Friday, April 22, 2011

Reflection: VCU

Courtney Hurt
2010-2011 season: 19-12 overall; 13-5 CAA; Lost to St. Joseph's in the first round of the WNIT

Who's leaving: Ebony Patterson (0.6 ppg, only played 42 minutes the entire season due to injury), Jessica Taylor (5 ppg, 2.7 rpg)

Who's coming: Christina Carter, 5-9 guard, Thomasville (N.C.): Scored 27 points with 9 rebounds and 8 assists in Thomasville's Section 2 championship game over Central Davidson, leading the Bulldogs to advance to the regional for the first time since 2005. Despite a team-high 17 points from Carter, Thomasville lost in the first round of the region. First Team All-Central Carolina Conference. 2010-11 All-County First Team (Dispatch); Aprill McRae, 6-3 center, Southeast Raleigh (N.C.) McDonald's All-American nominee; Scored 16 points to go with 11 rebounds over Fayetteville to power Southeast Raleigh to its fourth straight Eastern Region 4-A berth. Notes VCU coach Beth Cunningham, "Aprill might be the most heavily recruited player coming out of high school we have signed since I've been at VCU." ; Melanie Royster, 6-4 forward/center, Elizabeth Seton (Md.) McDonald's All-American nominee; Played in Elite Showcase Basketball Classic at Verizon Center in March; WCAC Second-Team All-Conference; Kiana Trice-Hill, 6-3 forward/center, Oak Hill Academy (Va.): McDonald's All-American nominee who loves to rebound; Played in Elite Showcase Basketball Classic at Verizon Center in March. Daughter of Rams assistant coach Trena Trice-Hill

High point: That sweep of Old Dominion was pretty sweet as was an 87-76 victory over Hofstra in the CAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Low point: A 63-31 overtime loss to Virginia Tech on Nov 21 started a three-game losing streak; the Rams were also beaten 65-58 at Towson

Program stock: Steady with tremendous upside

Shaka Smart got all the national attention. But what a job Beth Cunningham did with a Rams team that most considered in rebuilding mode prior to the start of the season.

D'Andra Moss, La'Tavia Rorie and Kita Waller were gone. Jessica Taylor and Ebony Patterson spent the bulk of the season injured. Courtney Hurt was the leading returning scorer, but her numbers from her sophomore year weren't mind numbing, just a decent 13.7 ppg and 7.7 rpg.

What a player Hurt evolved into as a junior. She didn't get CAA Player of the Year despite turning in the most consistent season in the league, blistering opponents with 23.2 ppg (second in the NCAA), 12.4 rpg (best in the NCAA) and 25 double-doubles (best in the NCAA). She received honorable mention All-American status, leaving us with one question. Honorable mention? Hurt was the first Rams player named to the Naismith watch list.

Nine games into the season Andrea Barbour gained eligibility, and suddenly the Rams had another ace. The former ACC Rookie of the Year (Virginia Tech) averaged 16.3 points and was a steady complement to Hurt. Sonia Johnson and Jennifer Lane added to the supporting cast. One problem, though, depth. The Rams had none.

They couldn't hang with James Madison, which beat them three times during the season, including in the CAA Tournament semifinals. They handled ODU with ease, surviving a voracious comeback by the Lady Monarchs at the Constant Center. This was a team that didn't seem to have the horses to win the CAA, but playing the Rams and containing Hurt and Barbour was no picnic.

With the recruits coming in, VCU will be deeper next year and Hurt will be battling Elena Delle Donne for Player of the Year honors. James Madison and ODU will be young; it's conceivable this team will be the favorite to win the league. A strong start to the season and a signature win could really benefit the VCU resume. The Rams struggled through a somewhat weak nonconference schedule this season, but with a seasoned Hurt and Barbour returning, should look to toughen up the slate.

We didn't anticipate the type of season Hurt completed and look forward to a senior year that could earn her a spot in the WNBA draft.

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