Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Rasheen Davis opens up on year two at VCU as he and Rams prepare to face Fordham

Now in his second year on Will Wade's staff at VCU, Rasheen Davis comes home Wednesday when Rams visit Fordham. (Photo by VCU Ram Nation)

Rasheen Davis spent the bulk of his career in his native New York, enjoying some of his greatest success there when he helped guide Manhattan College to consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships.

But in the spring of 2015, an opportunity presented itself for the affable and hard-working 36-year-old, one who continues to move closer and closer to a head coaching position that will be well-deserved once he does attain one: Incoming VCU head coach Will Wade tabbed Davis to serve alongside him in Richmond, and the hire paid off last season as the two; along with the rest of the coaching staff, guided the Rams to the Round of 32 in last year's NCAA Tournament, nearly upsetting eventual national semifinalist Oklahoma along the way.

Year two in black and gold has been equally as fulfilling for Davis as Wade's top assistant, and as he prepares for a homecoming of sorts when VCU travels to the Bronx to meet Fordham Wednesday night, he shared some insights on just how the journey has gone over the first three months of the season.

"Year two has just been kind of like year one," he intimated. "Coming into a program like VCU, you always have a target on your back. We were fortunate enough to have some success last year, and coming into this year, we had high expectations for ourselves and our fans."

A championship pedigree initially forged at Louisville under Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, before being further honed at Pitt, Xavier and Manhattan, has made Davis one of the leading tacticians in the nation, and it has been instrumental in the development of VCU's new core as he and Wade continue to build a rich basketball history cultivated by Jeff Capel, Anthony Grant and Shaka Smart.

"People don't realize Will was an assistant here when Shaka went to the Final Four and had a lot of their success, then he went on to Chattanooga and won over 20 games in each of his two years there," Davis said, highlighting the culture of winning that is instilled on a day-by-day basis. "He's had success himself, and I was able to get into a situation where winning is the culture here."

"All our guys have won," he elaborated. "They don't know what it is to not win, which is a little scary, but at the same time for the young guys coming in, it's a certain expectation you have to meet. Nobody's going to give you anything, which we learned losing to Queens (University of Charlotte) in an exhibition game. A lot of times, wins and losses happen before the game, but it's a culture, and we expect to be at the top at the end. That's one of our goals."

Although the Rams are younger following the graduations of Melvin Johnson and Korey Billbury, they have not missed a beat en route to a 14-4 start, winning four of their first five games in Atlantic 10 play and drawing praise for simply comprehending the goals of the program.

"Last year, it was more learning as you go along," said Davis. "This year's team understands just what it is the staff is trying to accomplish, and work on their expectations. Any program, with the exception of probably the Kentuckys and Dukes of the world, if you're depending solely on your freshmen to be successful, that's a roll of the dice. The best thing about freshmen is they become sophomores."

And as VCU makes the trek to Rose Hill Gym for the first time since January of 2015, Davis recognizes the privilege of being back home, but is not placing sentimentality above the task at hand.

"I look at every game the same," he said. "Obviously, you want to win every game, but it's more about how your team plays and how your team prepares. It's great to come back to New York, but it's not my first time away from New York and then returning. It's really about the team."

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