Photos by Erin Edgerton
Illustration by Ian Duffus
Last Thursday, VCU basketball hosted the Liberty University Flames for an exhibition game with a special purpose. In a last minute schedule change, VCU and Liberty came together for an exhibition game fundraiser with proceeds going to the One America Appeal foundation, created to help victims from hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
Rhoades has clearly made a concerted effort to ingratiate himself into the VCU community through his humanitarian efforts.
The fundraising hit home for one Liberty player, Georgie Pacheco-Ortiz from Ponce, Puerto Rico. In an emotionally charged response at the postgame press conference, Pacheco-Ortiz shared how glad he was to see such support and that it was very meaningful to him.
“It was great to see my family and friends here in Richmond, I lived here for three or four years,” Pacheco-Ortiz said. “I’d never played at the Siegel center, and it was a great feeling.”
Pacheco-Ortiz has family in and around Richmond and Ponce. He mentioned the conditions in Ponce and said they do not have running water and go to their neighbors in order to eat and get resources.
“It meant a lot to me and my family back home,” Pacheco Ortiz said. “Just doing this I was a little emotional…it was great that the coaching staffs would put something like this together.”
VCU basketball’s effort to help those affected by the hurricanes can be attributed to Mike Rhoades and his former residence in Houston, and his tenure at Rice University, as well as in Rhoades’ effort to truly bring VCU basketball into the community, and vice versa.
In September, VCU basketball teamed up with the Richmond Flying Squirrels, American Red Cross and Minor League Baseball to collect five Hilldrup trucks worth of supplies, which were delivered to shelters in Houston. The effort by the Richmond and VCU community astounded volunteers and event coordinators alike.
Other than Rhoades and VCU basketball’s effort to help hurricane victims, Rhoades has also been an adamant supporter of the VCU organization RamTHON — a year-round fundraising effort to help patients and families in the VCU Children’s Hospital. Rhoades has been a supporter through video, announcing his support at the Black and Gold scrimmage and flying through campus with a red cape on. With three children of his own, Rhoades has been an model of how to support those in need locally and abroad.
Although Shaka Smart left VCU in high regard with the vision of building his name, Will Wade’s unceremonious departure left a bitter taste in the mouth of most VCU fans and players.
The team and fans were already in despair by losing some of our most beloved players — Mo Alie-Cox, JeQuan Lewis, Doug Brooks, Jordan Burgess and Torey Burston — so having the coach leave in a time when we needed to rebuild the program…it hit hard.
Mike Rhoades was quick to realize this somber mood. During his transition period into the new role. In Rhoades’ introductory press conference, he gave the Rams some hope of having a coach that would be with us for the long-haul. Rhoades repeatedly stated how good it was to be “back home” and having his family with him to show their support. Rhoades relayed the sentiment that VCU basketball was just a new edition to the Rhoades family.
These community outreach efforts are another way of showing commitment to VCU and wanting to do more for the program than just get an NCAA tournament credit on his record or another 24-win season. Smart made an impactful effort to bring the community together through the FRIENDS Association for Children in Church Hill or trips to the Children’s Hospital. Not to mention Maya Smart’s effort in being a Christmas Mother.
A noticeable difference in this trend emerges when you Google Will Wade and volunteering and scroll for pages to find something. I guess to Wade’s credit, he was here such a short amount of time he could not really get his heart into anything.
The magnitude of effort Mike Rhoades has shown to be a community partner and outreach advocate — even if it means running through campus with a cape — fosters hope, trust and grows admiration for the man and the program.