It has been nearly three weeks since the VCU Rams men’s basketball team has taken the floor due to COVID-19 issues within the VCU program. In total, VCU has seen the last two scheduled nonconference matchups canceled, with two additional Atlantic 10 matchups postponed.
Despite the lack of on-court action, there has been no shortage of off-the-court news around the program. With that in mind, welcome to the first of a semi-regular column, the VCU Rams Roundup. Below you will find the top stories VCU fans and alumni must know before the Rams step back on the floor.
Top Story: Graham’s jersey to be retired
Soon, former VCU guard Treveon Graham’s No. 21 jersey will join five others hanging amongst the rafters of the Stuart C. Siegel Center.
VCU announced on Jan. 3 that Graham’s jersey will be retired, two days after the program’s social media released a teaser of the upcoming announcement featuring radio calls of some of Graham’s best moments at VCU.
Big news coming Monday 👀
— VCU Basketball (@VCU_Hoops) January 1, 2022
The jersey retirement is scheduled to occur during halftime of the Jan. 22 game against Saint Joseph’s.
A Maryland native, Graham joined VCU for the 2011-12 season, averaging seven points per game off the bench in 36 games played. Graham was elevated to the starting lineup for his sophomore season and never relinquished his spot, averaging over 15 points in each of his final three collegiate seasons.
Graham’s career contained numerous displays of elite scoring ability, with a pair of 34-point games representing his career high, including in a 2014 loss to rival Old Dominion. However, Graham’s greatest scoring performance came early in his career when he scored 26 points against #19 Memphis in VCU’s 78-65 win in the 2012 Battle 4 Atlantis.
One year later, Graham knocked down a game winning 3-pointer to power #14 VCU over #25 Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena. In a A-10 conference game against #10 Saint Louis, Graham again led the Ram charge with team highs in points (17) and rebounds (eight) in a VCU upset victory. While Graham was on the roster, VCU defeated ranked opponents seven times, with the win against Saint Louis being the highest-ranked opponent the Rams have ever defeated in the regular season.
In 2015, Graham averaged 17.2 points and 9.7 rebounds during the A-10 tournament, including a pivotal 20-point, 13 rebound game against Dayton to seal VCU’s only Atlantic 10 Tournament championship. For his efforts, Graham was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
Graham led VCU in scoring all three years he started, led the Rams in rebounds his senior year and never missed the NCAA Tournament. With Graham on the roster, VCU progressed to the Round of 32 twice.
Graham was named to the All-Atlantic 10 First Team in 2014 and 2015 and the All-Atlantic 10 Second Team in 2013.
Nearly seven years after his graduation, Graham’s name remains all over the VCU record book. He is second in program history in career points (1,882), tied for eighth in made field goals (618), sixth in 3-pointers made (200), second in free throws made (446), and sixth in total rebounds (803). Graham also tied the program record for free throws made in a game with 14 against Richmond in 2015.
Graham was not drafted during the 2015 NBA Draft but went on to have a modestly successful NBA career. In four seasons with the Hornets, Nets, Timberwolves and Hawks, Graham appeared in 180 games and averaged 4.2 points and 2.2 rebounds per contest. Graham reached his career scoring high in 2019 when he scored 21 points in a Nets victory over the Houston Rockets.
Graham will join former teammate Bradford Burgess as the second player from Shaka Smart’s tenure to have his jersey retired. Graham joins Burgess, Eric Maynor, Calvin Duncan, Gerald Henderson and Kendrick Warren in the Siegel Center’s rafters.
Because of the limited available numbers in college basketball, VCU does not retire numbers, and has issued every number from the retired jerseys except Maynor’s No. 3. Redshirt sophomore Jarren McAllister, who is out with a season-ending ACL injury, currently wears No. 21.
Could VCU return to play this week?
The VCU men’s basketball team has not played a game since Dec. 15, a layoff approaching nearly three weeks.
However, there was optimism Monday that the Rams’ pause could end soon.
VCU beat writers reported that during head coach Mike Rhoades’ weekly press conference, he indicated that VCU would be able to play its next game, a Jan. 5 road contest against Dayton.
VCU coach Mike Rhoades just said in his weekly press conference that the Rams are a go for Wednesday at Dayton right now. The numbers available will be TBD.
— Wayne Epps Jr. (@wayneeppsjr) January 3, 2022
While VCU has been guarded with the number of players in COVID-19 protocols, Rhoades confirmed Monday that he had suffered a breakthrough COVID infection last week, saying it was the sickest he has been in his life.
During his media availability, #VCU Head Coach Mike Rhoades said he had COVID last week and it was the most sick he has been in his entire life. Said that they are good to go to play at Dayton Wednesday night.@CBS6 @CoachRhoades @VCU_Hoops @VCUAthletics
— Sean Robertson (@CBS6SportsSean) January 3, 2022
As of 5 p.m. on Jan. 3, Dayton’s program is not on a COVID-related pause, meaning that unless positive tests crop up in the intervening days, VCU and Dayton could finally tip off their conference schedules.
Thus far, the A-10 schedule has been turned upside down due to rising COVID cases throughout the country and amongst member programs. Of 14 scheduled A-10 games, the conference had only completed three as scheduled as of Jan. 3, with more postponements all but certain.
As of Jan. 3 there is no word on when VCU’s home contests against Davidson and George Mason will be rescheduled.
Tillman signs 10-day deal with NBA’s Hawks
A star from VCU’s recent past grabbed some headlines in recent days and could become the 13th VCU player to appear in an NBA game.
Former VCU star Justin Tillman signed a 10-day contract with the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 28, joining the team from the Hawks’ G League affiliate, the College Park Skyhawks. According to an NBA.com article, Tillman has appeared in 14 games this season for the Skyhawks, averaging 13.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Tillman played with VCU from 2014 until 2018, becoming a full-time starter in his junior season. During his senior season in 2017-18, Tillman led a Rams team dealing with roster turnover after the departure of former head coach Will Wade and the hiring of Rhoades. In 30 games that season, Tillman averaged just under 19 points per game and narrowly missed averaging a double-double on the season. Tillman was named to the All-Atlantic 10 Third Team in 2017 and the All-Atlantic 10 First Team and All-Defensive Team in 2018.
Upon his graduation in 2018, Tillman ranked third in program history in total rebounds (922) and second in career field goal percentage (.573). His 34 double-doubles are the third-most in VCU history.
After going undrafted in 2018, Tillman joined the Miami Heat for NBA Summer League in 2018 and the Phoenix Suns for the 2019 NBA Summer League. He has also played internationally, spending time on professional teams in South Korea, Israel, Italy and Turkey.
If Tillman makes an appearance in a game for the Hawks, he will become the 13th VCU player to play in an NBA game. He would join 2021 A-10 Player of the Year Bones Hyland as the second VCU player to do so this year. In 24 games so far this season, Hyland is averaging 8.5 points per game in 16.8 minutes per game with the Denver Nuggets.
Let’s check on the NET
In an odd coincidence, VCU’s men’s and women’s teams are in the same position in the NET rankings as of Jan. 3. Both teams find themselves 69th in the country despite both programs enduring significant issues related to COVID-19.
VCU’s men’s team ranks second amongst A-10 member schools in the NET, trailing Davidson (42nd). The women’s team is fourth amongst A-10 schools, behind Massachusetts (48th), Fordham (49th) and Rhode Island (58th).