RICHMOND, Va. – The VCU Basketball family got bigger on Thursday afternoon with the start of the NCAA signing period.
Head Coach Shaka Smart and his staff received national letters of intent from guards Jarius Lyles (Silver Spring, Md./DeMatha) and JeQuan Lewis (Dickson, Tenn./Dickson County), along with big man Antrevious Simmons (Miami, Fla./South Miami).
"We're extremely excited about the addition of these three young men to our program," Smart said. "All three come from high quality basketball teams, and possess the skills and make-up that will allow them to be successful at VCU."The highly-touted trio of new Rams drew praise from ESPN recruiting expert Dave Telep.
"The Rams are recruiting the level of player that insures them a position amongst the elite programs in the A-10. Coming off a season in which they landed two Top 100 players under the banner of the CAA, Shaka Smart wreaked havoc again this time around. Two guards and a big man, all committed before signing day, is mission accomplished," Telep said.
Lyles (pictured, left) is a three-star recruit out of national power DeMatha High School. The 6-1 combo guard averaged nearly 11 points and three assists en route to leading the Stags to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference finals, which included a 20-point, six-assist outburst against Bishop O'Connell. He chose VCU after being pursued by Oklahoma State, Penn State and Virginia Tech.
"Jarius is an explosive scorer who can play either guard position. His ability to create his own shot and pressure the ball defensively make him an ideal fit for our style," Smart said.
"Smart talks about culture and winning in his pitches to kids," Telep added. "This guy hails from both an AAU team and a high school program where winning is ingrained in its players."
Lewis (pictured, right) is a three-star recruit out of Dickson County High School. The 6-1 point guard has been praised for his speed and ability to create plays for his teammates, as well as finish around the glass. He averaged 19.6 ppg, 3.9 spg, 3.7 apg during his junior season when he led the Cougars to 21 victories. He landed with the Rams after receiving interest from Georgia and Wichita State.
"JeQuan is a very talented point guard who has all the makings of someone who can excel at the position in our program," Smart said. "Specifically, his quickness and ability to change speeds will allow him to thrive in our system."
"He could go down as the steal of the A-10," Telep stated. "VCU spent time in Tennessee cultivating relationships and when Lewis showed he had the mental and basketball makeup of a Ram, they were there ahead of the pack. This is a BCS conference level guard."
Simmons is VCU's third three-star recruit. The 6-9 big man out of South Miami was recently rated as the 25th overall center in the class of 2013 by ESPN.com and gives the Rams valuable depth on the interior. As a junior, Simmons averaged 26 ppg and 15 rpg and is praised for his ability to run the floor and score with his back to the basket. He chose VCU after gaining interest from Alabama, Georgia, Kansas State, Miami and Memphis.
"Tre possesses a great body and doesn't mind using it," Smart said. "He carves out space and seals extremely well around the basket. He also possesses very good skill and touch for a big man. His ability to finish around the basket makes him a great addition to our frontcourt."
"Four years ago, the Rams went to California for their center," Telep said. "D.J. Haley played in two NCAA tournaments and his size had to be replaced. Smart did it a year ahead of schedule with this aircraft carrier."