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Monday / August 20.
  • VCU’s Skeen Considered Seton Hall, South Florida

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    HOUSTON — Jamie Skeen is VCU’s leading scorer and rebounder and a major reason why they are here in their first-ever Final Four.

    Skeen poured in 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds when VCU stunned No. 1 Kansas to win the Southwest Regional.

    Yet had history unfolded differently, the 6-foot-9, 240-pound senior might have landed in the Big East.

    Skeen considered both Seton Hall and South Florida after he was declared ineligible for the 2008 fall semester at Wake Forest for violating the school’s academic policy.

    “I considered them pretty big,” Skeen, named “Mr. Basketball” for the state of North Carolina after his junior season of high school, said Friday in the VCU locker room at Reliant Stadium. “I came in. I went to all three schools to visit.”

    Then-Seton Hall coach Bobby Gonzalez recruited several transfers, successfully landing Herb Pope (New Mexico State), Jeff Robinson (Memphis) and Keon Lawrence (Missouri).

    In 2008, the Pirates thought they had a good shot at Skeen, too.

    “I was considering Seton Hall because it’s really close to the mecca of basketball, Madison Square [Garden],” said Skeen, averaging a VCU-best 15.4 points and 7.4 rebounds. “There’s a lot of talent up in that area. They get a lot of press up there. If you start doing good at Seton Hall, you can get a whole lot of press. The word gets out a little bit faster up there.”

    South Florida coach Stan Heath also made a run at Skeen.

    “I thought we had a great chance to get him,” a source close to the USF coaching staff said. “We really had that need as well.”

    Said Skeen: “With South Florida, they’re in the Big East and they’re really good. They did pretty good this year.”

    In the end, though, Skeen chose to come to VCU to be with then-coach Anthony Grant.

    “He persuaded me to come there,” Skeen said. “I knew he was a great coach. But the real thing was Eric Maynor. I knew he was going to go to the league. I knew he was going to be pretty good, and the same with Larry Sanders. You know, back-to-back years going to the NBA for VCU. So I thought that maybe I could squeak in there and try to slide in and make it a third year.”

    Steve Kerr, the CBS and TNT analyst and former NBA guard, has covered VCU in its last two NCAA Tournament games, victories over Florida State and Kansas.

    “[Skeen] has the ability to go inside and out, that’s the key,” Kerr said. “I thought he was the main reason they were able to beat Kansas because he could challenge the Morris twins on the inside. He was very physical down there.

    “And then he stepped away and made some 3’s to open up the floor. He was a matchup problem for Kansas, just as he’s been a matchup problem for everybody.”

    Kerr believes Skeen can follow Maynor and Sanders into the NBA.

    “He’ll get a chance, for sure,” Kerr said. “When you can shoot the ball and you’re a big guy and you can guard the post, you’re going to get a shot. Especially these days, the game’s changed. It’s opened up. Big guys who can shoot are more valuable now than ever before and he’ll have a chance.”

    Yet before he moves on to the next stage, Skeen is focused on the Final Four.

    VCU is here, and his former Big East suitors are not.

    “I decided to go to VCU,” he said, “and I’m glad I did that because you see where we’re at and where they’re at.”

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.