Taking a break from our normal topics on VCU living, we are extremely proud of the VCU Basketball program and its accomplishments. The VCU Basketball Program is a college men’s basketball program currently headed by well-renowned head coach Shaka Smart. The VCU Rams men’s basketball team of the Virginia Commonwealth University competes in the NCAA’s Division I mid-major Colonial Athletic Association.
History of the VCU Basketball Program
Established in 1968, the VCU Basketball Program followed the merger of the Medical College of Virginia and the Richmond Professional Institute. The Rams played their first season in 1968 to 1969 as an independent team and managed to get into the 1978 National Invitation Tournament only to lose against the University of Detroit in the 1st round.
The VCU basketball team under Shaka Smart is the first team ever to sweep the CBI post-season tournament’s best of three championship matches to become the CBI Champions in 2010, which is also a first for the VCU Basketball Program.
Coaches of the VCU Basketball Program
The VCU Basketball Program has had 10 head coaches through the years. The first coach of the Rams is Benny Dees who headed the team for two seasons. Dees managed to get some wins but was fired since he couldn’t get the team past .500. Chuck Noe was consequently hired and coached for six seasons.
Coach Dana Kirk
Dana Kirk became the Rams’ head coach in 1976 and led the team to a record of 24-5, earning them a place in the National Invitational Tournament. This marks the first time the Rams made it to major tournament, only to lose in the 1st round. He left the Rams in 1979 to coach in Memphis.
Coach J.D. Barnett
Under the tutelage of Dana Kirk, the Rams got invited to the Sun Belt Conference and when he left, J.D. Barnett was consequently hired. Barrett headed the team from 1979-1985 and led the team to five NCAA Tournaments out of a total of six seasons, and to four Sun Belt championships which they won. Because of his success, Barnett was offered a position in Tulsa.
Coach Mike Pollio
After Barnett left, Mike Pollio signed up as head coach of the VCU Basketball Program and headed the Rams until 1989. Under Pollio, the Rams had losing records for two seasons, which is a first for the team. However, Pollio also led the Rams to the NIT Quarterfinals.
Coach Jeff Capel
During Jeff Capel’s tenure, the Rams were once again pushed to the limelight in 2003 to 2004. He led the Rams to 2nd place in the conference in his first year, an overall record of 23-8, conference play record of 14-4, regular season champions of CAA, and champions of the conference tournament. The VCU Basketball team was granted with the East Region’s #13 seed and in the first round played against then #4 Wake Forest Demon Deacons. The Rams led in the majority of the 2nd half but still lost 79-78 by one point.
Coach Anthony Grant
During Anthony Grant’s first season as coach, he led the VCU Basketball team to a record 28 wins. He was also awarded the distinction of being the CAA Coach of the Year with the distinction of setting a record for the most wins as a first season coach. The Rams went on to garner a record of 76-25 in three seasons under Anthony Grant.
Grant led the Rams to a 52-10 vs. CAA challengers, which include conference tournaments, three straight conference championships in the CAA Regular Season, and two tournament championships in the CAA Conference. He also led the Rams to one NIT invitation and two NCAA Tournament invitations prior to renouncing his post to head the University of Alabama basketball team. Under Grant’s tutelage, the Rams’ Eric Maynor became the 20th draft in the 2009 NBA Draft during round one by Utah Jazz.
Coach Shaka Smart
Shaka Smart is regarded as the VCU Basketball Program’s most inspiring head coach to date. In two of his seasons, he has led the Rams to unparalleled heights, which include an appearance in the Final Four and 55 wins among others. They won against USC 59 to 46, defeated Georgetown 74 to 56 and reached Round of 32, and won against Purdue 94 to 76 which landed them a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, which is a first for the VCU Rams.
The Rams then won 72 to 71 against Florida State by a last second successful shot during overtime by Bradford Burgess and succeeded in landing in the Elite Eight, another first for the VCU Rams. They followed their win by defeating the #1 seed Kansas Jayhawks 71 to 61 and landed in the Final Four, another first for the VCU Rams. As champions of the Southwest Regional, they played against the Butler Bulldogs, the Southeast Regional champion in the National Semifinals but lost to them at 70 to 62.
At the end of the season, Shaka Smart was awarded 6th place in the ESPN/ USA Today Coaches Poll. This is regarded in VCU as the highest ranking in their history, as well as of all teams in the CAA. The VCU Basketball Program’s run in the 2011 NCAA Tournament is widely recognized as the best Cinderella story in the history of the NCAA Tournament.
VCU Basketball Program Current Roster of Players
- Briante Weber, 2 – Freshman, Guard
- Teddy Okereafor, 5 – Freshman, Guard
- Darius Theus, 10 – Junior, Guard
- Rob Brandenberg, 11 – Sophomore, Guard
- Juvonte Reddic, 15 – Sophomore, Forward
- Bradford Burgess, 20 – Senior, Forward/Guard
- Treveon Graham, 21 – Freshman, Guard
- Jarred Guest, 23 – Freshman, Forward
- Heath Houston, 24 – Redshirt Freshman, Forward
- Reco McCarter, 25 – Redshirt Freshman, Guard
- Troy Daniels, 30 – Junior, Guard
- D.J. Haley, 33 – Sophomore, Center
- David Hinton, 34 – Redshirt Junior, Forward