Note: this feature also appears in the VCU gameday program.
We knew we had a keeper on our hands before the 2010-11 season began. Rob Brandenberg was slated by the coaching staff to redshirt his first season wearing Black & Gold, but the Rams didn’t even make the first game before their minds were changed.
Sure, Brandenberg had that spirit-lifting three at the end of the first half of the First Four victory over USC in his freshman season, and the block at the end of the Florida State game will be replayed for decades, but we shouldn’t have been surprised. Brandenberg was making plays and changing minds in practice, long before the start of the season.
The biggest shot in Juvonte Reddic's career came with 17:22 to play in the first half of a game in his freshman season. Not possible? Very possible. The Rams had missed all three shots and committed a turnover in the first two minutes in their Elite Eight game against Kansas in the 2011 NCAA tournament.
The Jayhawks led 6-0 and VCU was teetering. However Reddic collected a long pass from Joey Rodriguez and contorted his body around the rim to make a layup that settled down the entire team. It seemed mundane in the moment, but time has a way of pointing fingers at big moments. That was a big moment.
In every big moment over the past four years for VCU basketball, these two young men have been right there in the mix.
And while it's important to note that the big moments in the careers of Reddic and Brandenberg came in the NCAA tournament, they both represent so much more than moments on a grand stage. Both have impressive career statistics, crossing the 1,000-points plateau, but numbers don’t represent their impact on the VCU program.
They represent the rise of VCU basketball in the national conscience. Because as much as you point to the Final Four run as a watershed two weeks--and it certainly was--the ability of the players to serve as the backbones for at least two more NCAA Tournament-winning teams cannot be underestimated.
VCU could’ve been a flash-in-the-pan, a one-year wonder. It didn’t play out that way because these two remained committed to their teammates, their coaches, and their university.
Should the Rams make it to this year’s NCAA Tournament, and it looks likely that this will occur, Brandenberg and Reddic will be the only players in VCU history—and only the second in the history of the state of Virginia—to play in the NCAA tournament in all four years of their career. (The 1981-84 Virginia teams with Ralph Sampson is the other.)
The rise of havoc reeks with the sweat of Rob Brandenberg and Juvonte Reddic.
Briante Weber may be the epitome of havoc, but Brandenberg is the epitome of the VCU program under Smart. He played his heart out for four seasons, won a metric ton of basketball games, appreciated his surroundings, and graduated early. He earned his degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in December.
He’s grown as a player and as a young man in his time here—a long way from that gangly, wide-eyed freshman who was supposed to redshirt.
“He’s such a nice kid and a good kid,” reflects Shaka Smart, “that when he came in here as a freshman the initial thought was that we might redshirt him, and he was okay with it. Nowadays that’s rare. Then he played very well and there was no way we were redshirting him.”
This is the kind of kid Rob Brandenberg is: he wore #23 his freshman season but switched to #11 prior to his sophomore year. VCU great Kendrick Warren’s #23 jersey was retired several years ago, and though Brandenberg could’ve kept the number, he chose to wear #11 in an effort to leave his own distinct mark on the program.
It turned out to be a rather ironic number. At this writing, VCU is 43-3 in games in which Brandenberg has scored 11 or more points.
Reddic has blossomed as a basketball player and as a young man in his own right since stepping onto campus from Winston-Salem, NC.
The quiet, stone-faced freshman who hit that important layup put on 25 pounds of muscle, added a bevy of offensive moves, and has himself on many NBA Draft boards.
And while his demeanor is that of a gentle giant, Reddic makes a loud impact on the playing floor. He is the only player in VCU history to be in the all-time top 20 in scoring and top 10 in rebounding, steals, and blocks.
But more importantly Reddic will graduate at the end of this semester with a degree in Psychology and has come out of his shell. His most endearing moment came this December when he played a starring role in the touching VCU Children’s Hosptial Katy Perry video that went viral.
“We want Juvonte to be the best Juvonte Reddic he can be, and that’s never going to change,” says Smart. “That starts off the court and it translates on the court. I’m going to continue to challenge and demand more from him and better from him. He knows that, and he knows underneath it all there’s a great deal of love and respect. You’re talking about a young guy who’s come a long, long way.”
A long way indeed, for both Reddic and Brandenberg. It seems like only a month ago VCU fans wondered together “who are these freshmen that are playing so many minutes?” We know now, loud and clear.
Shaka Smart likes to say these two are the only two players on the current VCU roster who have not played in front of a full house at the Siegel Center. And he is right.
So when their Siegel Center careers come to an end, it’s only fitting that the arena is full and loud, and the fans are on their feet to cheer and appreciate the two young men who, more than most, made it happen.