Following a 26-9 (12-4) season that ended in an OT loss to Stephen F. Austin, 77-75, in the second round of the tournament, Virginia Commonwealth University was looking to pick up where they left off, only stronger.
The Rams finished the regular season ranked No. 23 in the AP Top 25 last year. As for this season, VCU received a preseason No. 15 ranking and have been ranked for nine of the past 14 weeks, even hitting as low as No. 14 twice.
However, Coach Shaka Smart’s VCU squad has been declining in the rankings since losing senior point guard Briante Weber.
Here’s what you need to know about Weber:
1. Weber Was 12 Steals Away From Making NCAA History
Before Briante Weber went down in the Rams’ loss to rival Richmond, the 6-foot-2 point guard was en route to making NCAA history.
Weber was just 12 steals away from breaking the NCAA All-Time Steals Record of 385 set by Providence’s John Linehan in 2002.
But the path to becoming the NCAA all-time career leader hit a roadblock at the 3:17 mark in the second half against the Spiders when Weber went down with a torn ACL, meniscus and sprained MCL.
Not only was Weber on his way to making history, but was also a pivotal part of Coach Smart’s squad. Prior to his injury, Weber was averaging 8.1 points per game, 4.2 assists and 3.9 steals.
2. Weber Was Supposed To Undergo Knee Surgery On February 19
Weber was scheduled to have knee surgery to repair his torn ACL and meniscus on Thursday, February 19. However, it was announced in VCU’s home game against UMass on February 21 that he did not have the surgery because his knee was not flexible enough. The new surgery date has yet to be announced.
And while he won’t break the NCAA All-Time Steal Record, Weber is still considered a NBA prospect.
Known for his self-proclaimed “Bri-fense,” Weber was named as the Atlantic 10 Conference Defensive Player of the Year and A-10 All-Defensive Team following his sophomore and junior seasons with the Rams.
Following his freshman season, in which he had 77 steals, Jay Bilas listed Weber as one of the top defenders in the nation going into his sophomore year.
It was his sophomore year that Weber broke the 28-year-old school record for most single season steals with 98, and he led the country in steal percentage – 7.61, the highest Ken Pomeroy has recorded since he started keeping track in 1999.
By showcasing his capabilities over the course of three years, and despite his injury, Weber is still considered No. 23 among senior NBA prospects.
3. Weber Steals More Than Basketballs, He Was Suspended for Stealing an iPhone
Prior to this season Weber was suspended for stealing another student’s iPhone 5 – valued at $200 – from VCU’s Cary Street Gym.
The incident took place on July 24, and Weber was charged with misdemeanor petit larceny and suspended from hoops for a period of time. Coach Smart told WTVR-CBS 6:
Briante has failed to live up to the standards we’ve set for our program and we are holding him accountable. Part of his discipline includes missed competition. We expect that Briante will act according to the standards of our program moving forward.
He made a court appearance on September 25 to answer to the university’s Code of Student Conduct process, and was required to miss the opening game against Tennessee and the team’s exhibition game and closed scrimmage.
4. Weber Was a Defensive Standout in High School
Weber’s standout defensive performances started before he ever pulled on a No. 2 VCU jersey.
At Great Bridge High School in Chesapeake, Virginia, Weber was named as the All-Southeastern District Defensive Player of the Year following his junior and senior seasons.
In his senior year with the Wildcats, Weber averaged 17 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals per game.
Weber was also labeled as a three-star recruiting prospect by Rivals and drew interest not only from VCU, but also Virginia – currently ranked No. 2 – Virginia Tech, Creighton and Old Dominion.
5. Weber Is a Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls Fan
While his posts don’t read, “Go White Sox,” or “Let’s Go Chicago Bulls,” Weber has a couple Instagram posts where he’s reppin’ two different Chicago sports teams.
The Chesapeake, Virginia native shows love for the Windy City by wearing a Chicago White Sox ball cap in some posts and a Bulls hat in others.
Maybe the No. 23-ranked senior NBA prospect will be suiting up in a Bulls uniform next season?