TBT Spotlight: Ram Nation

 

By: Patrick Ronan | @pk_ronan


2017 Could Be Breakout Year For Ram Nation

Returning to the South regional for the second year in a row is VCU alumni-based Ram Nation. The Rams made their TBT debut last year, but although the team madeit was the traveling VCU Pep Band that stole the show – bringing a whole new energy to the gym.

The team was able to ride that energy to wins over Kings of the South and NC Prodigal Sons to set up a Super 16 matchup with Overseas Elite. Ram Nation battled back from a halftime deficit to tie the game with just minutes to play, but Overseas Elite did what they do best and finished strong to pull out a 91-80 win.

VCU star power is aplenty on the Ram Nation roster, with some of the school’s best and most recognizable players coming together for this summer’s run at $2 million. From the coaches, to the booster, to the players themselves – seeing all of these guys on the same team will be special for the team’s namesake.

Coaches

Headlining the coaching staff is Bradford Burgess, one of just five players in VCU basketball history to have his jersey (#20) retired. Burgess did it all for the Rams in his four years (’08-’12), becoming one of only three players to log 1,600 points, 700 rebounds and 200 assists in a career. He ranks in VCU’s top ten career scoring (5th), three-point field goals (3rd) and rebounds (9th). Burgess played in and started every single game in his 146-game career, an NCAA record he shares with Boeheim’s Army guard Brandon Triche.

Last year, Burgess was an integral part of Ram Nation’s run to the Super 16 – averaging 18.7 points and six rebounds on 54.5 percent shooting – but an injury suffered during his professional season in Turkey earlier this March will limit Burgess to contributing from the bench this year.

Former VCU standout guard Joey Rodriguez will also be on the Ram Nation coaching staff. Rodriguez is second all-time in steals and third in assists. He was a catalyst for the Ram’s Final Four run in 2011 – averaging 9.0 points and 7.7 assists in 34.8 minutes – and joined the VCU coaching staff earlier this year.

Booster

VCU Hall of Famer Calvin Duncan is on board as the team’s booster. Duncan’s #5 jersey also hangs in the VCU rafters for his tremendous college career (’81-’85).  He ranks in the Ram’s top ten career points (8th), assists, (10th) and minutes played (7th).

Duncan was drafted by the Chicago Bulls with the 30th overall pick in the second round of the 1985 NBA Draft, but decided to join a global sports ministry traveling team – Athletes in Action – instead of playing in the NBA.

Players

A combined 552 NBA games lead a roster loaded with professional experience. VCU legend Eric Maynor finished out the trio of retired jersies (#3) and is a huge addition to this year’s team. Maynor is VCU’s all-time leader in points, assists and free throws. He was twice named Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and was a first round pick (20th) of the Utah Jazz in 2009.

Maynor spent most of his five-year NBA career with the Thunder and has also played for the Jazz, Blazers, Wizards and Sixers. He brings one of the best combos of talent and experience you’ll find in the tournament, especially at point guard.

Seven-year NBA veteran Reggie Williams is one of four non-VCU players on the Ram Nation roster. He played for Virginia Military Institute from 2004-2008, where he led Division II in scoring as a junior (28.1 ppg) and senior (27.8 ppg), chipping in 8.0 and 9.7 rebounds respectively.

Williams’ 262 NBA games have been spent with the Warriors, Bobcats, Thunder, Spurs and Pelicans as recently as this season. During his rookie season in 2009-10 with the Warriors, he averaged 15.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 24 games (10 starts).

Maynor and Williams are surrounded by professional talent. Nine of the remaining ten players on the roster are overseas and/or D-League professionals. Jamie Skeen, Juvonte Reddic and Denzel Bowles will be a formidable force down low while sharp shooters like B.A. Walker and Brondon Rozzell keep opposing defenses from packing it inside the arc.

As the #2 seed in the South, a rematch with Overseas Elite would go down in the regional finals if both teams can win their first three games. It’s no secret that Overseas Elite has a big target on their backs, and you can guarantee that Ram Nation is aiming for them.