- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 26, 2011

SAN ANTONIO | After Virginia Commonwealth University captured the College Basketball Invitational last year, the team’s strength and conditioning coach made a startling discovery. Analyzing tape of the win over Saint Louis, Daniel Roose realized VCU needed to be in better shape.

Every workout since flowed from those 40 minutes of game tape. The team had to improve its speed and endurance to run coach Shaka Smart’s relentless attack. Full-court presses. Push the ball upcourt. Try to score in transition. Never stop moving.

Smart calls this havoc. And the high-energy philosophy propelled VCU into Sunday’s Elite Eight showdown with top-seeded Kansas at the Alamodome.

“You’ve got those gnats that won’t leave you alone during the summer. That’s how we are on the court,” senior Jamie Skeen said. “It frustrates teams. … We want to nag you. Get you nervous. Maybe get you a little careless with the ball.”

Florida State was the latest victim. While Bradford Burgess‘ layup with seven seconds left in overtime won the game Friday, Roose kept replaying another moment in his head.

Midway through the first half, Florida State let the ball roll out of bounds after a basket. That stopped the clock and forced a media timeout. Florida State was tired. It wanted a break from the havoc. Roose loved it.

“When other teams think they can’t go anymore, we still have our foot on the gas,” Burgess said. “You can tell in our games teams aren’t prepared to play our style. It’s definitely been showing these last few games.”

Former VCU coach Anthony Grant used an up-tempo system, too. When Smart took over two years ago, he made that system his own. Shots wouldn’t be second-guessed. Aggressiveness was preached. Transition buckets became vital. Most of all, players had freedom to, well, create havoc.

Watch VCU for a few minutes and you may feel tired, too, as the team of Energizer Bunnies never seems to slow down.

Roose shuns traditional running workouts, after using them last season. When was the last time a mile time mattered during a basketball game? Instead, he tries to limit the pounding on players’ legs in the offseason while working on cardio and explosiveness. Drills have 30 seconds of intense activity followed by 30 seconds of rest.

“He’s crazy,” Burgess said, repeating the first thing each player says about the soft-spoken Roose. “He pushes us so hard. Harder than you think you can go.”

Anything is a potential workout. Roose, who professes disbelief at being paid for a job he enjoys so much, may herd the team to a parking lot or loading dock. Use ropes. Push and pull tires. Turn everything into a competition.

To Roose, none of this is revolutionary. But his locker room of devoted followers quotes his catch phrase: “If you hit the wall, you’ve got to run through it.”

“We’ve been through it all. It’s his intensity and how much he pushes you,” senior Brandon Rozzell said. “We hit the wall as many times as we could in the summer time. People think we’re tired now, but we feel fine.”

Whether that works against Kansas and its deep roster that has reeled off 35 wins remains to be seen. One thing is certain: VCU won’t sit still.

“We like to go out there and fly around,” Burgess said. “Everybody plays the game free, loose confident, aggressive. It shows on the court with every play.”

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