Wade returns to VCU, players focus on the game

Left to right: senior guard De'Riante Jenkins, Will Wade, redshirt-senior forward Issac Vann and senior guard Malik Crowfield. Photo illustration by Jeffery Pohanka

Noah Fleischman, Sports Editor

When No. 23 LSU takes the floor Wednesday night at the Siegel Center, a few men’s basketball players will notice a familiar face at the helm of the Tigers: coach Will Wade.

Wade, who coached the Rams from 2015-2017, is returning to Broad Street for the first time since leaving for Baton Rouge. 

Three players on the Rams’ roster remain from Wade’s tenure: senior guards De’Riante Jenkins and Malik Crowfield, and redshirt-senior Issac Vann. Wade recruited junior forward Marcus Santos-Silva to Richmond before his departure.

“You don’t like playing familiar foes all the time or familiar faces all the time,” Wade said in a press conference Monday at LSU. “But, that’s how it goes in college basketball.”

For Jenkins, playing against his former coach won’t be a big part of the game. 

“I want to win,” Jenkins said. “Me personally, I think it’s more so for our fans and the opportunity to let their emotions be heard and felt with him on the opposing sideline.”

He said that the team can’t let Wade’s return dictate how they play — they just want to win. 

Jenkins played under Wade during his freshman season, and Wade hit it off with him and his family during the recruiting process. 

“Coming here to Richmond, both my mom and my grandparents, they loved it,” Jenkins said. “They loved coach Wade and his philosophy so we felt like VCU was the place for me.”

Jenkins appeared in 20 games while playing for Wade, averaging 12.9 minutes and 4.5 points for the Rams. 

Crowfield played for Wade during his freshman season and is not treating the matchup with his former coach any differently. 

“Same old, same old,” Crowfield said. “Tune everything out, stick to everything we do the best and just play my game.”

Crowfield appeared in 34 games and made four starts during his lone season playing for Wade. He averaged 10.1 minutes and 2.1 points during that season. Vann served his redshirt season in 2016-17 after transferring from Maine.

Coach Mike Rhoades and Wade were assistants under coach Shaka Smart for four years. The two shared an office and were roommates when the team went on the road. 

“We had some great times, we helped Shaka win a lot of games,” Rhoades said. “He’s a good dude. He works his butt off, he’s meticulous in his approach. He’s a heck of a coach and you see it when he has his teams ready to play.”

The Siegel Center is expecting its 136th straight sellout crowd when the Tigers visit Richmond and Wade expects a loud arena. 

“The atmosphere is incredible on any night,” Wade said. “It’ll be turned up even more, I’m sure, for us. It’s a great place. … It will be rowdy, but it should be fun.”

Jenkins said he looks into the crowd during games to see the signs and outfits that fans bring to games. 

“All the time. Before the game, during the game, it’s fun though,” Jenkins said. “Seeing it, seeing the pictures of it, there’s nothing like it.”

Wade left Richmond for LSU after the Rams were eliminated from the 2017 NCAA tournament. LSU paid a $1 million buyout to VCU when he was hired to coach the Tigers. 

The Rams and Tigers square off Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. at the Siegel Center.

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