Patience paying off for VCU’s Jamie Skeen
Jamie Skeen has needed patience since he transferred from Wake
Forest to Virginia Commonwealth University three years ago.
First, he had to sit out a season. Then there was a coaching
change. Even when he got on the floor last season, the Rams still
had Larry Sanders as their dominant low post player.
It wasn’t until Sanders left early for the NBA did the middle
open up for the former North Carolina ”Mr. Basketball.” Now the
6-foot-9, 240 pounder is a big reason the Rams are headed to the
VCU (28-11) will play Butler (27-9) on Saturday in Houston.
”He’s had a phenomenal year for us and one that just keeps
getting better and better,” Rams coach Shaka Smart said. ”He
became our go-to guy. He was going to get as many touches as he
could handle, and now we’ve been able to go to him over and over
and over again and he’s responded.”
Skeen has averaged 15.4 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Rams
(28-11), and was probably never better than in their 71-61 shocker
against Kansas in the Southwest Regional championship.
He was 4 for 7 on 3-pointers, scored 26 points and grabbed 10
He’s still trying to absorb all that has happened. ”Making it
to the Final Four, that’s just a surreal feeling,” Skeen said
The Rams’ run through five schools from major conferences has
made them a national curiosity, and the 5,000 or so fans that
welcomed them home early Monday can’t stop praising them.
Skeen had little trouble Tuesday getting some information from
his professor in a Sociology class – his major – so he wouldn’t be
too far behind when he returns from Houston.
”Everybody kept interrupting me, giving me so much praise and
pats on the back. It’s a nice feeling, but I’m ready to get to
Houston so we can try to get these last two wins,” he said.
When it comes to basketball, no one interrupts Skeen when he has
something to say.
Early in the season before the Rams played UCLA, Skeen stood up
in the locker room and told his teammates he needed to get the ball
more. He got it, too, scoring 23 points in an 89-85 victory.
He also lit a fire under teammate Bradford Burgess.
After a 3-5 February that left the Rams seemingly needing to win
the Colonial Athletic Association tournament to get into the field
of 68, Skeen noticed Burgess not hustling while the team was
”I don’t really speak out that much, but when something is
really bothering me and I feel I need to stand up and say
something, I step up and say it like a man should,” Skeen
And ever since, Burgess has been playing his best basketball of
”It was the George Mason game,” Burgess recalled, ”and we had
turned the ball over and I didn’t run back on defense and try to
chase the guy down to block the shot. I kind of just dropped my
head and jogged back and he said, ‘That’s not the type of attitude
that we need to win ballgames. That’s how we lose, That’s what’s
going to get us beat.’ He just said, ‘Man, we’re going to need you
to chase down the player and block shots like you used to
The incident created no hard feelings, Burgess said.
”It was the honest truth, and he was right,” he said.
Point guard Joey Rodriguez has come to think that Skeen can do
just about anything.
When the Rams played Purdue in the tournament they led
comfortably much of the way. But when the Boilermakers closed to
within 13, Rodriguez looked for Skeen.
”The first thing I thought bringing the ball up was get it to
Skeen because every time he gets the ball, I think he’s going to
score,” he said. ”He always makes the right decision.”
Skeen left Wake Forest because of academic issues and when he
arrived at VCU, then-coach Anthony Grant monitored his progress in
Grant, whose Alabama team beat Colorado in the NIT semifinals on
Tuesday night, never got to use Skeen in a game. But he said Skeen
still found a way to contribute.
”He came in and impacted practice on a daily basis. Great kid
and obviously another guy that had a great high school career,”
Grant said. ”I think he was the player of the year in the state of
North Carolina coming out of high school, so we felt like getting
him certainly would be a big asset.”
Smart has continued to make sure Skeen stays on the right track
and sees the finished product.
”He’s come a long way, a long way,” Smart said. ”He’s
matured. He’s developed as a person. He’s done a really good job of
putting himself in a position where he’s on track to graduate this
spring. His attitude is one of humility and wanting to be coached
and to get better.”
That humility, though, is challenged by his expectations for
this weekend. Skeen continues to believe the Rams can win the
”It’s definitely doable,” he said. ”But I felt like that when
we played against USC.”