AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – What a game Juvonte Reddic had against Akron to start off VCU’s NCAA Tournament run.
When the Rams drew the Zips on Selection Sunday, the first matchup issue that arose was between Reddic and Zeke Marshall.
Marshall, Akron’s 7-foot center, has been a dominating force for the Zips all season long. In fact, in last season’s overtime thriller against VCU, Marshall racked up 10 points, six blocks and three rebounds.
With DJ Haley out of the mix, guarding Marshall fell onto Reddic’s shoulders, and the 6-foot-9 junior out of Winston-Salem, N.C. was more than up for the challenge.
“I felt comfortable out there tonight,” Reddic said. “I knew he was a great shot blocker and like coach told us before the game, they all have a size advantage.”
“But because they’re bigger than us, (it) doesn’t change our game at all or anything, just keep playing our game the way we always play and I think I did a good job of doing that tonight,” he said.
Reddic stepped up and held Akron’s giant to 11 points, five rebounds and four blocks – not the type of numbers a big man needs to carry a team. Actually, as it turned out, Marshall was the one that had to step up to guard Reddic, something he said wasn’t an easy task.
“We got our legs taken out trying to get the ball up the floor, and he’s willing to run that floor so he was getting layups,” Marshall said.
VCU’s ‘big man’ – if you can call him that – shot 75 percent for 21 points, while adding six rebounds and two steals.
“I thought Juvonte did a nice job going at him (and) finishing around the basket,” head coach Shaka Smart said. “I thought our guys did a great job finding him and it made a huge difference.”
Reddic’s progression over the season has been noticed by all and has gotten recognition from the national media and some pro scouts.
As a player, it’s tough to gauge how far you’ve come, but Reddic took a crack at it anyway and self-assessed his growth.
“I feel I’ve progressed quite a bit, especially down low in the post. I’ve gotten a lot bigger as a player which makes it a lot easier for me to take up space on the inside and just get my moves off,” Reddic said. “I still have a long way to go to improve, but I like where I’m at right now.”
Confidence has been a hindrance in Reddic’s game over the past two years. But on Thursday night, his confidence was through the roof. Each basket he made seemed to add a hop to his step, and by the time the buzzer went off to signal the end of the rout, Reddic was at his peak.
“I think for every player, when they get a good bucket more than once, it’s going to boost their confidence a lot,” Reddic said on Thursday. “I think it boosted my confidence a lot tonight.”
“(Juvonte’s) confidence has gotten a lot better from his freshman year to his sophomore year (and) it’s grown over the course of this year,” Smart said. “The future’s really bright for him if he can keep moving in the right direction.”
Probably his best moment of the night came as time was ticking away in the latter stages of the first half. With 10 seconds to go, VCU had possession of the ball. Reddic received the pass, drove to the basket, and kissed one gently off the glass to double Akron’s score heading into halftime.
“It was very big, even though we were up by a lot, to get that shot and have the momentum going into the second half just put icing on the cake,” Reddic said.
To top it all off, Reddic became the 32nd VCU player to reach the 1,000 point milestone in their career.
In Saturday’s 78-53 loss to Michigan, Reddic continued his NCAA Tournament scoring pace by leading VCU with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting but had just three rebounds in the blowout.