Veteran big men bullish on freshman center

Junior center D.J. Haley speaks to reporters at VCU basketball media day. (Photo by Chris Conway)
Junior center D.J. Haley speaks to reporters at VCU basketball media day. (Photo by Chris Conway)

Quinn Casteel
Sports Editor

With freshman big man Mo Alie-Cox ineligible to play in games this season, an opportunity has fallen right into the lap of center Justin Tuoyo also entering his first year with VCU.

Fortunately for VCU, junior big men Juvonte Reddic and DJ Haley, both starters since their freshman season, are bullish on the young center out of Hampton, Georgia and believe he will make immediate contributions in the Rams’ front court.

Reddic, who started 12 games as a freshman in the 2010-2011 season, said at VCU Media Day on Oct. 24 that Tuoyo reminds him of himself when he was just beginning his college career.

“When I first came in I didn’t weigh a lot and he doesn’t weigh a lot either, but he’s trying to put on more,” said Reddic of Tuoyo, who enters his first season at VCU at 6-foot-9, 220 pounds. “Guys are always telling him to eat more, and the same thing was happening to me when I was a freshman,” continued Reddic. “I just tell him to listen to what the guys tell you and it will pay off because it paid off for me.”

Tuoyo will want to listen to Reddic’s advice. Reddic has put on about 45 pounds since coming to VCU and this season was the only Ram to make the Atlantic 10 all preseason team, making the third team squad. He was among the most improved players in Division I from his freshman to sophomore seasons, in large part to how much he was able to bulk up in the offseason which he credits mainly to an improved diet.

For Tuoyo, this season will be about development, but perhaps in more of a crash course than originally anticipated. Reddic, Haley, sophomore Jarred Guest and senior David Hinton will once again be the entirely of the Ram front court, with only Haley and Reddic having averaged double-digit minutes over an entire season.

Haley told the CT Sports at Media Day he thinks Tuoyo will be the key player to get time in relief of himself and Reddic.

“Justin knows, with that happening, that his role this year has significantly increased,” said Haley. “He’s excited, he’s ready to come out and he knows what he has to do and he attacks every day in practice.”

“He’s pretty good on defense and he moves his feet very well,” continued Haley. “He still has some strength to gain but he’s definitely a shot blocker as well, he has good timing. Justin this year will be a guy that will fly around and block shots and grab rebounds and I think it will be a good year for him.”

Tuoyo will be a player Rams fans will want to look out for this year, even with the plethora of guards VCU will bring to the table.

On a team headed by a dynamic back court which includes scorers like Treveon Graham and Troy Daniels, and standout defenders such as Briante Weber, it will be the underrated front court that will be the glue holding the team together. Look for Tuoyo to play a big part in that.

“Justin has been doing pretty good, we’ve helped him out a lot,” said Reddic. “We’ve been telling him the things he needs to do in order to play more, like rebounding and running the floor, blocking shots, things like that. He’s doing a pretty good job adjusting to college and I think he’s going to do well this year.”

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