Wade Watch came to an abrupt end late on Monday night when news broke Will Wade accepted a job with LSU. Wade left VCU after two seasons in Richmond. Under Wade’s guidance, the Rams went 51-20 and extended their NCAA tournament streak to seven straight years. Wade came into a tough spot after Shaka Smart departed in 2015. Smart’s replacement had to build an emergency recruiting class when VCU granted releases to all three of Shaka’s highly touted recruits.
Wade, the 34-year-old, will leave VCU in a very undesirable position of having to rebuild two recruiting classes in three years. It’s not yet known which players in the four-man class of 2017 will honor their letter’s of intent to the program, however in today’s college landscape it is rare for recruits to stay onboard with a school after the coach they signed to play for moves on. At the time of Wade’s exit, the 2017 class contains two ESPN top-100 recruits (Lavar Batts and Mayan Kiir) with another four-star (Sean Mobley) and a three-star (Marcus Santos-Silva) committed. This four-man class came just in time to replenish VCU’s roster which saw five seniors graduate this year.
VCU could suffer from other programs poaching their younger players, who may be willing to transfer. Issac Vann sat out this season after transferring from Maine. Vann used his redshirt year to save a year of eligibility; if he were to transfer again he would only be able to play in three of his five seasons in college.
Samir Doughty redshirted during Wade’s first year with the program. The redshirt freshman was the crown jewel of Wade’s emergency 2015 recruiting class. Doughty is in a similar situation to Vann where transferring would cost him a year of eligibility.
The three true freshmen on this season’s roster (De’Riante Jenkins, Malik Crowfield and Marquell Fraser) would also be potential targets to poaching.
The only upperclassmen on next year’s roster are seniors Johnny Williams, Justin Tillman and Ahmed Hamdy if he is granted another year of eligibility. Tillman nearly left after Smart went to Texas. Williams and Tillman will have gone through two coaching changes during their college careers. Hamdy was recruited by Wade as a JUCO transfer in 2015. Melvin Johnson helped keep Williams and Tillman together during the 2015 coaching change and now, they will be looked at as key players in holding onto to enough scholarship players for the Rams be a competitive group next year.
The loss of the 2015 recruiting class was going to be felt the most in the 2017-18 season when guys like Tevin Mack, Kenny Williams and Jordan Murphy would have been juniors. The lack of experienced depth there was obvious for next season. If a mass exodus happens, and it likely will, VCU could lack depth of any kind.
There is no doubt VCU will have to guard against losing not only their entire recruiting class but also multiple players on this year’s roster. This program is in danger of an unprecedented loss of players, that could cripple the Rams for years. A program that is riding a couple exclusive streaks in college basketball: seven straight NCAA tournament appearances and at least 24 wins in 11 consecutive seasons.
It was a minor miracle for VCU when Wade was able to extend those streaks but that feat will be nothing compared to what it will take for Wade’s replacement to keep those numbers going. Wade could not have picked a worse year to find another job. This program is left completely vulnerable to poaching and years of mediocrity. It is not condemned to falling completely off but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where to Rams finish above .500, VCU hasn’t finished under that mark during this millennium. They play a bear of a non-conference schedule next season. Texas, Virginia, and a major tournament in Maui await whoever is wearing the Black and Gold come November. LSU is a member of that Maui tournament. Wade defeated the Tigers with VCU last November in the Battle for Atlantis. What if VCU’s and LSU’s paths cross in Maui?
This upcoming offseason could be a brutal one for a team that is used to winning at extremely high levels. Loyalties will be tested and Twitter accounts will be blocked and the Rams are in for another critical coaching hire. No doubt loyalty to the school will be a priority for the administration. The Rams will have their fifth coach in 11 years.