Treveon Graham’s performance against 25th-ranked University of Virginia last Tuesday helped show the nation what many in Richmond have known for some time: The soft-spoken junior is one of the most reliable offensive weapons in the country.
The Rams trailed by seven points with less than seven minutes to play when Graham took over, scoring 10 of VCU’s final 15 points, including a long game-winning three, in a thrilling come-from-behind victory at John Paul Jones arena in Charlottesville, Va.
Graham said the designed play and subsequent execution will help his confidence moving forward.
“All night my shot wasn’t falling for me behind the arc,” he said. (But) being able to silence the whole crowd really helped my confidence. We just knew we won a big game.”
When several key Rams were strained by foul trouble, Graham stepped up and shouldered the offensive load. He scored 13 of his game-high 22 points in the second half as VCU overcame a late deficit in a hostile environment.
Graham’s versatility countered a smothering Cavaliers defense, which managed to control the pace of play for much of the contest. VCU was held in check through the first 33 minutes of play, but the junior guard found ways to score when it mattered most.
At 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Graham used his size to overpower smaller defenders on the block, notching consecutive layups to trim the U.Va. lead to three with less than six minutes to play. But just when the Cavaliers grew accustomed to Graham’s post presence, he showed his range in the waning moments of regulation.
Graham’s emergence as the team’s go-to scoring option shouldn’t be all that surprising. The Washington, D.C. native led the Rams in scoring as a sophomore a season ago, but entered the 2013-14 season overshadowed by several storylines.
Most eyes were focused on Juvonte Reddic’s NBA potential and Briante Weber’s transition to the starting point guard position, while Graham quietly earned a spot on the preseason All-Atlantic 10 first team and reoriented his game to play more on the perimeter.
The addition of redshirt senior Terrance Shannon means that Graham was moved from the forward position to more of a wing, combo guard to start the season. And while the Rams now have several viable scoring options, it is Graham who should be getting the ball in the defining moments of close games.
Head coach Shaka Smart responded to questions about leadership by saying VCU has a group of experienced veterans rather than one distinguishable captain. However, Graham’s play against U.Va. last week separated him as the Rams’ on-the-floor leader.
On a night when the team shot just 41 percent from the field, Graham converted 8 of 15 attempts. He was the only Ram to score in double figures against the Cavaliers and was one of few VCU players to avoid foul trouble on the evening.
On Saturday against Winthrop University, the third-year player posted his first double-double of the season, with 13 points and 10 rebounds. Several of Graham’s five offensive boards came during a time when VCU began to pull away from the fiesty Eagles in the second half.
Going forward, Graham is likely going to serve as a staple in opponent scouting reports after hitting one of the iconic shots of the college basketball season in the Rams’ second game.
He and Reddic both will attract heaps of attention on the offensive end, but don’t be surprised if Graham finishes the season as the team’s top scorer for the second season in a row.