Hewitt readying Mason for his up-tempo designs

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Hewitt readying Mason for his up-tempo designs

The ball moving north and south with a quickened pace, the players creating an up-tempo scenario by taking fast break opportunities when obviously presented and sometimes when they are not.

This is Paul Hewitt basketball. Mason Nation caught a glimpse of the coach's rapid play designs last season, but not the full throated scheme.

Assuming the Patriots youthful backcourt breaks from their turnover-heavy habits, expect a more sustained look at Hewitt's push-the-ball approach during the 2012-13 campaign --now that half-courters Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison have graduated.

It's blasphimous to suggest the Patriots are better off now that their two long-time interior stalwarts have used up all their eligibility. Nobody is doing that here. Clearly replacing Pearson, the burly CAA Player of the Year, and a defensive stalwart like the lengthy Morrison is a sizable task.

That's why going forward, for the growth of the program under the second-year coach, consider Pearson and Morrison's departure as necessary evils.

In his first season on the Fairfax campus, Hewitt gently imposed his hardwood ideals on a team coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance under his predecessor Jim Larranaga. Wisely, the former Georgia Tech coach played to his team's strengths. At George Mason that meant keeping Pearson and Morrison in their comfort zones which meant more half-court action - and less running than many of Hewitt's previous teams,.

With his second recruiting class now in the mix, with the benefit of having an entire off-season rather than the mini version he had following Larranaga's surprise departure, with another year of teaching his playbook, Hewitt moves closer to his desired style. 

"I wouldn't mind having Ryan and Mike back," Hewitt exclaimed at the CAA media day earlier this month before acknowledging the potential benefits of change. "We relied on those guys so much last year, we probably didn't play as fast as we could have or wanted too."

That's not to say the Patriots sat on the ball; George Mason led the CAA in scoring with 70.4 points per game.

The Patriots were also among the worst when it came to coughing up possession.

George Mason's 15.2 turnovers per game average ranked among the CAA's highest. Some games, Hewitt surely wished the team only committed 15 turnovers. In three of their four non-conference losses, including a 20-point defeat at Virginia, the Patriots turned the ball over at least 20 times. George Mason opens the upcoming season hosting Virginia on Nov. 9.

In a win or go home scenario against VCU in the CAA Tournament, Mason committed 17 turnovers, eight coming during an epic 22-0 first half run by the winning Rams.

"That's a big problem that we had last year," Hewitt said. "The offseason workouts will help us improve that, but we've been making it a point of emphasis through practice. We keep harping on the fact that we turned the ball over so much."

In his first season as a starter, point guard Bryon Allen matched Pearson with a team-high 89 turnovers. Over the Patriots final four games, the Largo native lost possession a whopping 4.5 per contest. Allen's freshman backup Corey Edwards committed 2.2 turnovers per game despite averaging 15 minutes.

With a year of experience now on their resume, the coach expects improvement from his primary ball handlers and decision makers. Even without his top two scorers from last season's 24-win team, Hewitt believes his current edition can score more. That is, if they come to value possession.

"Even with all of the turnovers we were the highest scoring team in the CAA," Hewitt said. "If we can hold onto the ball a little more, get more shots, hey, maybe we add another 5-10 points to our scoring average per game."

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

By Ben Brown

Following a disappointing end to a once-promising season, Virginia guard Marial Shayok and forward Jarred Reuter will transfer to another school, head coach Tony Bennett announced Wednesday. 

"Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools," Bennett said. "I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future."

Shayok was the Cavaliers' second-leading scorer at 8.9 points per game, despite playing only the fifth-most minutes and regularly coming off the bench. The Ontario product scored a career-high 23 points in Virginia's win over UNC-Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Reuter averaged 10 minutes a game and averaged 3.8 points per game. 

Shayok and Reuter transferring comes at the end of a very disappointing season for Virginia. The Cavaliers began the season in the top 10 of the AP poll, and halfway through conference play they were near the top of the standings in the ACC. But that was before the team went into a major funk as they lost four of their last seven games, which dropped them to sixth in the conference standings. 

Virginia lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament to Notre Dame, and then got blasted by Florida by 26 points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

In addition to the losses of Shayok and Reuter, London Perrantes, the team's best player and leader, is graduating. 

After a rough regular season, Virginia's offseason is off to a rocky start as well. 

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VCU reportedly wastes little time finding Mike Rhoades, Will Wade's replacement

VCU reportedly wastes little time finding Mike Rhoades, Will Wade's replacement

BY TYLER BYRUM, @theTylerByrum

Less than 24 hours after VCU saw yet another head coach in Will Wade, take off to a Power 5 school, the athletic department has already found a replacement, according to a report. 

Wasting no time, or allowing any speculation to build, the Rams have hired Mike Rhoades, the head coach of Rice, as Will Wade's replacement.

Rhoades will be the 12th coach of the men's basketball program in VCU history. 

The announcement was first reported by CBS's Gary Parrish:

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Rhoades is a former VCU assistant and associate head coach for five seasons. During his time with the Rams he helped the Shaka Smart led team to four NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Final Four run in 2011.

After Smart's departure to Texas, many considered Rhoades to be on the short list of coaches that VCU would contact. His familiarity with the program and the culture was exactly what VCU was looking for in order to have continued success at the school. The athletic department went on to hire a former assistant, but instead hired Wade. 

In 2014, he took on the head coaching position at Rice where he has been for the past three years. His overall record with the Owls is 47-52 with this past year being the only one to finish above .500. Receiving a bid to the CBI Tournament, it was the Owls first postseason appearance since 2012. 

If Rhoades does not work out for the Rams, there is only one more assistant remaining from the Final Four team that has yet to take over the program. Mike Jones is currently the head coach of Radford and has been there ever since that season. 

Wade's departure was yet another in a long line of talented, up-and-coming coaches using VCU as a springboard to a high-major position.

Jeff Capel began the trend in 2006, when he left for Oklahoma after returning the Rams to the NCAA Tournament in 2004 for the first time since 1996. His replacement, Anthony Grant, led the Rams to two NCAA Tournaments before leaving to take the head coaching job at Alabama. Grant's replacem,ent, Shaka Smart, led the Rams to five straight NCAA Tournaments, including a trip to the Final Four in 2011. 

Wade led the Rams to two NCAA Tournaments in his two seasons and is now headed to LSU to attempt to revitalize the program.