VCU basketball freshmen adjusting to life on and off the court

Photo by Shayla Bailey.

Logan Reardon
Staff Writer

For many VCU students, being a freshman is hard enough. For Men’s Basketball guard P.J. Byrd and Women’s Basketball forward Lauryn Thompson, however, the combination of sports and academics has made college life incredibly busy so far.

With the 2018 regular season starting Nov. 6, VCU Basketball has been hard at work practicing with its new recruits. For Byrd, juggling school and sports has been harder than he thought it would be.

“Knowing that you’ve got to do school, [which is] mandatory, all the other things like working out so much — I didn’t really understand how much the workload was gonna be,” Byrd said.

Thompson, on the other hand, said transitioning from high school to college has been busy, but not in a bad way.

“When you’re super busy all the time, it keeps you from thinking about other stuff,” Thompson said. “It’s pretty easy to balance when you have a schedule to follow. I think it becomes routine, so I just stick to my schedule to make things easier for myself.”

Freshman forward Lauryn Thompson came from Arlington, Texas to join the Women’s Basketball program. Photo courtesy of VCU Athletics.

Thompson’s main reasons for coming to VCU are Richmond’s diversity and the large basketball fanbase.

“I love Richmond,” Thompson said. “I’m from the suburbs of Dallas, Texas, where you can’t walk many places. This new environment is a joy for me. Also, the support that the basketball team gets here is unmatched and it’s amazing.”

Byrd said he chose VCU because he was already close with basketball personnel. Some of the team’s current coaching staff used to work at Rice University, only a short distance from his home in Houston, Texas.

One of Thompson’s favorite places in Richmond, so far, is the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. Byrd, on the other hand, said he hasn’t been to many places in Richmond besides the VCU Basketball Development Center — the $25 million practice facility opened in 2015. However, he said his second-favorite spot on campus is the James Branch Cabell Library.

“It’s really big,” Byrd said. “It has a lot of space so you can really isolate yourself if you need to.”

Both players’ favorite places to grab a bite to eat are off-campus restaurants. Byrd’s favorite is Asado off of Broad Street, while Thompson’s is Mama J’s on 1st Street.

When it comes to their basketball careers, Byrd and Thompson said they bring energy to their new teams.

“I think I bring a lot of speed, which is big for VCU,” Byrd said. “They like to run and gun and get up the floor — and me having a lot of speed really helps them with that.”

Thompson said she brings a constant stream of motivation to her team.

“I play on edge and have a non-stop motor,” Thompson said. “I’m always bringing energy on and off the court and that is a very key part of a team.”

Both freshman, however, had different opinions as to who was ultimately in charge of their team performances this season. Byrd said his squad’s collective success is up to a higher power.

“I really think we’re a very good team when we’re at our best and focused,” Byrd said. “It’s in God’s hands what happens this season, but I really think we can make a run and really bring a lot of noise into VCU.”

For Thompson, her teammates’ support is key.

“I think, regardless of rankings, we are in charge of our season and how successful we will be,” Thompson said. “I believe we can go far and we know there’s a lot of work that will have to be put in so we can come out on top.”

Byrd said the support of VCU students during games will also be a key ingredient to the team’s success.

“You know we really love when fans come out to cheer and have fun at the game,” Byrd said. “That really ignites us to play because there’s a lot of days where we’re tired and we get a little fatigued because of our workload, but we build off of their energy.”

Thompson said she likes it when fans show support around campus.

“Just keep helping spread the word of when we have games and to actually come and support us,” Thompson said. “Also, when you see us on campus don’t be afraid to say hey or say ‘good game’ — small things really go a long way.

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