Italy, Smart said the team got more out of the trip beyond basketball, focusing on appreciation especially since no one on the team including Smart had been to the country before.
“The core value of our program is appreciation and I thought the trip was great from that standpoint because the reality is, everyone on that trip, me included, had never been to Italy, had never seen the Vatican, or the Roman Coliseum or the Tower of Pisa,” said Smart.
“To be able to go experience those things, and do it together, we really appreciated it,” he continued. “I think there’s a great deal of entitlement sometimes in college basketball and college athletics, so that’s what this trip was all about, just being appreciative of what’s available for us.”
Although they may not have been facing the gold standard of basketball on the trip, it appears second year players such as Okereafor and Treveon Graham gained new confidence from the coaching staff in Italy. Even with freshmen Jordan Burgess and Mo Alie-Cox unable to play in games this season, HAVOC will be back presumably with an improved offense this season.