Wade to begin VCU’s post-Shaka era with modified ‘Havoc’
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Will Wade won the day at his introductory press conference at VCU with four words: ”Havoc still lives here.”
As Wade prepares for his first game as Shaka Smart’s successor, the havoc he envisions figures to look a little bit different than the 94-foot, helter-skelter attack that Smart’s teams employed. The Rams host Prairie View on Friday night.
Wade’s approach will still be to force turnovers as often as possible, but by relying on zone and man-to-man looks that protect the basket.
Under Smart, the Rams pressured the ball and ran traps at midcourt to force turnovers, a strategy susceptible to being foiled by teams with strong guard play. Those squads sometimes feasted on layups.
”I’d rather use my length and athleticism in a shoe box,” the 32-year-old Wade said, speaking of his rotation, which he said could go as many as 11 deep. ”I’d rather keep our pick-up point in the half-court a little bit shorter and use our length and athleticism in a smaller place, make the other team play in a smaller place.”
For the past four seasons, the point man for the Rams’ defense was guard Briante Weber, a dazzling pick-pocket who would have shattered the NCAA career steals record had he not been injured midway through last season. Without such a player to lean on this year, defending a smaller area makes more sense.
”We’re going to make you come into our house and we’re going to guard the front porch and we’re not going to let you in,” Wade said. ”I think you can accomplish the same things. It’s just a different way of doing it.”
While having final say on the Rams’ defensive strategy, Wade focuses more on offense. VCU has to replace not only Weber, but Treveon Graham (16.2 ppg), the No. 2 scorer in school history, and will lean on several players to do it.
The most delighted of those might well be center Mo Alie-Cox, mostly a defensive specialist under Smart.
”I’m real excited because I’ll get the ball a lot now, being more a focal point of the offense instead of just being a defensive guy, blocking shots, helping guys out,” the 6-foot-7, 250-pound junior said.
Guards Melvin Johnson, last season’s No. 2 scorer (12.4 ppg), and JeQuan Lewis, No. 3 a year ago (8.5 ppg) figure to lead the way offensively, and Wade has been pleasantly surprised by transfer shooting guard Korey Billbury from Oral Roberts, who averaged 14.4 ppg last year.
Wade is well acquainted with much of the roster, having recruited Johnson and Lewis during his four years as an assistant to Smart. He left two years ago to take his first top job at Chattanooga and was 40-25 in two seasons. Athletic director Ed McLaughlin targeted Wade quickly once Smart left to take over at Texas
VCU surged at the end of last season, winning the Atlantic 10 tournament to earn its fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. They also just opened a $25 million basketball practice facility, and Wade knows expectations remain very high.
With all the changes, taking a year to get adjusted would likely not go over well.
”If we have a transition year,” Wade said, ”they’re going to be pretty upset. It’s on me to get the job done.”
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