RICHMOND, Va. -- VCU senior guard Melvin Johnson has a warning: "Don't let the baby face fool you".
He's referring to the youthful countenance of Rams head coach Will Wade who will turn 33 this week, but still looks like he could be attending classes with many of his players. But that appearance belies a fire and passion that has been stirred following his team's 0-2 performance this past weekend in the 2K Classic at Madison Square Garden. Although the Rams lost to both of last year's national title game participants by a combined 9 points, Wade did not appreciate the attitude and effort he saw from his team on a national stage.
"We've got some guys that have been lying to themselves" Wade said during an impassioned press meeting Tuesday morning. "When you put them on a stage like that, you get exposed a little bit. That's really, really disappointing."
VCU was outrebounded by both Duke and Wisconsin by a combined 16 boards. The Duke game, Wade allowed, was a good, hard fought loss. But Sunday's loss to Wisconsin, in which the Badgers scored the game winner in the final 10 seconds was one the Rams let slip through their fingers, according to their coach.
"I was really disappointed with some of our guys in that game" Wade said. "You only get so many opportunities like that on a neutral court. You've got to be able to take advantage of those, and you have to be hungry and excited to do that."
Wade also pointed the finger at himself, saying there are things he knows he can do better as their coach. But he also said the starting lineup and several of the available minutes each game are up for grabs as far as playing time in concerned. At the beginning of the season, Wade predicted his bench could go as many as 11 players deep. Right now, however, his starting lineup for their next game against American is a work in progress.
"They [the Rams] have no idea who's starting tomorrow night" Wade said. "It really doesn't matter who starts, it's who plays and who plays well. Right now, we have most guys moving in the same direction and we're not great with the details. That's what gets you beat when you play equal teams".
Wade did single out several players for some great effort in New York, notably Johnson who was named to the all tournament team. "Melvin has been great" Wade said. "He's going to carry us for a while."
But some of the problems that surfaced in New York have been ongoing since April, according to Wade. Point guard JeQuan Lewis sat out the second half against Wisconsin. Wade did say today that Lewis returned to practice yesterday with a much improved effort and attitude. But he did say, without naming any names, that he had some "stubborn" players on his roster.
"We're not going to play you if you're not going to work hard and don't want to represent us the right way."