Havoc Returns: Rams display new talent at Black and Gold Game

Freshman guard P. J. Byrd (24) was named District 20-6A Most Valuable Player as a junior and senior in high school. Redshirt-junior forward Issac Vann (23) started 18 games last season. Photo by Shayla Bailey.

Jessica Wetzler 
Sports Editor

VCU held its annual Black and Gold Game to kick off the start of the 2018-19 basketball season and introduce the new team at the Siegel Center. Splitting into two squads of seven, a gold team and a black team played for two 20-minute periods for a crowd of more than 3,000.

The gold team consisted of junior guards De’Riante Jenkins and Mike’L Simms, sophomore forwards Sean Mobley and Marcus Santos-Silva, freshman guard P. J. Byrd and senior guard Xavier Jackson. Redshirt-junior guard Marcus Evans sat out due to an Achilles injury that occured in June.

The black team, which won the scrimmage, included redshirt-sophomore forward Corey Douglas, freshman guard KeShawn Curry, junior guard Malik Crowfield, redshirt-senior forward Michael Gilmore, redshirt-junior forward Issac Vann, freshman wing Vince Williams and sophomore guard Dylan Sheehy-Guiseppi.

The first half began as Byrd coasted to a layup, starting off the scoring for the gold team. Byrd remained quick on his feet during the first and second halves and scored nine points, tying with Curry for third-most scored.

The game was a display of defense as the crowd saw constant communication on the court. Players were quick on their feet and passed the ball effectively, but Men’s Basketball head coach Mike Rhoades thought the team could have played faster.

“I thought it was a little sloppy early-on but we had some good defense,” Rhoades said. “We didn’t shoot the ball. We shot the heck out of it two days ago at practice.”

Right before the second timeout of the first half, Curry raced to the other side of the court to dunk the ball, creating a lively crowd and energetic black team.

“Nobody thought [Curry] was a good player because nobody knew that much about him,” Rhoades said. “He wasn’t ranked or any of that stuff. He is a competitive kid, he is athletic and he can cover ground. He is going to turn into a really good defender.”

The first half ended with Jenkins shooting a 3-pointer, giving the gold team the lead, 18-16.

Douglas gained all five of his points during the first half. Despite an underwhelming performance, Rhoades is confident Douglas holds potential.

“He not only has grown as a player but [has grown] physically,” Rhoades said. “He knows how to play. He might be the best guy on the team. If he doesn’t make the play, then he gets in the way to help his team.”

The second half was a complete turnaround for Vann. He scored all 16 of his points after the break – the highest total during the inner-team scrimmage.

Gilmore struggled on the offensive end, only scoring four points in the first half and none in the second. Santos-Silva and Simms scored four points each during the second half.

“We have to play with an edge. We have to guard people,” Rhoades said. “I thought we got each other shots. We are a better interior defense as a team and that will help us a lot.”

In the end, the black team came out victorious 36-34. Although the game did not count toward the season, it was recorded so players can look back at their performances and improve.

“With great freedom comes great responsibility,” Rhoades said. “If we are going to play fast and play with freedom, then we need to have the responsibility to take care of the basketball team, make good shots and then make sure [we’re] playing defense.”

The Rams will hold their first exhibition game against the Virginia-Wise Oct. 30 at the Siegel Center. Tip-off time is to be determined.

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