PRESS BOX: VCU fans, don’t panic about next season

Photos by Kaitlyn Fulmore and Alessandro Latour

Arrick Wilson, Sports Editor

Despite outgoing transfers and graduating seniors, Havoc fans from Broad Street, Richmond and beyond should not fret about the black and gold’s upcoming season.

During the last press conference of the season, VCU head basketball coach Mike Rhoades said the last game of the season the team persevered through injuries that plagued the beginning of the season.

“People counted us out early in the year because of who we played and some of the results, and look what we did,” Rhoades said in the press conference

The Rams started the season without three key players, due to injury, taking rough home losses from Wagner College on Nov. 13 and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on Nov. 20. Yet the Rams finished the season second in the Atlantic 10, according to the A-10 website

Three VCU basketball players, including sophomore forward Mikeal Brown-Jones, junior guard Marcus Tsohonis and junior forward Jimmy Nichols Jr., entered the NCAA’s transfer portal this past month.

The NCAA’s transfer portal is a database of every player who has an interest in transferring from their current program to another institution. To transfer, an athlete must have their school’s athletic compliance department express the athlete’s intent to be entered into the transfer portal. Once an athlete’s name is in the portal, schools all over the country can reach out to the athlete, according to ESPN.

Sophomore forward Mikeal Brown-Jones’s transfer announcement was surprising due to his development with the team over the years. The Pennsylvania native boasted a career-high of 15 points against George Mason University on Feb. 23, according to VCU Athletics. Brown-Jones announced his decision to transfer on Twitter, stating his overall respect for the program.

“I’d like to thank the VCU coaching staff and everyone apart of the program for the opportunity. The time had I had here at VCU has been nothing short of FUN!” Brown-Jones stated. “The Ram Nation has shown me much love when I did get on the court. I will never forget you!”

Junior guard Marcus Tsohonis followed suit on Brown-Jones’s decision, adding his name to the transfer portal a day later. Tsohonis transferred to VCU this past offseason, and averaged 5.1 points per game, according to VCU Athletics

Junior forward Jimmy Nichols Jr. also added his name into the portal after one year with the Rams. Nichols appeared in eight out of the 32 games this season, averaging 4.8 minutes per game, according to VCU Athletics.

With these losses in mind, the black and gold will have to attract players in the transfer portal. With the graduation of senior guard KeShawn Curry, graduate forward Levi Stockard III and senior guard Vince Williams Jr., VCU fans should look to the development of incoming freshmen and transfers to impact the team next season.

On Sunday, VCU landed a freshman guard Zeb Jackson a University of Michigan transfer and former Top 50 recruit, who announced his commitment via Twitter. Jackson averaged 3.3 points over four contests in 2021 for the Wolverines, and should have an immediate positive impact for the black and gold.  

Incoming freshmen who will also make an impact are Richmond native, Alphonzo “Fats” Billups, and Christian Fermin. Both incoming Rams are ranked in the top 100 high school players by the national recruiting site Sports247. The incoming VCU 2022 recruiting class is also ranked number one in the A-10 conference, according to Sports247

Billups was named Virginia Class 4 Player of the Year while leading Varina High School to the Class 4 State Championship at the Stuart C. Siegel Center, according to Virginia basketball website Virginia Preps.

“Definitely just a good fit for me,” Billups said during commitment day. “It’s close to home, just the play style of VCU, just fitted me well. Just felt like home when I stepped on campus.”

Fermin was named Player of the Year, according to the Pocono Record, a Pennsylvania daily newspaper. Standing at 6 feet, 10 inches tall, the Philadelphia native would be the tallest player on VCU’s roster. 

VCU fans should also not forget that sophomore guard Adrian “Ace” Baldwin Jr. and freshman guard Jayden Nunn. Both athletes were named to the A-10 All-Conference honors, and are returning next season. 

Baldwin averaged the second-most points on the team this past season with 11.4 points and 5.5 assists per game, while Nunn averaged 8.6 points, according to VCU Athletics

After an early exit in the A-10 tournament and NIT this last season, VCU fans should look forward to the next season and the potential to go far in the A-10 tournament. This upcoming season will be an interesting one for the black and gold, with returning key players, incoming freshmen and transfers in the black and gold.

The future of Broad Street basketball is not only in good hands, but capable hands.

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