VCU Basketball Prepares For A World Without Eric Maynor
It is the moment that Virginia Commonwealth University became a household name.
Eric Maynor's dagger of a shot in the final seconds against the Duke Blue Devils in the 2007 NCAA tournament sent shockwaves across the college basketball landscape.
It also forever changed the image of Rams basketball.
It raised the profile of not only Maynor, but his young coach Anthony Grant. The two seemed like a dynamic duo, both poised for greatness and leading their team towards unparalleled heights.
Last year the Rams finished 24-10, netting their third conference title in six years and their second NCAA tournament appearance in three years under Grant.
The Rams were on cloud nine in 2009, but are facing grim realities coming into this season.
The dynamic duo of coach Grant and Maynor are gone. Grant has returned to the SEC as the head coach at Alabama and Maynor was selected earlier this year in the first round of the NBA Draft to the Utah Jazz.
Therefore, Virginia Commonwealth University fans must now become accustomed to a world post-Maynor.
That is certainly a scary thought when you consider just how much Maynor has meant to this program. The 6-3 guard finished his career at Virginia Commonwealth as the all-time leader in points, assists and free throws made.
The two-time CAA Player of the Year led the Rams to an overall record of 95-35 and made them the toast of the town in Richmond.
Most importantly, Maynor was the face of the program. He was that rare player who did not wilt in the spotlight. Indeed, Maynor played his best when it mattered most.
Whether it was the game-winner against Duke, 25 points in the CAA Championship against George Mason or his late game heroics two years before that, Maynor knew how to win.
Rams fans knew it too. His final game at the Siegel Center looked like something straight out of a "Rocky" movie. Maynor was surrounded by confetti, balloons and was awarded his very own heavyweight fight.
However, as is the curse of college basketball, the NBA waits for no man. Maynor is gone and so is all the pomp and circumstance surrounding him. Now Virginia Commonwealth must look at an ever improving CAA conference and begin looking for their new leader.
It will not be an easy task replacing Maynor, after all, legendary players do not exactly grow on trees.
Virginia Commonwealth is fortunate enough though to have two big names who look to emerge from the rather large shadow once cast by their teammate.
Larry Sanders is a freakish athlete who has the tenacity to put up big numbers in both points and rebounds. NBA scouts drool over the potential Sanders possesses, but "potential" can sometimes be a dirty word.
Having potential and actually realizing it is a delicate balance, but Sanders certainly has the experience to make the leap in the upcoming season.
Joey Rodriguez actually contemplated transferring from Virginia Commonwealth after last season. However, his decision to return not only helps the Rams but helps Rodriguez develop as a player and a leader.
Rodriguez was deadly from behind the arc last year, shooting 62-of-149 from three-point land. He was also second on the team in assists last year and should expect an even larger role this upcoming season.
Rodriguez and Sanders represent the future of Virginia Commonwealth basketball. With a little bit of luck, they could become a great inside-out combination that can keep the Ram offense chugging in 2009-10.
While Eric Maynor may have many Rams fans reminiscing on the past, Rodriguez and Sanders are working to insure that the program's future remains bright.
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