Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 1

Hometown: Prince George, VA
High School: Prince George HS
Years at VMI: 2004–08
Position: Forward
-All-time VMI point scoring leader
-2007 & 2008 NCAA Scoring Champion
-5th all-time leading rebounder
-7th all-time assists leader

Seriously, were you expecting anyone else? Surely I couldn't have put anyone that wasn't the single most prolific scorer, a 50% shooter, and a top-ten all-time rebounder and passer at the top of this list. But that's Reggie Williams.

Reggie was born in Prince George County, VA, and attended Prince George High School. Duggar picked him up in 2004, and in his Rat year Reggie made an immediate impression, leading the team with 15.5 points per game on 43% field goal shooting. The team failed to qualify for the Big South Tournament, and did so again in 2005–06, achieving a pitiful 7–20 record. Reggie, however, was one of the few bright spots, and averaged 19 points. Were it not for Matt Murrer shooting 65% from the field (third-best in the nation), Reggie would have led the team in shooting again.

But it was in 2006 where Reggie and his company were put on the map. Following a situation in which two players were kicked off the team and expelled from the school for an honor violation, the team was left with no player taller than 6'7 (Murrer) and had to adjust. Duggar then installed a face-paced, run-and-gun system that continues to live with us today, but in its first year, it was simply chaos on steroids.

Averaging over 101 points per game as a team, and setting the NCAA record for steals in a season (490), VMI put up points by the hundreds and found its way to the 2007 Big South Championship Game, despite a 12–18 regular season, 5–9 in the Big South. The Keydets did this by abruptly changing to a 2-3 scheme, and used a box-and-one to confuse and befuddle the legendary Larry Blair and his Liberty Flames in the quarterfinal round. VMI won 79–78, one of their lowest offensive outputs of the season, as Reggie scored 23 points and hauled in 9 rebounds.

VMI did the same in the semifinals against High Point, as Reggie played every minute of a shocking 91–81 win, while scoring 28 points. But Winthrop, who ended the season 29–5, fought off a scare from VMI as Reggie missed a game-tying three at the buzzer in an 83–80 loss at the Winthrop Coliseum. The Eagles went on to stun Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA tournament as the #11 seed.

Reggie averaged 28.1 PPG that year, leading the nation. In April, he initially decided to forego his senior season and head for the NBA Draft, but thought better of it and chose to return to VMI. He averaged 27.8 points in his final year, just enough to win the scoring title once again. The Keydets were eliminated in the quarterfinals, however, by Liberty, ending a 14–15 season.

Reggie went on to play professionally in France following his graduation, and then excelled in the NBA D-League with the Sioux Falls Skyforce. He made the Golden State Warriors' roster in 2009, where he played for two seasons. He recently played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but is currently back overseas playing in the Philippines.

Reggie scored 2,556 points at VMI, the most by any player in VMI, Big South, and Virginia state history. He grabbed 820 rebounds, fifth all-time, and dished out 368 assists, seventh all-time. Putting it together, there is little debate going against Reggie as the greatest player to ever don a Keydet basketball uniform.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 2

Well after today, it should be quite clear, if you're anything more than a casual VMI basketball fan, who the number one player on this list is. But of course I won't give it away, and in the meantime, here's #2 on the list.

Hometown: Charleston, WV
High School: South Charleston HS
Years at VMI: 1983–87
Position: Small forward
-1986 & 1987 SoCon Player of the Year
-1985 SoCon Tournament MVP
-2nd all-time VMI point scoring leader

For nearly 21 years, VMI forward Gay Elmore was at the top of basketball's most important statistic: scoring. Elmore mastered the art of shooting the basketball in his four years as a Keydet, and until as recent as six years ago found himself found himself as the leader of virtually every point-scoring related category.

A native of Charleston, West Virginia, Elmore played high school ball at South Charleston HS, just west of the city in the Spring Hill neighborhood. As a Rat at VMI, Elmore averaged 18.3 points per game, easily leading the team, as well as 5.7 rebounds.

In his sophomore season, Elmore led VMI on a surprising run to the Southern Conference championship game, with narrow upsets of Western Carolina (65–63) and powerhouse Chattanooga (71–69), who had gone 14–2 and 24–7 to that point in the regular season. Both games went into overtime. The Keydets failed to overcome Marshall, however, and lost by a close 65–70 margin, despite Elmore's 17 points. The tournament performance earned him SoCon Tournament MVP honors, incredibly rare for a losing player to accomplish. VMI that year had its first winning season since 1978 and the days of Ron Carter, not two seasons removed from a disastrous two-year stretch in which the team won three out of fifty games.

Elmore averaged an even 20 PPG that year, and continued to improve. By his senior year he was scoring over 25 per game, at which point he earned his second SoCon Player of the Year Award, becoming just the tenth player in league history to earn the award multiple times at that point. The team, however, struggled in his final two seasons, and never made it beyond the tournament quarterfinals.

Elmore ended his career as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,422 points, an achievement surpassed 21 years later by you-know-who. He is currently second all-time in most field goals made and second in career 30+ point games with 15. Elmore was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 6th round of the 1987 draft, and currently owns a law firm (Elmore & Elmore) in his hometown of Charleston.

He now has two sons, Jon and Ot, currently on the VMI basketball team, and if those two are anything like their father, it should be quite a sight to see.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 3

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
High School: Perry Traditional Academy
Years at VMI: 1974–78
Position: Forward
-VMI Sports Hall of Fame Inductee
-1977 & 1978 SoCon Player of the Year
-3rd all-time VMI point scoring leader
-6th all-time rebounding leader

There was almost nothing in a VMI uniform that Ron Carter did not accomplish. A scrawny but dynamic 6'5 forward from Pittsburgh, Carter is among the most decorated Keydet basketball players, and certainly the most successful. In his four-year career from 1974 to 1978, Carter's teams won a total of 82 games while losing a mere 34. No other class in VMI history can say the same, and only this year's class of Rodney Glasgow, D.J. Covington, and Drew Absher broke 70.

Carter was born in Pittsburgh and attended high school at the Perry Traditional Academy. In his Rat year, the Keydets went a modest 13–13, 6–6 in the Southern Conference. They did, however, advance to the SoCon tournament semifinals, giving the team their first postseason win since 1964 (a team that went on to win the title). It was only a sign of things to come.

The following season, Carter, alongside forward Will Bynum and center Dave Montgomery, led the Keydets to a 22–10 (9–3) record, which included a 12–1 mark inside the "The Pit" (less commonly referred to as Cormack Field House). It was the program's first ever 20-win season, and almost never happened. The Keydets squeaked by Davidson in the quarterfinal round 71–69, hosted in Lexington. VMI then reeled off wins over Appalachian State and Richmond to head to the NCAA Tournament in Charlotte and a date with Tennessee.

Overcoming a 36-point performance from All-American Ernie Grunfeld and his Volunteers, Carter scored 19 points alongside Bynum's 20 and John Krovic's 17 to upset Tennessee, 81–75. VMI then held off DePaul in overtime at the Greensboro Coliseum to vanquish the Blue Demons 71–66. Carter chipped in 21 points to complement Bynum's 22. The run ended in the East Regional semifinals as Rutgers finished off the weary Keydets handily, despite Bynum's 34 points. Carter's four fouls limited him, but he still managed to score 15.

The Keydets continued their dominant run into 1977, going 26–4, once again breezing (mostly) through the SoCon tournament, once again proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the Big Dance. After defeating Duquesne in the opening round, the defending champion Kentucky Wildcats eliminated VMI from the scene in nearly identical fashion to the game at Rutgers. Carter contributed 28 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.

Another 20-win season followed the next year, and at the end of his cadetship Carter found himself as the school's all-time leading scorer (he is now third), and second all-time in rebounding (now fifth). He has four children and is now working as the city manager of Benton Harbor, Michigan. To end with a quote:

"I like VMI," he said. "I get a little tired of fans on the road yelling 'Hup, two, three, four' at us like we're a bunch of soldiers. But it's O.K. We were always killing their team at the time."

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 4

Hometown: Charlotte, NC
High School: Vance HS/Christ School
Years at VMI: 2005–09
Position: Guard
-2009 First Team All-Big South
-5th all-time VMI point scoring leader
-3rd all-time in 3P FG made
-2nd all-time steals leader

It's going be difficult to write an article about Chavis Holmes without repeating almost everything I said about his twin counterpart Travis. That being said, there were some differences in their game, unlike another pair of VMI twins, Ramon and Damon Williams. So I'll give it a shot.

Chavis was born in Charlotte, NC, three minutes before his brother on May 9, 1986. He attended Vance High School with his brother for two years. The twins led Vance to a 2003 North Carolina State Championship before transferring to Christ School in Arden, NC (near Asheville). As a senior, Chavis scored 17.5 points and 4.3 rebounds as Christ School posted a 32–1 record en route to another state championship. Chavis received All-State honors as well as a spot on the All-Western North Carolina first team.

After being recruited to VMI 2005, Chavis put up mediocre numbers in his freshman year as the team struggled. But much like his brother, he broke out in 2006–07 with the run-and-gun offense, averaging 19.8 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.8 steals per game. He led the Big South in three-pointers made and was fourth in the nation in steals. He continued the trend his junior year, with 18.3 PPG and 2.4 steals. But his senior year was the most notable. Following the graduation of Reggie Williams, Chavis scored 22 PPG while leading the country in steals with 105 of those. He shot 44% from beyond the arc, and earned a spot on the All-Big South First Team as well as being named to the Richmond Times-Dispatch All-State Team. And in a game against High Point in January of 2009, Chavis and his brother became the highest scoring pair of twins in NCAA history.

Like most twins, Chavis and Travis were incredibly similar in their appearance and personality. But they had their own distinctions like everyone else; Chavis likes ribs, Travis likes chicken tenders. Chavis likes action movies, Travis likes comedy. And on the court, Travis was longer and more athletic, while Chavis was a better shooter and scorer (at least, according to Chavis himself). But what is certain is that they were both 6'4 shooting guards, and among the most prolific scorers in VMI history.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 5

Hometown: Roanoke, VA
High School: William Fleming High School
Years at VMI: 1986–90
Position: Guard
-VMI Sports Hall of Fame Inductees

-9th all-time VMI point scoring leader
-All-time leader in 3P FG percentage
-10th all-time VMI point scoring leader
-2nd all-time in 3P FG percentage

I guess I'm cheating here. Yes, there are actually eleven guys to appear on this list. And I could've done the same thing for Chavis and Travis Holmes, which would've allowed me to fit another person in. But when you look at how freakishly similar Ramon and Damon Williams' stats are, I just had to include them together.

The Williams brothers were born and raised in Roanoke and attended William Fleming High School. They were the youngest of five children to Odessa and Joe Williams. They were recruited to the school by then-VMI head coach Joe Cantafio, and much like the Holmes twins, VMI was the only DI school to offer both players scholarships. Ramon received more playing time as a freshman, but by their sophomore both brothers quickly made their mark. After leading VMI on an upset run to the SoCon finals against Chattanooga, Ramon and Damon were selected to the tournament's first team. Damon, in his junior year, made the league's Second Team, and Ramon did the same in 1990, their senior year. But looking at the stats, it is absurd how identical they were.

In their junior season, both brothers attempted exactly 406 shots. Ramon made 194, while Damon made 193. Ramon reached the 1,000-point mark with a 31-point game in February of that year. Not but several games later, Damon reached the same milestone...with a 31-point game.

After three years, Ramon and Damon had identical career point totals. By the end of their career, Ramon beat his brother out by all of eight points. Need I also mention that the twins were separated in three-point shooting percentage by .008 points (and Ramon's incredible .427 mark from three is most all-time).

And they loved to play a prank every now and then. Flashback to 1989, where the twins are getting interviewed individually by a TV reporter. The reporter talks to Damon, then turns around, while Damon walks away to where Ramon is standing. Damon then returns, with the reporter thinking he is talking to Ramon, and lets the reporter in on the prank 45 seconds into the interview. Classic.

Both brothers were inducted into the VMI Hall of Fame in 2001, and were given the "Keys to the City" by Roanoke mayor Noel C. Taylor. They went on to coach at various colleges as assistants, and Damon did some work as an NCAA referee. And nineteen years after their graduation, Chavis and Travis Holmes broke the NCAA record for most career points scored by a pair of twins; a record previously held by none other than Ramon and Damon Williams.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 6

I could've used a picture of Chavis
here and no one would know.
Hometown: Charlotte, NC
High School: Vance HS/Christ School
Years at VMI: 2005-09
Position: Guard
-2009 Second Team All-Big South
-All-time VMI steals leader
-8th all-time point scoring leader
-8th all-time assists leader

Following the conclusion of the 2007-08 season, the feeling amongst Keydet basketball fans for next year was not a good one. Having just lost the school's greatest point scorer in Reggie Williams, there was seemingly no way the team would do any better than the 14–15 mark they put on the court the previous year. And with a schedule that opened at Kentucky and Virginia in a two-day span, you were looking at an 0-2 start right out of the gates.

Clearly, Travis Holmes and his twin brother had other things in mind.

Looking back on it, there were few more nimble and agile than Travis Holmes. The same could be said of his twin Chavis, who was probably a better scorer, but Travis gets a slight nod on the defensive side; he is VMI's all-time steals leader with 309 of those, five more than his brother. If you want lockdown defense, put either of those two guys on the floor.

Travis was born in Charlotte, North Carolina (as were many other Big South players) and originally attended Vance High School, with Chavis of course. The twins led Vance to a 2003 North Carolina State Championship. They then transferred to the Christ School in Arden, NC (also where Jon Elmore played) for the final two years of high school. In his senior year, Travis averaged 19.7 points, six rebounds, and three steals per game, earning him the Piedmont Athletic Conference of Independent Schools MVP. And once again, their team won the state championship.

Duggar managed to recruit both brothers to VMI when they toured it in 2005. I believe one of them said it looked like a prison (how typical). Believe it or not, VMI was the only Division I school that gave scholarship offers to both brothers. The rest wanted one or the other. For Travis, his freshman year was one to forget (that whole season was a disaster - Duggar missed twelve games with heart problems and they won all of seven games, four of which came over non-DI's). But in '06-07, the run-and-gun in place, Travis broke out for 15 points/game and averaged 3.4 steals, which led the country. He once had 11 (!!) steals in a game against Bridgewater, which got him on a very fancy list.

Of course all this time he was overshadowed by Reggie and his scoring prowess, but Travis quietly averaged 15.6 points in his junior year, though his assists and steals dropped slightly. Following Reggie's graduation, Travis, Chavis, and their senior counterpart Willie Bell broke out in '08-09, leading VMI to an unprecedented and unforeseen 24–8 record and another Big South final appearance. Travis continued to grow his scoring average, with 19.1 PPG as well as 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 3.2 steals. All this effort culminated with a spot on the Big South...second team all-conference. Yup, a guy who led the league in steals and was among the top scorers got that. But hey, it's the Big South; did we really expect anything less?

But no matter the Big South, Travis ended his career eighth on VMI's all-time scoring list and first in steals, not to mention eight in total assists. After being overshadowed by the most prolific scorer the program has ever known, it turns out Travis' real talents had yet to be discovered.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 7

Stan the Man at work
Hometown: Raleigh, NC
High School: Knightdale
Years at VMI: 2009-13
Position: Forward
-2012-13 Big South Player of the Year
-4th all-time leading point scorer
-2nd all-time leading rebounder
-5th all-time leading shot blocker

If there is any VMI basketball statistic that has ever existed, you are more than likely to find Stan Okoye near or at the top of it. A powerful 6 foot, 6 inch "small forward", there was hardly a position on the floor that Stan the Man could not play. He could post up, attack the lane, pull up for a three, and play smothering defense. A native of Raleigh, a popular Big South recruiting pool, Stan somehow received only two Division I scholarships; VMI and Big South rival Campbell. Inexplicably, the Camels withdrew their offer only a day after making it, leaving Stan no choice but to attend VMI if he wanted to play scholarship ball at the highest level.

Stan attended Knightdale High School where he was a basketball standout and led the Knights (appropriately named) to 73 wins from 2005 to 2009. He scored over 1,300 points and hauled in 550 rebounds, both school records. In a Class 4A playoff game, Okoye dropped a single-game record 42 points. The fact that he received little attention from mid-major colleges only added to his motivation.

Were it not for support from teammates, Stan may never have appeared in a VMI uniform at all. The Ratline broke him down physically and mentally, but he managed to hang tough. "I stuck it out because of the other guys," he said. "I figured if they could take it, I could too." As it turns out, it was the best decision he could have made.

Stan made an impression early on, averaging 14.2 points and 6.6 rebounds culminating in a spot on the Big South All-Freshman Team. His sophomore year, Stan led the conference in field goal percentage and upped his averages with 16.8 PPG and eight rebounds. In 2011–12, Okoye (along with Jordan Weethee's absurd three-point shooting) led VMI to a Big South championship game appearance before succumbing to UNC Asheville on their home floor. Asheville would lose to the #1 seed Syracuse on a pair of awfully blown calls.

Stan had a breakout senior season, averaging 21.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 2.6 assists en route to a Big South Player of the Year award. He became one of only five Keydets to reach the 2,000-point plateau, and is the school's second all-time leading rebounder behind Dave "Mongo" Montgomery. Might I add that he is tied for fifth in blocks and sixth in 30+ point scoring games, with nine of them.

An Honor Court member, a winner of the prestigious Three Legged Stool award, and VMI's first Big South Player of the Year; there may be a small few better than him, but none are more decorated than Stan Okoye.

Stan's Full Stats

Friday, July 18, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 8

Mostly forgotten among the legacy of the late 1970's teams is the much overlooked 1963–64 VMI basketball squad which captured the school's first Southern Conference tournament title, and from that the first NCAA tournament appearance. The team was led by Charlie Schmaus, Jeff Gausepohl, Joe Kruszewski, Bobby Watson, and captained by Bill Blair, #8 on this list.

Blair as seen in the 1964 Bomb
Hometown: Whitesburg, KY
High School: Randolph-Macon Academy
-1964 SoCon Tournament Champion
-VMI 1,000-point club
-9th all-time leading avg. point scorer

Bill Blair was not a player that blew away the stat sheets. As an underclassman he was overshadowed by Norm Halberstadt, who led the team in scoring on three separate occasions, twice with over 20 points per game. Halberstadt is third on the all-time point scoring average list and scored 30+ points in a game ten times (fourth most), becoming one of the most prolific scorers in the Institute's history.

But by the time Blair was a junior he filled Halberstadt's shoes quite nicely, averaging a team-leading 19.9 PPG, just shy of twenty. In his first three years at VMI, the team was, naturally, quite bad; twenty wins in that span. It looked to continue that way in Blair's senior year after the Keydets got off to an 0–3 start. Their first win came over George Washington (a conference rival at the time, who they would later play and beat in the SoCon tournament), and after starting 6–9, the team reeled off six wins out of eight games en route to the conference title.

The most memorable game of this run was a massive upset of Lefty Driesell's Davidson Wildcats, 22–3 and nationally ranked at the time. The Keydets escaped with an 82–81 victory in Charlotte after beating Furman by four the previous night. VMI took care of business in the championship game and won their first conference title in any league. Blair, the captain of the team, paced VMI that season with 18 PPG while Gausepohl had a team-best .556 field goal percentage.

The Keydets were promptly booted from the tournament by Princeton, 86–60, a game in which Blair scored 20 points. But it was trivial, because the thrill and accomplishment of winning the Southern Conference for the first time was more than enough. Blair would later become VMI's head coach in the mid-1970's and lead the team to an NCAA Elite 8 appearance with the likes of Ron Carter, Will Bynum, and Dave Montgomery. He later worked a failed stint as an NBA coach with the New Jersey Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves, lasting less than two full seasons.

His legacy at VMI, though, is not to be forgotten, and Blair will always be notable for putting the Institute on the map.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 9

Let me be the first to say, I hated leaving D.J. Covington off this list. There is little doubt he is the best big man, statistically, in the program's history. This year he slithered past Dave Montgomery to take hold of VMI's all-time highest career field goal percentage (.582). With 106 blocks in his senior year, D.J. blew away the record books and became the all-time leading shot blocker by a differential of 70. But as I said before I started this list, I am factoring in not only stats but overall contributions to VMI basketball. This also includes the success of the team as a player.

And for that reason you will find none other than Dave Montgomery at #9 on the list.

Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Years at VMI: 1974-78
Position: Center
-VMI Sports Hall of Fame Inductee
-1977 SoCon Tournament MVP
-All-time VMI leader in rebounds
-2nd all-time in FG percentage

Depending on your point of view, Dave Montgomery is either the first or second best big-man the Institute has ever seen. During his career from 1974 to 1978, there was not a year in which Montgomery did not lead the team in rebounding. In fact, he is on the top ten all-time single-season rebounding list four times. But he also did plenty of work on the offensive side, leading the team three times in shooting percentage, his last year getting beaten out by Ron Carter (who you may or may not also see on this list).

Montgomery peaked in his junior year of 1976-77, hauling down 267 rebounds and shooting an absurd .652 from the field, a VMI record only Matt Murrer and Montgomery himself come close to. He led the Southern Conference in that category multiple times, and was top ten in the nation at the time of a Sports Illustrated article written about the '77 team. That article said Dave came to VMI because "his Baltimore high school was on strike most of his senior year and recruiters forgot about him." At the time he was probably the tallest player the team had ever had.

Montgomery was critical during the tournament runs of 1976 and '77. The first year (in which the Keydets went to the Elite 8), he dropped 12 points on DePaul in the Sweet 16. Will Bynum and Ron Carter both scored over 20 points as well in that game. The following season, after winning the SoCon tournament of which Montgomery was named MVP, Dave hung 17 on Duquesne in the first round of the East Regional. He followed that up by scoring 18 (with help from Carter who had a 28/10) in a losing effort against defending national champion Kentucky.

After it was all said and done, Montgomery would finish as the school's 18th all-time point scoring leader, but more importantly, he revitalized the role of the center in a way VMI had never seen before. He obtained an 82–34 record at the Institute, a key member of the winningest class in school history.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Number 10

Before I even start this list, let's go over some candidates for honorable mention:

  • Jason Conley. This one was more of a moral issue, as I found it difficult to include a man who didn't even finish two years at VMI. Not to take away from his stats, though; Conley is still the only freshman to lead the NCAA in scoring with 29.3 PPG in 2001–02, as well as 8.0 rebounds and 2.9 steals whilst shooting 47% from the floor. He then bolted for Missouri after three semesters and saw his numbers, and career, disintegrate.
  • Keith Gabriel. You see one of the problems with the high-tempo system we run is that is skews statistics, often misleading people into thinking players are better than they are. I mean it's not a problem for the team, but it is for me when I do lists like these. I think Keith was one of the benefactors of a run-and-gun system; he scored 1,925 career points, which is 6th all-time, though his average isn't even in the top 10. The only major statistical category he appears in the top ten of is blocks (we know all about that), and 3-pointers made (he also holds the record for most attempted). Not trying to diminish his stats, but he wasn't quite good enough to sneak on this list.
  • Charlie Schmaus. He's more notable as a coach than a player for his NCAA tourney appearance, but Schmaus scored 1,328 points (19th all-time) and averaged 10.5 rebounds per game for his career (4th all-time).

Ok, this article is long already. Anyway, #10 on the list is pointguard Austin Kenon.

Hometown: Virginia Beach, VA
High School: First Colonial
Years at VMI: 2007-11
Position: Guard
-2011 First Team All-Big South
-All-time VMI leader in 3P FG made
-6th all-time in 3P FG percentage
-7th all-time in career points scored

The little man from Virginia Beach is widely recognized as the greatest three-point shooter in the school's history. You could make an argument for the Williams twins, or Chavis Holmes, who all had better percentages, but Austin simply made the most, and when the ball left his lethal right hand with a couple feet of room, you knew it was going in.

Austin had a career average of (ironically) 3.3 treys made per game, and made a living from beyond the arc. In fact nearly 60% of his points came from distance, and he was finally voted to the Big South First Team All-Conference in his senior year. By the end of his career he connected on a school record 349 three-pointers in 910 attempts (second only to Gabriel in that category, but a 38% mark is stellar).

Austin's freshman year was one to forget. He was benched in the beginning of the second semester, apparently due to poor grades, after playing 16 games. Despite missing nearly half the season, he still finished third on the team in total three's while averaging 12.3 points. His sophomore year, in which the Keydets went 24-8, Austin led the Big South in three pointers made, and dumped 26 on Charleston Southern (6-9 from 3), as well as a career-high 34 points (eight 3's) against Radford in the championship game in a losing effort. He hit seven three-pointers in a game twice that year.

Of course the next year we stunk it up on the court (10–19, barely qualified for BSC tourney) but Austin managed to shine; 18.4 PPG (season career high), 3.6 assists (career high as well), Second Team All-Big South. Senior year he averaged similar numbers, and the percentages went up, although he took fewer shots. And at long last he earned All-Conference First Team (which he really could have had three times, but the competition was stiff).

So over four (actually, 3.5) years, Austin left a great legacy and solidified VMI's reputation as a free-wheeling, runnin'-and-gunnin', three-point-shooting offense. Over 1700 points and 350 treys, he will not be forgotten at VMI for a long time.

Austin's Full Stats

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players: Preview

So over the next couple weeks, in order to keep people entertained (and because you will find it is quite difficult to pull content out of my behind in the off-season), I'll be doing a segment entitled the Ten Greatest VMI Basketball Players of All-Time. Appropriately, this piece will feature those who are, in my humble objective opinion, the ten greatest VMI basketball players...of all-time.

Factors involved in the rankings will include total points scored, scoring average, rebounds, assists, shooting, steals, and overall contributions to the Institute (a stat that is impossible to quantify, but easy to explain). With that said, it's time to get this show on the road.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

2014 Recruit: Jon Elmore

Being the son of a VMI Hall of Famer who is one of only three men to have a jersey hanging in the rafters of Cameron Hall comes with some difficult shoes to fill. How about replacing a man who is arguably the greatest point guard in VMI basketball history? Ask West Virginia-native Jon Elmore and he'll probably tell you he's up to the task.

In our final installment of the 2014 recruiting preview, we feature Jon Elmore, an early signee who committed in November of 2013. Jon is notable through his dad, Gay Elmore, who was a two-time Southern Conference Player of the Year in the late 1980's. Gay amassed 2,422 career points, a VMI record that stood for 20 years until some guy named Reggie Williams broke it. Elmore the elder, along with Williams and Ron Carter, are the only basketball players to have their jerseys retired by the school.

Case in point, Jon has big shoes to fill. Luckily for us, it seems he got his father's genetics. Jon is a 6-3 point guard from Charleston, West Virginia who averaged a team-leading 19.5 points this past season for Christ School in Arden, North Carolina. He was also first in assists per game (4.5), first in steals (3) and second in rebounds (5). In his junior year Jon averaged 13 points and 6 assists. Christ School went 17–15 in 2013-14, which included a 7–2 record in league play (they were 31–6 the year prior).

Per his bio he was ranked as the 8th-best player in North Carolina, although I couldn't find any confirmation on that. I did see, however, that according to, Jon is the 19th best player in the state. He is certainly no scrub; according to Coach Baucom, Jon received 22 Division I scholarship offers and decided to continue his family legacy. "The coaching staff is awesome, they had at least one coach at every game this summer," he said. "My brother is there and it has been a dream of ours to play college basketball together." Jon will join his brother Ot, who was redshirted as a freshman last year and thus did not see any playing time.

Although I cannot say the same for his brother, there is little a doubt in my mind that Jon will be the starting point guard next year. Pair him up with the lethal Brian Brown at shooting guard and you've got quite a 1-2 punch. I'm expecting big things from this kid.

Friday, July 11, 2014

2014 Recruit: Fred Iraufemi

I'm still not sure how to pronounce his name, but any 6'7 power forward who can block five shots a game and get a triple-double in points, rebounds, and blocks is a keeper.

Today we're looking at Fred Iruafemi, the Middle Creek HS star from the Raleigh suburbs who is his school's all-time shot blocking leader. Fred has taken advantage of his 6'7 frame, great timing, and athleticism to lead his team in all (yes, all) major statistical categories this past season. He veraged 12.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.8 steals, and 5 rejections a game for Middle Creek in 2013-14, and swatted a school record 14 shots in a state playoff game. He managed to set a single-season mark with 132 blocks this year, and if he hits the weight room, it looks like we've got a handy replacement for D.J. Covington.

The Middle Creek Mustangs were 16–10 this year, no doubt in part due to Fred's rim protection ability. But he can also work the offensive end quite well; Fred had a triple-double against Garner-Magnet HS (the first in school history) with 20 pts/15 rebs/12 blocks, and had a 19/12 against soon-to-be state champion Apex. Fred's also second all-time in Middle Creek history with 8.2 boards/game and second in FG shooting (55%).

Never mind his stats, though; I was thrilled with his character. If you attend a game of his you will see him swat shots back and forth, but you will not see him gloat about it. "We have to finish out the possession. If we don’t go down and score, the block is pretty much wasted," he said. "I'm getting my team involved. I’m not caring much about myself, just winning the game." His coach, David Kushner, questioned his boisterousness as a sign of a lack of leadership, but I tend to disagree. The numbers speak for themselves. "They have a winning tradition and after I graduate from VMI I will be set for life...Coach Baucom and I are cool, we text often." I can imagine.

Fred and his Brother Rat Armani will be in a chess match for the starting lineup come October. With his physique and body size I can't see Fred getting a ton of playing time, and I don't know if he's capable of replicating what Covington brought, but if he gets bigger in the preseason and adjusts to Division I size, hopefully he'll prove me wrong.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

2014 Recruit: Armani Branch

Over the next couple of days I'll be analyzing our recruiting class for the 2014-15 season. First on the list is dynamic 6'7 small forward Armani Branch out of Carrollton, Virginia, near Hampton.

Branch comes to VMI from the Genesis Academy in Lynchburg. He committed to the Institute in late January. As a senior at Genesis (who went 17–12 and was 34th best in the state) last year, Armani played in 24 games and led the team with 14.4 point per game. He was also second in blocked shots with just under 2, second in steals with 2, third in rebounding with 7.1 boards per contest. Duggar commented on Armani and said that "Armani is a skilled wing who can attack the basket but also shoot the three." Not so sure about that last part. Although he shot over 58% from the floor, Armani made less than 13% from 3-point land (and we know how much that matters).

But at 6'7, his three-point shooting won't be a priority (although it'd be nice if he can get it up into the high-20's range after his Rat year). Another weak spot was his free-throw shooting, which was an insufficient 54%, near last on the team among those qualified. Free-throw shooting has cost us several games in the past two seasons, and Armani needs to get that fixed if he wants to contribute.

But let's focus on the positives. In the Bull City Classic Championship on November 30, Armani shot 6-of-8 from the floor, had three steals, and notched a double-double w/ 12 points and 12 boards in a win over Hillside HS. Against the top-ranked Quality Education Academy he netted 25 points and 8 rebounds, and on January 24 scored a 23/11 against Charis Prep. If there's any indication, he's excited to come here.

Armani may (and I mean, may) figure into the starting lineup this year at forward/center with Covington gone, but more likely I'd expect Anglade to get that role with Watson and Branch rotating at forward. Eleby and Weethee will get some more playing time as well, especially if either grows an inch or two, so we'll be stacked at the forward position come November. I'd like to see from Armani somewhere around 7/4 average, and will be happily surprised if exceeds that.

(see Armani's full stats here)