Outside shooting to join defense as Rams’ identity in 2012-13

Quinn Casteel

Sports Editor


Last season, a new look and extremely youthful VCU team won the CAA and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament as a team with a heavily defensive identity not known for lighting up the scoreboard on a nightly basis.

Darius Theus answers questions at VCU basketball media day (Photo by Chris Conway / CT).

Freshman Briante Weber and junior Darius Theus were each among the top 40 in the nation in steals per game and as a team the Rams had the 19th best scoring defense in college basketball giving up 59.8 points per game. They consistently kept opponents out of rhythm on offense, keeping their shooting percentages low and not allowing them take shots on 15-20 possessions throughout a game by forcing turnover after turnover.

Forcing turnovers would also become the key to the VCU offense as the Rams’ fastbreak created open looks or layups in transition, which often made up for cold shooting nights from long range from some of the team’s relied on scorers like Rob Brandenberg and Bradford Burgess, who both had career low shooting percentages. Brandenberg dropped down to .354 after shooting over 40 percent in a  breakout freshman season and Burgess shot .368 as a senior after always making at least 48 percent of his shots in his first three years.

Despite frustrating, sometimes seemingly puzzling performances from normally high-quality players like Burgess’ 1-15 in a two-point home loss to Georgia State, and Brandenberg’s baffling three-point slump in the middle of the season which he said was the worst of his career, VCU’s defense always seemed to have an answer until the final minutes of the season-ending loss to Indiana in the Tournament.

This year however, expect a rebirth from VCU’s shooters as the Rams revert back to some of the great outside shooting the 2010-2011 squad produced, particularly on their record setting run to Houston with players like Brandon Rozzell and Joey Rodriguez hitting transition threes coming off steals and rebounds at will.

The defense will always be a constant for VCU, but this year all the stars are aligned for a team-wide phenomenal year beyond the three point line. ESPN Top 100 recruit Melvin Johnson has had his trey ball admired by everyone around the team to this point, while sophomore Treveon Graham and senior point guard Darius Theus said they spent a great deal of the offseason trying to become more comfortable with theirs.

“I think we’ll be great behind the line,” said Graham at VCU media day. “With Melvin, he’s a great shooter, Troy (Daniels), and everyone else is trying to pick up their three pointer. Me, Bri, everybody is trying to stay more consistent behind the line this year and I think I’ve personally improved.”

“I think I’ll still shoot the same amount of threes, it’s not really my game but if I’m open I’ve been working on it and I have the confidence  to make that shot,” said Theus. “If I’m open then I’ll shoot it, but if I have Troy Daniels wide open for three that’s automatic so I have to pass him the ball.”

Daniels, VCU’s leading three point shooter from a year ago, is back for what should be a big senior year from the Roanoke native.

One more productive campaign for Daniels, along with a fresh start for Brandenberg, Johnson and the rest of the Ram guards, just may be what the program needs as they try to revert back to the sharpshooting days of Rodriguez and Rozzell.


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