RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Two years ago, Shaka Smart returned to VCU as the head coach of Texas and received a standing ovation at the Siegel Center. On Wednesday, we’ll learn how Ram Nation will welcome back Will Wade.
Wade returns to his old stomping grounds, this time as the head coach of LSU. The match-up between the Tigers and Rams went into effect when Wade left for Baton Rouge in the spring of 2017. His contract stated that if he departed before his deal was up, his new school must schedule a home-and-home series with VCU, or pay a $250,000 buyout. Jeff Capel, Anthony Grant and Smart all had similar clauses in their contracts.
LSU is 1-0 this season, after topping Bowling Green on Friday in its opener. Last year the Tigers won the SEC regular season championship and advanced to the Sweet 16. Wade, however, was suspended late in the campaign, after not meeting with his superiors regarding a report that he was recorded on an FBI wiretap discussing an offer made to a recruit with a convicted middleman. He would miss the latter part of the campaign, but was reinstated after meeting with his bosses in April. Wade is 44-20 at LSU, as he begins his third season with the program.
His time at VCU was successful. The Rams won 51 games during Wade’s two years at the helm, earned a share of an Atlantic 10 regular season championship, went to back-to-back league title games and two NCAA Tournaments. He guided the black and gold to a first round win in the 2016 big dance.
Wade knows the Siegel Center well. He was an assistant for four seasons under Smart, serving alongside current Rams’ head coach Mike Rhoades on the staff, before leaving to become the head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga, and he’s well aware of what he’s walking into with his Tigers on Wednesday night.
“It’ll be as lively an atmosphere as we’ve played in in awhile,” Wade said during his press conference on Monday. “Every game’s a sellout, they love their basketball and they’ve got a really good team. They’ve got a team picked to win the league, they’ve got good players, so it’ll be rowdy, but it should be fun.”
Wade also recruited or coached a handful of current VCU players. De’Riante Jenkins, Issac Vann and Maliek Crowfield were all Rams during Wade’s tenure. In addition, he coached Darius Theus, now VCU’s director of player development, when he was an assistant.
“You don’t like playing familiar foes all the time, familiar faces all the time, but that’s the way it goes in college basketball,” Wade remarked. “At the end of the day, it’s two really good teams playing each other in a high level environment and I think it’ll help both of us.”
The Rams enter Wednesday’s showdown with a 2-0 record, after topping St. Francis and North Texas last week, though they dropped out of the AP Top 25. LSU enters the week ranked 23rd in the country.
Tip-off at the Siegel Center is set for 6:00 on Wednesday evening. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
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