Brainless TV is the ideal antidote, and for me movies generally serve the purpose. Luckily, one of the 17 HBO channels was very accommodating. It offered Runaway Train, some mid-1980s “action” movie that was about, well, a runaway train.
In less than three minutes my mind drifted to Treveon Graham, VCU basketball’s Freight Train. Graham’s going to be wreaking havoc this year, but it’s more devastazione than what Briante Weber will bring. Weber is a hail storm pelting away at your sanity, while Graham is more the irresistible force. I cannot wait to see The Freight Train with one year of game experience under his belt.
So with my family all nestled, snug in their bed, visions of three-pointers danced in my head. The movie was on, but it didn’t matter. My mind was in full VCU basketball mode.
Practice begins tonight. I think I speak for everyone when I say thank the Almighty.
It feels like years since that doggone Indiana game, and really nothing has occurred since then to distract us. I mean, a new athletics director and a new conference is fine and dandy, but it’s white noise when put next to the red heat of havoc.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s energy, great energy, surrounding our increasingly growing and nationally-relevant program. It matters. But it is nothing compared to a full, festive Siegel Center, with havoc in force, Juvonte jumping passing lanes for a dunk, Buzz Daniels flicking effortless threes, and Weber making everyone in a road uniform miserable. The inimitable Peppas and their tuba activation of youdontwannagotowar act as the gasoline can.
It’s a two-hour lightning strike and today is its official beginning, the gathering of the storm clouds. We're most definitely talking 'bout practice. So while there’s no official Midnight Madness for VCU, I’m holding it right now. It’s our time of year.
I see Daniels tracing the St. Louis Arch with a three. And Melvin Johnson, acting not at all like a freshman and one-upping the senior, standing in downtown Louisville and firing a ball across the Ohio River, through a window and into Xavier’s Cintas Center. Swish. You’d better believe I can’t wait to see those two creating their own McDonald’s commercial.
I see us blitzing GW with 12 more threes and closing out Richmond with a 26-6 run like last year—the only difference is that those are now conference wins. Rob Brandenberg going all SpiderMan, deflecting a pass and then defying the space-time continuum and ending up with the resulting dunk.
I picture Darius Theus, face painted all Braveheart-like, marching back and forth in front of the team:
“What will you do without havoc? Aye, shoot, and you may score. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willing to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell St. Joseph’s that they may inbound the ball, but they'll never get the ball in the basket!”
I see DJ Haley flicking away Chaz Williams’s shot and then flicking the 5-7 UMass point guard out of his beard. Oh, Juvonte. I’m pretty sure Will Wade created contact lenses for Reddic to wear so that every team looks like it’s William & Mary.
And the coaching staff. I wonder about them, too. We’re all familiar with the side trap, the coffin corner trap, and the midcourt trap. What new wrinkle are they putting into the pressing defense? You know it’s coming. What could it possibly be?
You know what I’m not thinking about? All this preseason love. It’s nice and it represents the successful journey to get here, but that’s it. Nobody’s going to lay down for us. We deserve nothing. The moment we relax because we feel good about ourselves is the moment we are beaten.
But you know what? That makes the basketball even more fun. The competition is better, so I cannot wait to get all havocy on them.
It’s like Pacino in the final scene of Scent of a Woman. Didn’t matter that Chris O'Donnell wasn’t a Baird man. Pacino got after the headmaster and made it clear O’Donnell was not hiding in big daddy’s pockets.
“Aahhm jus' gettin’ wahmed up!”
And so are we.
Final note: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the last time I attended a Midnight Madness-ish event that didn’t occur between my ears. It was just prior to the 2004-05 season, and Jeff Capel held an open scrimmage. I wanted to see this new big kid we had, a kid named Calvin Roland. I didn’t realize at that time Roland’s greatest impact would have nothing to do with points or rebounds.
It’s that time. #LetsGoVCU