Richmond, Virginia has two of the best players in the ultra-competitive Atlantic 10. Whether it’s “One Richmond” or “Havoc”, Atlantic 10 opponents will have their hands full with TJ Cline (Richmond) and JeQuan Lewis (VCU).
Cline recently was featured in an article in the Player’s Tribune. To some, he is best known for being Nancy Lieberman, an assistant coach for the Sacramento Kings, son but he’s now made a name for himself. The 6’9” forward is averaging 18 points and 7.8 rebounds a game.
He’s saved his best games for the biggest stage. Against Big Ten power Maryland, Cline poured in 18 points, 9 assists, and 9 rebounds in an overtime loss to the Terps. After the loss to Maryland, Cline continued his impressive play going for 23 points 10 rebounds in a win over Boston College. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, when the Spiders faced off against Wake Forest, Cline posted 23 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists against the much improved Demon Deacons. It sounds like Mom is a good coach, eh?
If you haven’t seen Cline play, do yourself a favor and watch how versatile his game is. He’s increased in average in free throw shooting, rebounding and assists. An early season wrist injury hampered his shooting but he can still stretch the defense with his ability to shoot the three pointer.
Not far from the University of Richmond is VCU where “Havoc” is more than a slogan, it’s the on court identity of the Rams. Any team that wants to effectively play that style must have a point guard who can be an orchestrator. Thankfully for Coach Will Wade, he has one of the best in the Atlantic 10.
JeQuan Lewis, this week’s Virginia Lottery Student-Athlete of the Week, is the ultimate “do what needs to be done” point guard. Against Princeton, he dished out 10 assists along with 23 points. With the team struggling a bit going into the ODU game, Lewis scored 20 and then followed it up with another 20-point performance, this time against a tough Middle Tennessee State team. Even though, Lewis didn’t have an assist for the first time since January 31st, 2015, it wasn’t out of selfishness. It was because Sam Doughty played some point guard that night allowing Lewis to be a more aggressive scorer.
Like Cline, Lewis has improved his numbers in several statistical categories including points per game, shooting percentage and three-point percentage. But, when you play that Havoc style, it’s about more than numbers on offense.
Defensively, players have to be disciplined while having a great sense of anticipating the next pass in order to be successful. Lewis excels at this with his on ball pressure. He makes it difficult for the ball handler to make the pass he wants hence VCU gets the pass they want.
This creates the ultimate team defense and it shows in the KenPom rankings. VCU is ranked 34th in steal % and 44th Turnover %. And it can be argued that opponents 64.6% FT % (33rd in the nation) is caused by VCU’s ability to tire teams out with the style they play.
As college basketball enters the conference season, the city of Richmond is not only to capital of Virginia but the home to two of the most dynamic players in the Atlantic 10.
Marcus “Mook” Washington is the host of Making The Cut. Follow Mook on Twitter: @mtcwithmook and IG: MTCWithMook