2007-08 VCU Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #54
Conference Rank: #2 Colonial
2006-07: 28-7, 16-2, 1st
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
We know point guard Eric Maynor is great and Coach Anthony Grant has been and will continue to be courted by bigger programs, but VCU does lose a couple key components from last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Yet, Maynor alone will get the Rams near, if not at, the top of the Colonial Athletic Assocation. Maynor averaged 13.9 points and 6.4 assists per game, ranking fifth in the country and is one of the best team leaders around.
Besides the lack of turnovers, thanks to Maynor, the other major attribute to the VCU team was consistent three point shooting. As a team, the Rams shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc and much of those lofty numbers are due to the now departed B.A. Walker and Jesse Pellot-Rosa. The duo combined to make 4.5 long balls a game and averaged 28.1 points. The Rams do not have an experienced perimeter duo ready to take over on the wings that will come close to replacing those numbers. Center Calvin Roland only averaged 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds during his senior campaign, but he was a quality big man off the bench. Little used James Eversley and Matt Coward have wrapped up their careers at VCU.
The obvious need is to find some scorers on the wings for Maynor to get the ball to. Lance Kearse, Myk Brown, Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell will try and fill that role. At 6-6, the athletic Kearse is a natural small forward who can use his size to help out on the glass, which the team could use. Nixon is a great scorer from anywhere on the floor and will add some athleticism to the group. Rozzell is known for his three point shooting and the combo guard is expected to battle with the rest of the newcomers on the wing for quality minutes. Joey Rodriguez should be backing up Maynor for now. The 5-10 Ovideo, Florida product is a solid passer and leader on the floor. He is not the quickest guy around, but will be a solid point guard for VCU. Walk-on Gerard Smith will provide some more depth to the backcourt. The frontcourt could use a scoring punch but it will not likely come from Larry Sanders or Kirill Pishchalnikov quite yet. Sanders is a solid defender and rebounder and will add some much needed depth to the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
Forwards Wil Fameni and Michael Anderson will return to their starting positions up front. Neither are great scorers, although Fameni has his moments. If the Rams can find a consistent interior scorer, it will go a long way to open up the perimeter group for some open shots, which this group will need more of than last year’s team. What Fameni and Anderson will add consistently is some decent rebounding, which was a sore spot for the Rams last season. Franck Ndongo only averaged 8.9 minutes per game as a freshman, but the 6-7 forward could develop into a bigger contributor. Ndongo is really a big wing, but could be forced into action at the four spot if the newcomers do not provide enough depth.
There are some options ready to take over for Walker and Pellot-Rosa on the wings. Sharpshooting Jamal Shuler was the sixth man last year and will be asked to be a starter this year. His shot can be streaky at times, but Shuler really put an end to those concerns last year when he shot nearly 41 percent from long range. Sophomore T.J. Gwynn did not take too many shots last season, but he made 56.3 percent of them. He has the ability to make the outside shot, but will do most of his damage around the basket. Gwynn’s experience should get him plenty of minutes, but he will have to hold off the new guys. On paper, Maynor has less talent to work with this year than he did last year. But with Maynor’s leadership abilities, VCU will be right in the mix for another NCAA berth.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Eric Maynor, Junior, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Jamal Shuler, Senior, Guard, 8.6 points per game
T.J. Gwynn, Sophomore, Forward, 4.8 points per game
Michael Anderson, Senior, Forward, 6.4 points per game
Wil Fameni, Senior, Forward, 8.9 points per game