VCU fans, you've had your "Havoc."
Are you ready to feel the "Fury?"
A re-tooled, new-look Rams women's basketball team seems determined to make sure you are. And if things go according to plan, VCU's new catchphrase - which was officially rolled out on Tuesday - may one day roll off tongues as smoothly - and with the same level of respect - as Shaka Smart's "Havoc" moniker does on the men's side.
Of course, "Havoc" really took off nationally when Shaka's Rams crashed the Final Four. For "Fury" to gain traction, at least beyond the confines of the Siegel Center, Marlene Stollings' Rams need to deliver a good bit more than the 11-19 record they signed for in 2012-13.
But this, too, is part of the plan. In makeup, playing style and attitude, everything about the program these days screams "these Rams ain't those Rams." In fact, while last season was her debut season with VCU, the new energy and the volume of fresh faces make this actually feels more like Year One of the Stollings Era.
So OK, bring on this "Fury."
Unlike "Havoc," which focuses on the Rams' relentless pressure defense, "Fury" will center on a pedal-to-the-medal, points-aplenty offensive attack, a style Stollings deployed with great success two years ago at Winthrop.
"We want to go up and down," Stollings said. "We want to score and play with speed and quickness. This is the first step toward that style of play."
Indeed, the Rams were ill-equipped to roll that way last season, when Stollings inherited a pared-down roster woefully thin on experienced Division I talent. The players were game, but the Rams simply didn't have enough weapons. When we checked out VCU at Old Dominion last November, the Rams managed just 51 points. Now, the Lady Monarchs are pesky defenders. But a Rams team that operates the way Stollings wants should be able to find 51 points in the seat cushions of the women's basketball office couch.
The result is a nine-player mega-recruiting class - fuel for full-fledged "Fury" - that seemingly has gotten larger by the week. Stollings said "several of them" are poised to make an immediate impact.
"It's virtually a whole new team," the Rams coach. "But it's exciting, because we get to mold them into our system from scratch."
The nucleus of the newbies is a six-player group of freshmen Blue Star rated among the Top 40 incoming classes in Division I, not to mention first among Atlantic 10 schools and second-best of the 13 programs in this here Commonwealth (trailing only Virginia).
In May, guard Chadarryl Clay, a former Top 100 recruit, transferred to the Rams from Auburn. Although Clay won't be eligible to play until 2014-15, she'll be fully immersed in VCU's system in practices throughout this season.
Earlier this month, junior college transfer Amber McCann completed her summer school work at Iowa Western Community College to become Rams newcomer No. 8. Stollings said the solidly-built McCann is a true center with the chops to contribute right away.
And then last week, the Rams officially added freshman Brittani Burgess, a springy, athletic performer from St. Mary's Ryken (Md.). Read more about Burgess here.
It sounds as though the Rams could field a fairly potent outfit with just the new faces alone. But VCU also has a small cadre of talented returners, and Stollings said these players attacked offseason workouts as though they're intent on not giving up their spots. For example, Robyn Parks, who transformed herself from bit player two years ago to a first-team All-Atlantic 10 pick and the league's leading scorer in 2012-13, seems poised to make yet another step forward.
Jessica Pellechio, primarily a 3-point shooter as a freshman (76 percent of her field goals were from distance), has added a couple more dimensions to her offensive arsenal. Ultra-athletic Adaeze "Daisy" Alaeze, meanwhile, has done the opposite and has set out to become more reliable from the perimeter. And then there's Zakia Williams, ,who didn't let a little something like a grueling, nine-week summer session with the Henrico County Sheriff's Department stop her from busting her tail on the hardwood, too.
"Where these players are now compared to where they were a year ago is like night and day," Stollings said.
It all adds up to enviable roster flexibility for Stollings, who no longer will be forced to dole out minutes by default. With players now having to compete for their spots, there should be plenty of "Fury" in Rams practices, too.
About that nickname. The Rams spent an entire year trying to come up with a catchy tag. Then one night, Stollings said the word "Fury" just popped into her head. The next day she spread that word among her staff and the school's marketing folks, and the response was like, "OK, yeah...."
So now the VCU women have their own catchphrase. The trick now is to develop into the kind of team capable of living up to it. Stollings and Co. can't wait to give it their best shot.