This upcoming VCU men’s basketball season, two players dominate the mind of the public. Seniors Briante Weber and Treveon Graham are pursuing all-time career records; Weber may well break the all-time NCAA career steals record and Graham, VCU’s all-time scoring record.
But there is a third senior on the roster: the mostly forgotten 6-foot-8 forward Jarred Guest, who should naturally be next in line to fill the void left by departed big man Juvonte Reddic.
Last season as a reserve for the Rams, Guest averaged 1.6 points per game and 2.3 rebounds, averaging nine minutes per game. Despite having not received the same media coverage as his fellow seniors, Guest doesn’t consider himself overlooked. He said he knows he has an opportunity this season to be a consistent presence in the front court and is ready to make the most of it, by stepping up to the plate when his number is finally called.
Guest said he knows he must improve his offensive and defensive play and has already set high expectations for himself this upcoming season.
“I plan on leading the conference in rebounding,” Guest said. “Improvement in rebounding can help us win a lot more games.”
Smart said Guest will be the first answer as a senior in terms of front court presence. However, redshirt sophomore forward Mo Alie-Cox is considered by many to be the one to fill Reddic’s spot in the starting lineup despite having played only one year. Cox went on to start four games last year, playing in all 35.
Despite the outside consensus, the veteran power forward views himself as an integral piece of the puzzle.
“I definitely view myself as a replacement (for Reddic),” Guest said. “But there will be contributions from the entire team as well.”
Perhaps one reason Guest isn’t penciled into the starting lineup is because of his lack of in-game experience. Last year, Guest played double-figure minutes in the team’s first six games, but never saw that consecutive stretch of playing time for the remainder of the season. His highest point total was seven in a 72-57 drumming of Wofford College after Smart pulled his starters with the game well under wraps. Still with limited minutes, Guest was able to corral at least one rebound in 30 of the 35 games played last season.
He recorded a season-high seven rebounds in the season opener against Illinois State University, which matched his season-high play in minutes. Though the opportunities have been few and far between, Guest has shown patience and perseverance with the process. Smart said he knows that he has veteran presence down low on both sides of the ball.
“He (Guest) had his moments and done some really good things and has been an active defender, at times a really good rebounder,” Smart said in a press conference on Oct. 1.
Personal milestones aside, Guest said he and the team are focused on the bigger picture: finishing first place in the Atlantic 10 conference. Doing so would be the first regular season crown for VCU since winning the Colonial Athletic Association in 2009. In order to achieve that goal, Guest said he and other members of the senior class have stepped up their leadership roles since the end of last year.
“Since the beginning of preseason, we have developed a better relationship with Coach Smart in order to grow into the responsibility and leadership roles we need as a team,” Guest said.
Guest said he feels there is an additional sense of urgency for this season, due to the heartbreaking way the Rams lost to Stephen F. Austin University in the NCAA tournament last season.
“That game in particular motivates us while doing workouts. We try to stay vocal about it and talk about what went wrong and what we can do better,” Guest said.
The annual Black and Gold Game, which pits teammates against one another at the Siegel Center, will provide a first look at how much Guest has improved in the offseason. Smart stated that Guest has had a great fall thus far. Last year, he missed the scrimmage due to an ankle injury so he said he is looking forward to playing this year against his teammates.
“It’s different because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses without having to scout like we do for other teams. It will definitely be competitive because we know each other personally,” Guest said.
The official start of the season begins with a road trip to Annapolis to face the University of Tennessee in the Veteran’s Classic.
As college basketball season approaches, coaching staffs begin to project what kind of role each player could have on the team. Smart said he is optimistic that Guest will have a large impact in his final year.
“I’m excited to see what he can do as a senior, he’s certainly going to get a lot of opportunity early on,” Smart said.