The VCU Men’s basketball team traveled to Spain earlier this month for a two-week foreign tour where the Rams took home a 4-0 record.
The Rams were abroad from Aug. 12-22. The trip allowed the team to hold 10 additional practices under NCAA rules. Per NCAA rules, teams can take a foreign tour every four years. This was the team’s first trip since they traveled to Italy in 2012.
For junior guard Jonathan Williams and several of his teammates, this was his first trip overseas. The Richmond native said the team did a lot of sightseeing, including visits to one of the world’s largest aquarium, Madrid’s Royal Palace, the beaches of Valencia and the home of FC Barcelona, Camp Nou.
Williams said a key to the team’s success abroad was defensive pressure. He said the Rams applied man-to-man and zone press from the start to the end of each game.
“We had a lot of subs,” Williams said. “We put a lot of pressure to not play the passing lanes and force their catches out. When they were trying to go backdoor we forced their catches out it would be a long run and we also had a help defender just running and take the steal.”
VCU forced 40 turnovers and produced 28 steals against Valencia in their second game in Spain. Senior guard Doug Brooks and freshman guard Malik Crowfield collected five steals each.
Williams said the most challenging portion of the trip was adjusting to the rules held by the European league. Players had to adapt to rules that acknowledged rip-throughs as travel violations as well as more lenient goaltending rules.
“When the ball bounces on the rim you can knock it off,” Williams said. “That happened to us the first game and we thought it was going to be goaltending.”
The radius of the NCAA three-point line sits at a 180° circular arc centered on the basket at 20 feet, 9 inches in radius. The European arc sits at a lengthy 23 feet and 9 inch mark.
The court dimensions also threw some players for a loop. For example, Williams said he had more trouble adjusting to the longer range three-point arc than other players.
“Some people shoot with range so it wasn’t difficult to adjust,” Williams said. “But for me it was.”
Redshirt freshman guard Samir Doughty, who sat out last season, knocked down 8-of-13 attempts from the field in VCU’s opener game against Euro Colegio Casvi. The Philadelphia native grabbed four steals and scored 13 of his points in the first half alone.
“He’s very crafty,” Williams said. “He’s a great scorer. He can knock down the outside shot and get his own shot. It was good to see somebody else who can score in a variety of different ways, he’s not just a straight shooter, not just a straight driver. He’s a little bit of everything.”
Williams also said he had the opportunity to focus on leadership while he was playing in Spain. He said it is vital to his position to become more vocal on the court.
“A lot of the younger guys coming in are going to need to step up in order for us to go far where we want to go,” Williams said. “So it was just making sure they were doing what they were supposed to do when they were supposed to do it.”
The Rams kick off their 2016-17 season with the annual Black and Gold scrimmage on Oct. 22.
Sports Editor, Sophia Belletti
Sophia is a junior journalism major pursuing a minor in gender, sexuality and women’s studies. She enjoys writing about current events and sports, and hopes to one day be a sports reporter covering soccer, basketball and/or baseball. You can usually find Sophia drinking way too much coffee and laughing at her own jokes. // Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn