Game PreviewsVCU

Senior night on deck for VCU

The VCU Rams men’s basketball team (18-7, 11-3 A-10) are rolling.

Winners of five straight, the Rams secured a huge rivalry win, beating the cross-town rival Richmond Spiders in dominating fashion by a score of 77-57.

The dominating win came after an iffy first half that saw Richmond lead 28-20 with just two minutes to play until halftime, while the Rams had lost senior KeShawn Curry to what looked to be a knee injury.

To close the half, the Rams went on a 8-0 run, then dominated the second half to beat Richmond for the second time this season. Curry, who had to be carried off the floor and into the locker room, returned approximately two and a half minutes into the second half.

On Wednesday night, the Rams will host the George Mason Patriots (13-12, 6-6 A-10), who have seen improvement under first-year head coach Kim English. George Mason star Josh Oduro is also quickly flying up the A-10 Player of the Year shortlist and is one of the most valuable players in the conference.

But for the Rams, the focus of the penultimate home game is senior night, with a pair of seniors due to be honored. While VCU fans have two more opportunities to see Curry and forward Vince Williams in person at the Siegel Center, time may be running out to see this dynamic duo in a VCU uniform.

KeShawn Curry

A Jacksonville, Florida native, guard KeShawn Curry has taken a long road to earning starter’s minutes.

The Fork Union Military Academy graduate joined the team in 2018, appearing in 15 games off the bench that season and shooting the ball just 27 times total in limited minutes.

Curry remained primarily a bench piece for the first three years of his collegiate career, averaging below 20 minutes per game in each season. As his minutes ticked up, Curry saw his averages creep up as well, hitting a career-high of 5.8 points per game last season.

During that time, Curry has also found himself to be a proficient rebounder, averaging 2.4 and 2.3 rebounds per game in his sophomore and junior seasons, respectively. Those numbers are not a surprise to those who watch his game, which is predicated more on slashing to the basket and finishing through contact than outside shooting and ball-handling.

This season, Curry saw the opportunity he has been waiting on for his entire VCU career. Having just started four games in his first three seasons, Curry has started in all 25 of VCU’s games so far this season. He is the only player to appear in all of VCU’s games so far this year.

Curry’s ironman streak appeared to be in danger after appearing to suffer a knee injury in the Richmond game on Friday. Earlier this week, head coach Mike Rhoades described Curry’s injury as a “left knee sprain” and termed the injury as day-to-day.

The injury is but a recent blemish on an otherwise stellar season for the senior. Curry is averaging career highs in points per game (10.2), rebounds per game (2.6) and assists per game (1.4). He has also shown excellent scoring games, most notably a career-high 28 points at home against Rhode Island earlier this month, the first of a pair of 20-point games Curry had within one week.

Curry, who wears in honor of Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving, will likely be remembered most by VCU fans as a proficient slasher who stepped up big earlier this year in the absence of other key offensive pieces. Perhaps no guard in the recent history of VCU has generated more highlight reel-worthy dunks than Curry.

Vince Williams

Wednesday night’s home game could mark the penultimate appearance at the Siegel Center for the “Swiss army knife” playstyle of Vince Williams.

A native of Toledo, Ohio, Williams also joined VCU for the 2018-19 season, quickly carving out a steady role and appearing in all 33 of VCU’s games that season. In limited time that season, Williams ranked third on the team in steals with 34 while providing a six point, five assist, five rebound and three steal game on the road against Richmond.

In the ensuing years, Williams saw his role steadily grow. In his sophomore season, Williams started three games before becoming a near-every game starter in the 2020-21 season.

The most impressive part of Williams’ game has been his evolution as a scorer. In his junior season, Williams’ 3-point field goal percentage shot up from 20% to 41.3%, vying for the role as VCU’s best shooter. In the 2020-21 season, Williams quickly became the second-best scorer on a team that finished second in the A-10 and earned a NCAA tournament berth. For his efforts, Williams was named Third Team All-Atlantic 10 Conference.

This season, Williams entered with high expectations. With the departure of top scorer Bones Hyland to the NBA, Williams seemed to be the natural pick to lead the VCU offense. The conference was on notice as well, naming Williams to the Preseason All-Conference Third Team.

By all accounts, Williams has met and exceeded those expectations while making a dark horse bid for A-10 Player of the Year. Williams leads VCU in points per game (13.2), rebounds per game (5.9) and sits second in assists per game (3.3).

Thus far this season, Williams has tallied three 20-point games, led by a 22-point game on the road against Richmond, which saw him knock down the game-winning 3-pointer. On that day, the strongest game of his career, Williams fell just two assists shy of a triple-double.

Williams is one of the most versatile players to put on a VCU jersey in the Rhoades era. Akin to a five-tool player in baseball, Williams’ game lacked severe flaws, especially after the Justin Tillman-esque jump in his 3-point percentage. Look for Williams to stuff the stat sheet once again against George Mason on Wednesday night.

Will either player return?

With the new eligibility rules related to COVID-19, senior night does not have to be the end of a collegiate career. Look no further than Levi Stockard, who was honored with a senior night celebration last season before electing to return to play as a graduate student this year.

Williams and Curry technically have one more season of eligibility, should they choose to use it. As of Feb. 22, there has been no word on whether either player will take that option.

According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Williams is “not yet sure” on if he’ll use the fifth-year option, while Curry “doesn’t currently plan on using his.”

But for now, VCU fans can honor two of VCU’s best players as they close out the 2021-22 season, and perhaps their careers, right in the thick of the NCAA Tournament bubble grind.