Wizards leave the Stu spellbound

Eric Marquez
Wizard player takes selfies with fans.
Eric Marquez
Wizards player Markeiff Morris takes selfies with fans.

Washington Wizards fans and Richmond locals decked out in red, white and blue welcomed the Wizards to the Siegel Center Friday for their only open preseason practice.

On Sept. 19, the franchise announced a one year agreement with VCU to return to the Stu after a seven-year hiatus

“Nobody’s ever been to Richmond, we’re all excited to be on VCU’s campus and get some good work in,” said Wizards guard Bradley Beal prior to arriving in Richmond.

Beal missed the Wizards’ practice on Thursday and Friday after sustaining a mild concussion during practice Wednesday morning.

Midway through practice, Beal caught an inadvertent elbow to his head from center Ian Mahinmi, according to first year head coach Scott Brooks, and was temporarily removed from participation.

Eric Marquez
John Wall gives fans his autograph after training camp at the Siegel Center. Photo by Eric Marquez.

The 23-year-old guard passed the NBA’s return-to-participation protocol and returned to a full workload by Saturday.

“(Training camp gave) us time to mesh and bond together with the teammates and guys and get a feel for the coaching staff,” Beal said. “Different players off the court as well.”

Brooks agreed to a five-year, $35 million contract back in April. The former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach emerged as the front-runner for Washington’s vacancy after the final game of the Wizards’ disappointing 41-41 season.

Brooks posted a record of 338-207 with the Thunder and made a trip to the 2012 NBA Finals among his five playoff appearances.

“We have a fan base here (in Richmond) that’s going to get an opportunity to see our guys in action,” Brooks said.

The open practice was about entertaining the fans above anything else.

wizardscutout
Photo by Eric Marquez.

The session began with quintessential routines: layup lines and three on two, two on one drills.

John Wall and the team wrapped up practice showing off for the fans in a half-court shot competition and dunk contest.

Between drills, the Gold Rush Dancers and Wizard Girls performed.

“(Training camp) gives us a great opportunity to get away and bond with one another away from our home city,” Brooks said. “We have a new staff, seven or eight new players on the team and we have the returning players understanding what we do and trying to get on the same page moving forward.”

20-year-old Wizards guard Kelly Oubre Jr. is entering his second year with Washington. The New Orleans native played at the University of Kansas in the 2014–15 season.

Oubre was twice named Big 12 Newcomer of the Week and subsequently earned All-Newcomer Team honors. He also earned an All-Big 12 Honorable Mention. In 36 games for the Jayhawks in 2014–15, Oubre averaged 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 21.0 minutes per game.

In April of 2015, Oubre declared for the NBA draft, forgoing his final three years of college eligibility.

“I know some people from Richmond and they tell me it’s a great city so I’m definitely trying to come and see what the hype is about.”

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Prior to the camp, Oubre said he was excited to use training camp as an opportunity to build chemistry with his teammates on the court and he was looking forward to his first trip to Richmond.

“I’m looking for a good vibe,” Oubre said. “I know some people from Richmond and they tell me it’s a great city so I’m definitely trying to come and see what the hype is about.”

The Wizards returned to D.C Saturday night.

The Wizards begin their exhibition season Tuesday against the Miami Heat at the Verizon Center. Tip off for their regular season is Oct. 27 against the Atlanta Hawks at Phillips Arena.

 


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Sophia Belletti
Sophia is a junior journalism major pursuing a minors in history and 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.
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