Just over three weeks after it was reported that VCU rising junior forward Mo Alie-Cox was being charged with misdemeanor assault and battery for his role in an incident at a Richmond night club, it was announced that the charges have been dropped.
According to WTVR CBS 6 in Richmond, video of the alleged incident between Alie-Cox and a woman contradicted her claim that the player punched her in the face following comments made regarding the departure of former head coach Shaka Smart. According to the report, Alie-Cox was not involved and had his back to the incident.
“We have been informed by the Richmond Commonwealth Attorney’s Office they have determined that Mo had no involvement in the alleged assault and that the charges against him will be withdrawn,” VCU Director of Athletics/Associate Vice President Ed McLaughlin said in a statement released by the school. “These actions confirm our knowledge and experience of Mo as an upstanding young man of the highest character who has represented our men’s basketball program and our university with exemplary leadership academically, socially and athletically.
“We look forward to watching him continue to represent VCU for the next two years as a member of our program.”
Alie-Cox, who started all 36 games for the Rams in 2014-15, averaged 7.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game and will be a key player in the first season of Will Wade’s tenure at VCU.
#POSTERIZED: VCU’s Mo-Alie Cox muscles up on George Mason big man (VIDEO)
No. 18 VCU survived their first game without Briante Weber — a game where Atlantic 10 Player of the Year candidate Treveon Graham was injured — by going into Fairfax, Virginia, and knocking off George Mason.
GMU freshman Shevon Thompson thinking it would be a good idea to try and get in between Mo-Alie Cox and the rim. No one gets in between Mo-Alie Cox and the rim:
VCU’s Treveon Graham: From lightly recruited to leader of Havoc, the Atlantic 10 favorites
In early September, on Belle Isle, a small 54-acre island in Richmond, Virginia, the VCU basketball team gathered in army fatigues for a week of Navy SEAL training. The daily workouts consisted of running with 300-pound sandbags draped over their shoulders, rowing in the James River, pushups, obstacles and an array of other challenging activities, all designed to help VCU remain one of the best conditioned teams in the country.
The Navy SEAL training, also known as ‘Hell Week’, has become part of the fabric of the program since 2011, and for seniors like Treveon Graham, they’ve been a part of each one.
“Communication, leadership, team-building, they always hit us with some sort of adversity or multiple forms of adversity, and it’s good for our guys because that’s what we’re going to face in games, particularly on the road and against great teams,” VCU head coach Shaka Smart said in a video from ‘Hell Week’ 2014.
Graham, Briante Weber, JeQuan Lewis, Mo Alie-Cox and Melvin Johnson were selected as leaders for the five different groups, made up of players, coaches and graduate assistants, all of whom took part in the training. For Graham, the first-team all-Atlantic 10 forward, his last ‘Hell Week’ took on great importance in one area in particular.
“I thought it brought out the verbal aspect of being a leader,” Graham told NBCSports.com earlier this month. “My first three years I was more a lead by example. I’m more comfortable now just talking to teammates out on the floor in practice.”
The 6-foot-6 Graham was ready to be pushed in the week-long workout sessions, spending the summer traveling from camp to camp. There was the Kevin Durant Skills Academy in June. Then the LeBron James Skills Academy three weeks later, followed by the Chris Paul Elite Camp in August. Three years of playing in Havoc’s non-stop, full-court pressure defense has helped Graham take on an individual barnstorming tour like that.
In four years, Graham has gone from an under-recruited VCU commit watching the Rams’ improbable journey to the 2011 Final Four to one of the top forwards in the country, the Atlantic 10 preseason player of the year and the leader of a top-15 team with lofty expectations again this season.
“Last year we fell short of our goals,” Graham said. “We were second place in the regular season. Second place in the A-10 Tournament, and then we lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
“I think we can leave a good mark on VCU. I think this is one of the more talented teams I’ve played with since I’ve been here.”
Coming out of St. Mary Ryken High in Leonardtown, Maryland, Graham was still south of 6-feet as a sophomore, but after a late growth spurt, along with the endorsement of area coaches brought Graham’s to Smart’s attention.
“To be honest, I gotta give a lot of credit to Mike Jones [of DeMatha] and Steve Turner [of Gonzaga] for their words about Tre to us in the recruiting process,” Smart told the Washington Examiner last February. “[They helped] us understand how good he was so that we could have a sense of urgency in recruiting him.”
In that same class recruiting class was Weber, who led the nation in steals rate in each of his first three seasons. Graham and Weber, both perfect fits in Smart’s system, have gone from Colonial Athletic Association commits to all-Atlantic 10 caliber players. And in their final season at Richmond, both could end up leaving their mark in the record books. Graham, who has been a matchup problem for opposing forwards, would need a bump in his 15.8 points per game average to reach Eric Maynor’s 1,953 career points (Graham is currently 604 behind). As for Weber, he has a shot at the Division I record for steals in a career (385) as he enters his senior year with 296 picks.
But the two anchors of this team are looking to leave their mark on the NCAA tournament. Since the Final Four run in 2011, the Rams haven’t reached the second weekend of the NCAA tournament, last season coughing up a ten-point lead to Stephen F. Austin, as the Lumberjacks shot 53 percent from the field against the vaunted VCU defense. In 2013 Michigan, the eventual national finalist, trounced VCU by 25 in the Round of 32.
The unanimous favorites in the Atlantic 10 will get challenged early this season with non-conference games against Villanova and Virginia, and that’s before the Rams go through the gauntlet of A-10 play, looking to fend off the likes of George Washington and Dayton. VCU, led by Graham, made it through ‘Hell Week’, now it’s on to seven months of Havoc.
Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package. We continue our countdown today with No. 13 VCU.
Last Season: 26-9, 12-4 Atlantic 10 (t-2nd), lost in the opening round to No. 12 seed Stephen F. Austin
Key Losses: Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenberg, Terrence Shannon
Newcomers: Terry Larrier, Michael Gilmore, Justin Tillman, Jonathan Williams
– G: Briante Weber, Sr.
– G: Melvin Johnson, Jr.
– F: Treveon Graham, Sr.
– F: Jordan Burgess, So.
– F: Mo-Alie Cox, So.
– Bench: JeQuan Lewis, So.; Terry Larrier, Fr.; Jarred Guest, Sr.; Antravious Simmons, Fr.; Justin Tillman, Fr.; Jonathan Williams, Fr.; Michael Gilmore, Fr.
They’ll be good because … : Shaka Smart will once again have himself a roster perfectly suited to VCU’s ‘Havoc’ style of play. Briante Weber is an absolute nightmare to try and handle the ball against, having led the country in steal percentage in each of his first three seasons in college, and he’s the guy that plays the point in VCU’s full-court press. He’s the engine that makes that defense go, and when the Rams get on a roll defensively, they can simply overwhelm opponents.
Weber will be joined on the perimeter by senior Treveon Graham, who is arguably the best player in the Atlantic 10. Graham is a known-quantity at this point in his career. He’s a physical, 6-foot-6 wing that scores a lot of points, draws a lot of fouls and just generally causes headaches for opposing power forwards that have to guard him. There are some question marks at some other spots on the floor, but with those two seniors anchoring the lineup, VCU is always going to be good.
But they might disappoint because … : There are, more or less, three real concerns for this VCU team:
The Rams don’t have all that much in the way of consistent perimeter shooting. Melvin Johnson can get hot in a hurry and hit four or five in a game, but he’s streaky. Graham is a respectable shooter, while Weber is barely a threat. Jordan Burgess shot 30.7% from the field as a freshman. This limits what VCU can do offensively, and when the Rams struggle to score, they struggle to get into their press.
Mo-Alie Cox is one of my favorite players in the country for a couple of reasons: His name is terrific, and he’s a 6-foot-5 brick wall of a big man that looks like he should be playing football, not basketball. He’s physical, he can rebound, he can score around the rim, but he’s also VCU’s best front court option and he’s all of 6-foot-5. Antravious Simmons has lost a ton of weight and VCU landed a pair of forwards that are long, lanky and athletic in Michael Gilmore and Justin Tillman, but none of them are guaranteed to be impact guys this season. The front court could be a constant question mark.
Sticking with that same theme, I’m not sure if VCU has enough depth this year. Freshman Terry Larrier, an athletic, 6-foot-8 wing that was a top 50 recruit nationally, should be an impact guy right away for Smart. JeQuan Lewis will provide some experience in the back court as well. Beyond that, there’s a lot of youth. Having quality depth is a bit overrated in college basketball, but not when you run the system VCU runs.
Outlook: Here’s a stat for you: Shaka Smart has never won a conference regular season title. Not in the CAA, and not in the Atlantic 10, and that is a point worth discussing. Ever since he led VCU to the 2011 Final Four out of the play-in game, Smart has been one of the hottest names in college coaching. He’s taken VCU from being a contender in a mid-major conference to being a perennial top 25 program and the overwhelming favorite to win one of the top nine conferences in the country.
Smart has done a terrific job building — and branding — this VCU team, but there are skeptics out there. Is VCU nothing more than ‘Havoc’? And can a team that relies on being more athletic, more aggressive and in better shape to win games really going to be able to beat elite teams, teams with players that can match up with VCU athletically who won’t be bothered by a full court press? It’s worth noting here that the team Smart had the most success with, that 2011 team, was the least ‘Havocy’ of any team he’s had in Richmond. They played the slowest pace, forced the fewest turnovers and won because they had shooters that caught fire from deep at the right time.
I say all that to say this: VCU is the best team in the Atlantic 10, which is the first time the Rams been the clear favorite since joining the conference. They should win the regular season title, and at least a game or two in the NCAA tournament. If they don’t win the league, however, than we’re going to have to have a real conversation about whether or not VCU can be elite using ‘Havoc’.
Meeting for the third time this season, rivals Richmond and VCU played in Friday’s Atlantic 10 quarterfinals with the winner advancing to Saturday’s semifinal round. And as was the case in the two regular season meetings the Rams controlled the flow of the game, racing out to a 16-point halftime lead in a game they would go on to win by the final score of 71-53.
VCU “only” forced 14 Richmond turnovers, five fewer than their average on the season, but the Rams made the Spiders pay for those mistakes. VCU scored 21 points off of those turnovers, and that along with their domination on the glass led to the comfortable margin of victory. VCU rebounded 47.6% of its missed shots with Mo Alie-Cox, Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic grabbing four offensive rebounds apiece, and those 20 offensive rebounds were converted into 22 second-chance points.
Briante Weber played just 18 minutes but still led three Rams in double figures with 18 points, and he was also one of the players given the task of harassing Richmond guard Kendall Anthony. Anthony, who scored 31 points in the first meeting between the two teams, scored just seven points on 2-for-15 shooting in Brooklyn. Next up for VCU is the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between George Washington and UMass.
After beating George Washington one week ago to move to 12-0 in Atlantic 10 play, No. 10 Saint Louis looked to be well-positioned to win a second consecutive regular season conference title. However the gap between the Billikens and the rest of the conference has tightened considerably since then, with Jim Crews’ team now dealing with a two-game losing streak after dropping a 67-56 decision at VCU.
The result cuts Saint Louis’ lead to just one game with two left to play, and the issue for the Billikens has been the same in both defeats: turnovers. After turning the ball over 16 times in their 71-64 home loss to Duquesne on Wednesday night, Saint Louis committed 17 against VCU.
With their “havoc” system the Rams are going to force teams to turn the ball over more than they’re accustomed to. In the first meeting between the Billikens and Rams on February 15, Saint Louis finished the game with 14 turnovers. But they still managed to win 64-62. Why? Because they limited VCU’s ability to turn those mistakes into points on the other end, finishing the game even in points off of turnovers (14-14).
In the rematch that wasn’t the case, with the Rams holding a 15-point advantage in that category (23-8). VCU did a better job of defending ball screens, and they also did a far better job against forward Dwayne Evans II. Evans tallied 21 points and ten rebounds in the first meeting, but on Saturday he scored just four points on 2-for-11 shooting from the field.
Defensively it was once again a group effort for VCU, with Mo Alie-Cox coming off the bench to block five shots and Briante Weber (13 points, five rebounds) and Treveon Graham (17 points, eight rebounds) accounting for four and three steals respectively.
VCU is at it’s best when they’re capitalizing off of live-ball turnovers and second-chance opportunities, with both being areas they were able to take advantage of on Saturday. Due to their work defensively and on the boards the Rams were able to control the action despite shooting 39% from the field and 3-for-16 from beyond the arc. And if VCU is to enjoy greater success this month, they’ll need to continue to take advantage of these areas.