Last week, two of VCU’s most prominent basketball players received honorable distinctions. Junior guard Briante Weber was nominated for the 2014 Lefty Driesell National Defensive Player of the Year award, while Senior forward Juvonte Reddic was named to participate in the Reese’s National Association of Basketball Coaches All-Star game.
Weber didn’t win the award, but each player’s acknowledgement is another testament to VCU’s rapidly growing national brand.
The university has changed a lot in the four short years I’ve been a student here. All eyes focused on the basketball team when head coach Shaka Smart stunned the country by making a Final Four run in 2011. However, VCU has quickly developed into a multi-sport national brand since.
When the baseball team cracked the top-25 two weeks ago, it marked the second straight year the Rams athletic department could claim three separate ranked teams.
Former Rams pitcher Ian Thomas recently made his Major League debut with the Atlanta Braves, and senior Robyn Parks has a legitimate shot at playing and contributing in the WNBA after averaging nearly 22 points and 10 rebounds a game in her senior season with the Lady Rams.
As for the school’s signature sport, VCU men’s basketball has three alumni contractually connected to NBA teams right now. And more are on the way.
Reddic was projected as a potential first-round draft pick during the preseason and both Weber and fellow junior Treveon Graham could compete for roster spots following their graduation next May.
Reddic’s stock fell considerbaly during his senior season, but the big man from Winston-Salem, N.C. will have the chance to work his way up to the highest level if he isn’t drafted in June.
Looking forward, VCU’s 14th-ranked recruiting class, which features the nation’s 42nd-best prospect in Terry Larrier, according to ESPN.com, also helps highlight the success of the athletics department in recent years.
No other team in the Atlantic 10 can claim a single top-100 recruit, yet the Rams boast three alone heading into their third year in the conference.
It’s a far cry from the professional talent you’ll find in the Southeastern Conference or the Big 10, but the point is that VCU is arguably emerging onto the national stage faster than any university we’ve seen in recent years.
Perhaps soon we’ll see the Rams take another leap across conference lines.