VCU basketball took ‘huge step’ in right direction this summer

By Wayne Epps Jr.

With VCU’s summer workout program in the rearview mirror, coach Mike Rhoades said Monday that he believes his team took a huge step in the right direction over the last couple of months.

The Rams concluded their eight-week program last Friday. It was one characterized by demanding workouts across the board, from the court to the weight room to the track.

“And just continue on building our culture of workload, of effort, of all of that,” Rhoades said. “I think it was very important that we had a huge summer, and just our overall approach of really emphasizing the workload and how much we’re going to put into it.

“And I thought some guys took some great strides in getting stronger and tougher and working on their bodies and their games.”

Rhoades said that, on the court, sessions last year featured “a ton of offense,” and that they really tried to create great morale and build on the culture with the new staff in place.

This year, though, was much more demanding, Rhoades said

“We did a lot more defense and just old-school practicing,” Rhoades said. “Lots of half-court defense. We got to be able to guard people and we got to be able to stop people, because I think we’ll be able to score. But that’s No. 1 on the list.”

Rhoades said that players were in the gym a lot on their own as well.

On the strength and conditioning side, getting players to fight through fatigue and getting players bigger were two areas of emphasis. The team had workouts on the track at Sports Backers Stadium twice a week.

And, weight-wise, sophomore forward Corey Douglas and junior guard De’Riante Jenkins were two who made notable progress. Rhoades said that Douglas wound up gaining about 20 pounds, and Jenkins about 13.

Rhoades also said that Jenkins, as well as junior forward Issac Vann, contributed great leadership during the summer.

Absent from the summer program was graduate transfer Michael Gilmore, as he went through the graduate school admissions process. Gilmore, a 6-10 forward, decided to return to VCU this spring. He played his first two seasons at VCU, and last season at Florida Gulf Coast.

Rhoades said that Gilmore is signed up and ready to go now, though. He’ll be in Richmond Tuesday.

“Our staff, our [graduate assistants] will be here and get right to work with Mike,” Rhoades said. “And he’s a fifth-year senior, he’s been through it many, many [times]. So he’ll catch up very quickly.”

Also, freshman Vincent Williams was somewhat limited this summer as he recovered from surgery on his shoulder that he had earlier this year, after his senior season at St. John’s Jesuit High School in Toledo, Ohio. Williams had a torn right labrum.

Rhoades said that Williams was able to do conditioning and some drills this summer, but just not any live play. But he was recently cleared, as the team wrapped up the summer program.

Junior guard Marcus Evans is also progressing after tearing his right Achilles on June 1. Rhoades said that Evans is out of his boot and already back moving around and shooting on the court. He’s also been in the weight room with Donald Brown, the team’s director of sports performance.

The Rams aren’t going to put a timetable on his full recovery.

“We’re going to make sure he’s right before he steps on that court,” Rhoades said. “I know how eager he is as well as his teammates and the coaches and the fans. But we’re going to make sure that he is right, and he’s ready to go.”

Players now have a couple weeks off before they report back to campus on Aug. 20. Fall classes begin on Aug. 23.

By Wayne Epps Jr.

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