NCAA Tournament: Patience pays off for VCU’s Skeen
By Hank Kurz Jr.
RICHMOND, Va. ó Patience has been a necessary virtue for Jamie Skeen since he transferred from Wake Forest to Virginia Commonwealth University three years ago.
First, he had to sit out a season. Then there was a coaching change. Even when he got on the floor last season, the Rams still had Larry Sanders as their dominant low post player.
It wasnít until Sanders left early for the NBA did the middle open up for the former North Carolina ěMr. Basketball.î Now the 6-foot-9, 240 pounder is a big reason the Rams are headed to the Final Four.
VCU (28-11) will play Butler (27-9) on Saturday in Houston.
ěHeís had a phenomenal year for us and one that just keeps getting better and better,î Rams coach Shaka Smart said. ěHe became our go-to guy. He was going to get as many touches as he could handle, and now weíve been able to go to him over and over and over again and heís responded.î
Skeen has averaged 15.4 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Rams (28-11), and was probably never better than in their 71-61 shocker against Kansas in the Southwest Regional championship.
He was 4 for 7 on 3-pointers, scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
Heís still trying to absorb all that has happened. ěMaking it to the Final Four, thatís just a surreal feeling,î Skeen said Tuesday.
The Ramsí run through five schools from major conferences has made them a national curiosity, and the 5,000 or so fans that welcomed them home early Monday canít stop praising them.
Skeen had little trouble Tuesday getting some information from his professor in a Sociology class ó his major ó so he wouldnít be too far behind when he returns from Houston.
ěEverybody kept interrupting me, giving me so much praise and pats on the back. Itís a nice feeling, but Iím ready to get to Houston so we can try to get these last two wins,î he said.
When it comes to basketball, no one interrupts Skeen when he has something to say.
Early in the season before the Rams played UCLA, Skeen stood up in the locker room and told his teammates he needed to get the ball more. He got it, too, scoring 23 points in an 89-85 victory.
Smart has continued to make sure Skeen stays on the right track and sees the finished product.
ěHeís come a long way, a long way,î Smart said. ěHeís matured. Heís developed as a person. Heís done a really good job of putting himself in a position where heís on track to graduate this spring. His attitude is one of humility and wanting to be coached and to get better.î
That humility, though, is challenged by his expectations for this weekend. Skeen continues to believe the Rams can win the national championship.
ěItís definitely doable,î he said. ěBut I felt like that when we played against USC.î