VCU held its media half-day over lunch today. The usual suspects attended, and I mean that in a good way because they are friends. Getting to catch up with many is just another sign that the season is imminent. (Note the brand new countdown clock to the right.)
However Jon Rothstein and a reporter from the Wall Street Journal were also on hand as part of a media contingent that easily surpassed 30. David Teel made it up interstate 64, too.
Anyway, you don't care about that (except maybe the WSJ part). I have a bunch of material I'm saving for feature-length stories but as for now here's a sack full of nuggets that were deep fried in my notebook:
Shaka, on the tough nonconference schedule: "You want to have a schedule that challenges you...have games that get the NCAA tournament committee's attention in March." Smart also mentioned that playing in the A10 VCU gets a lot more top 100 games in league play, as opposed to the CAA. He noted that half the nonconference schedule was done before the league move.
Shaka, on defense: "We have to hang out hat on defense but we will be a better offensive team. We can be as good or better than last year defensively."
After noting that the team has suffered a predictable number of minor injuries, bumps and bruises, he said of Melvin Johnson: "We haven't seen the 100% Melvin Johnson yet...He's very good at the offensive end...he can have scoring outbursts where he can get six, eight, or nine points in two minutes."
On different lineups: "We'll always start big but defensively we're quicker small."
On Treveon Graham: "He's as important to our team as anyone."
On having more experience this year: "We're a better team this year at this point than last year. Now, last year's team at the end of the year played significantly better. If Sherrod Wright's shot (doesn't go in) and we won't talk about Indiana, we would've won every game in February and March. So there's plenty of room for improvement with this year's team."
On expectations: "The thing about expectations is that our internal expectations are as high or higher than external expectations."
On getting the season started: "This stretch in October is really the dog days from a player's standpoint. The number one concern you have as coaches is getting the guys able to focus (for the first game). Their energy level, excitement, all day, is through the roof."
On Rob Brandenberg, with sub point of missing the shot against Indiana: "Rob felt bad about being outplayed by Shelvin Mack, who is in the NBA and he was a freshman. He's our biggest question mark. He can be a pretty good player or a terrific player. For him, it's figuring out what goes in to being a terrific player mentally."
Smart said that Juvonte Reddic had back surgery in May but is fine. (Side note: all the other reports are dead accurate. Reddic is giant.)
Smart tells Troy Daniels to "not set your confidence by making shots," but he's a shooter so he's going to do it anyway. His point is that Daniels needs to be confident in his entire game. Shaka noted he wants Daniels to transcend his shooting confidence to the rest of his game. (Yes, he used the word transcend.)
On A10 play: "The thing about the A10 is that we're going to be in a lot of close games. A charge/block here, being ready to shoot there, making your free throws...(all makes a difference)"
Smart told Treveon Graham that Tre could be the alltime leading scorer at VCU. "He may have thought it was a recruiting line but I meant it."
Smart noted that 75% of practice is defense. "Defense you can make progress quicker."
On rigor of havoc style and physicality meaning more injuries: "I don't like to put those things into the universe. I don't put negative things out there." Editorial note: this was by far my favorite quote of the day.
On VCU not getting the respect it deserves: "I think our players aren't getting the due respect." Smart then related he told Darius Theus about not making the Top 50 point guards in the country list, that he told Darius to put it on the wall and use it as motivation.
On the Indiana loss: "Coaches never get over close losses."
On the VCU fans: "I've never been at a school where the fans have such an intimate relationship with the players." Smart said he wants the Siegel Center to a new level, "every single night a frenzied atmosphere."
On leadership: "Leadership that comes from a player is 100 times more powerful than from a coach. You want the players to set the mindset of the team."
On Juvonte Reddic: "The better Juvonte Reddic plays the more he will get the ball." Smart compared it to Jamie Skeen, said Skeen didn't the ball because he was the most liked guy on the team. "When he got the ball good things happened." Same with Juvonte.