On Selection Sunday, the VCU basketball team waited patiently to see where they would be seeded for the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
For three of the players, they were finding a possible location for their final game as a Ram.
Darius Theus, Troy Daniels and David Hinton knew coming into this season that it would be their last hurrah. Going into the postseason, it really began to sink in.
“We knew going into the NCAA Tournament that it could be our last game. Every game we went into it (thinking) if you lose, it’s your last game,” Hinton said.
Their last game turned out to be a 25-point loss to Michigan in front of a crowd full of maize and blue.
“It’s kind of sad to go out like this, but we knew it was going to come to an end one day, you just hope it’s on a better note,” Hinton said.
“For it to be the last game, and then to lose like that, it just kind of hits you extra hard,” Theus said. “But then, you say if you lose by one point, it’d probably hit you the same way.”
When the final buzzer sounded, it was official. The three seniors would be taking off their jerseys for the final time.
Hinton came to VCU in 2008 as a walk-on where he was immediately redshirted. His career in Richmond hasn’t been the most impressive, but his presence on the team was always felt. Throughout the team, he’s known as one of the strongest and hardest working players.
“He’s just the type of guy you would want to be around even if it had nothing to do with the basketball team,” Shaka Smart said.
Hinton played in 75 games throughout his VCU career, starting once against Richmond on senior night. He’s accumulated 37 points, 40 rebounds and nine blocks in four seasons, but his stats do not justify his contribution to the team.
Two of his most notable games came in his sophomore and junior seasons.
As a sophomore, VCU took on UCLA at Madison Square Garden and emerged the victor by the narrow margin of 89-85. Hinton played for six minutes while contributing four points and a big block.
The following year, in the NCAA Tournament against Wichita State, Hinton emerged again. He only played five minutes and his stat line was bare, but he drew a handful of charges in the first half that gave VCU the momentum it needed to stay close and win the game 62-59.
Looking back on his career, Hinton doesn’t focus on himself, but rather the program and university as a whole.
“I saw the evolution of VCU to an elite program,” Hinton said. “I came here and it was a small, little mid-major, and people only knew it because of (Eric Maynor’s) shot against Duke.”
“Now you can say VCU went to the Final Four, you even think of HAVOC, it can actually relate to the university and the city of Richmond now,” he said.
Daniels is known as one of the best shooters in the country, and Smart has said numerous times that Daniels is the best shooter he’s ever coached.
Sophomore year his progression was halted after suffering a broken foot against UNC-Wilmington, but he returned in time for the NCAA Tournament run to the Final Four and even hit a 3-pointer against Purdue in the Round of 32 just over two months after suffering his injury.
In his final two years, Daniels began to flourish into the three-point specialist he is today. Over this time, Daniels has knocked down 218 of his 251 career treys while shooting nearly 40 percent.
He set single game career-highs in minutes (36), scoring (33), rebounds (10) and 3-pointers made (11) in his senior year. All of those, except minutes, came in the 51-point blowout of East Tennessee State.
The 11 3-pointers set a VCU record, which broke the mark Daniels had set just a week earlier when he hit nine against Fairleigh Dickinson.
The biggest shot he hit all season came at home against St. Joseph’s. Held scoreless for 39 minutes and 46 seconds, Daniels came through and hit a three to give the Rams a one-point lead in the dying moments of the game. VCU went on to win by six in overtime to continue their perfect start in conference play.
Against Michigan, Daniels shot 3-for-13 from the floor and just 1-for-9 from deep. When the game finally ended, Daniels knew his journey had come to a close.
On what he’s going to miss the most, he said, “the team stuff.”
“When we do stuff off the court, team bonding, going into the Siegel Center, playing home games, just stuff like that,” Daniels said. “I’ll miss that.”
The outright leader of VCU, Theus has been a contributor since his freshman season. Playing in at least 35 games each season, he’s been an important factor in VCU’s success since his and Smart’s arrival.
Freshman year, he was the only freshman guard in the CAA to finish with above a 1-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Adding to that, he recorded a 10-to-3 ratio in the Rams’ conquering of the CBI Tournament.
In his junior year, Theus became the leader fans know him as today. Starting all 36 games as point guard, he led the Rams to the CAA Tournament title – where he was named most outstanding player of the tournament – and back into the NCAA Tournament.
Enter senior year, and a new conference for Theus to lead his team through. Picking up a minor injury early in the season, he missed the Belmont game and saw limited minutes in a few games, but shook it off completely before Atlantic 10 conference play began.
Against St. Joseph’s, Theus set his career-high for points scored at 22, while matching his career-high of 10 assists.
His 2.52 steals per game ranked 10th nationally. Additionally, he brought his career number of assists to 462 – sixth best in VCU history – and matched Joey Rodriguez’s total of 237 steals, tying them for second behind Rolando Lamb’s 257.
Theus, like Daniels, didn’t end his career on a high note against Michigan. Picking up two early fouls, Smart sat his senior leader for the majority of the first half. Theus finished the night having with 17 minutes, adding two points, three assists and one rebound.
He looked back at the last four years, though, and couldn’t help but feel pride, he said.
“We have done some great things, me, Troy and Dave. We’re part of that Final Four team. We won the CAA tournament,” Theus said. “Then we moved over to the A-10 … and made ourselves known right away.”
He added, “We leave a legacy for all three of us. I think we all left something here that people will remember.”
The three seniors have left their mark on their teammates and coaches more than anyone else over the past four years.
Seeing them leave is just as difficult to cope with for players like Briante Weber and Rob Brandenberg, who saw Theus and Daniels as mentors on and off the court.
“It’s going to be tough knowing they won’t be wearing a VCU jersey next year,” Weber said. “But I know they’re going to go on to do great things in life, maybe play basketball, but just be great people.”
Smart praised his seniors in the postgame press conference, even with the fresh loss to Michigan still looming over his head.
“They won more NCAA tournament games than anyone in the history of the program,” Smart said. “They’re a huge, huge reason why we’re even in a position to play today.”
“Darius, Troy and David provided for this program,” Brandenberg said. “They did a great job, you know, leaving their mark.”
“It’s kind of tough right now, but they’re always going to be remembered here,” he said.