RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Commonwealth University basketball Head Coach Shaka Smart didn’t want to share too many specific details about how his team reacted to news that senior guard Briante Weber’s knee injury was career-ending. It’s understandably devastating for a team whose singular mission was so perfectly embodied by the one player they will now be without.
“There has never been a guy who wanted to be at VCU more,” Smart said of Weber. Weber tore his ACL, MCL and meniscus in Saturday’s home loss to Richmond. “It really demonstrates the level of care and concern and appreciation that all of his teammates have for him.”
“It was tough,” Smart said.
Weber was 12 steals away from setting a new NCAA career record. His focus now shifts to rehabilitation and recovery for a professional career Smart believes is still very possible.
“Knowing Bri, he will be playing basketball by sometime this summer,” Smart said. “I think he will be playing basketball next season.”
Smart said the impact of the injury was felt throughout the sport. He received phone calls and texts from across the country from people who are “pretty high up” in college basketball.
This injury will give the Rams and their fans an early glimpse into the future. Weber is on track to graduate in May, and next year’s team was going to have to play on without him. That scenario is now moved up to the present.
“I told our three point guards, JeQuan (Lewis), Johnny (Williams) and Torey (Burston) yesterday, you guys would be lying if you said you hadn’t thought at all about next year when Briante is gone,” Smart said. “We’re going to see how these guys do with certainly more opportunity, and it will give us a view into the future.”
Weber is expected to have surgery on his knee sometime in the next two weeks, once the swelling has sufficiently subsided. The days immediately after that surgery are “pretty tough,” according to Smart. But he is hoping for his team’s spiritual leader to be back on the bench as soon as possible.
“He’s still a big part of our leadership team,” Smart said. “Even though he won’t be on the court, I think he can still have a really positive message for our guys.”
And even without Weber causing havoc for the opposition, teams that remain on VCU’s schedule should not expect anything less than what they have faced in the past.
“We’re not going to cancel the season,” Smart said. “We’re still going to play the way that we play. There may be some adjustments on both ends of the floor, but we’re still going to be us.”