Keydet Fast: VMI Still Trying to Find Its Footing

Posted by Ray Curren (@currenrr) on November 21st, 2014

Virginia Military Institute coach Duggar Baucom was all apologies after his team’s opener last week against The Citadel. “They just made us guard,” Baucom said. “We call it a ‘red call’ when the shot clock goes under 10. It seemed like we were yelling that all night. You just have to deal with it. We were late on some deflections that probably should have been steals and that would have allowed us to run a little more. But we’ll have games like that every once in a while.” The Keydets may have pulled out a 66-65 victory on a clutch Trey Chapman three-pointer with 15 seconds left, but — while wins are important — the fact that VMI was held to 60 possessions in the game, the lowest number in Baucom’s 10-year career in Lexington, made Baucom swear to go back to the drawing board.

This might be the toughest season yet for Duggar Baucom at VMI. (Big South Athletics)

This might be the toughest season yet for Duggar Baucom at VMI. (Big South Athletics)

Baucom has made up-tempo basketball his identity throughout his coaching career, coming to VMI from Division II Tusculum a decade ago. He was under no illusions at how tough a job he would have to build a competitive program at the military school. He couldn’t offer many of the bells and whistles other Division I schools can, but he could show them how to play high-octane basketball. Baucom’s teams have finished in the top 10 nationally in adjusted tempo in the last eight years, and in the top two in six of those seasons, including last year when VMI won 20 games and advanced to the semifinals of the CIT. “Every day is a grind at a military school like VMI for the kids, and you have to do things a little differently as a coach,” Baucom said. “Recruiting is tough. We have great kids, though, and I wouldn’t swap them for anything. VMI has been very good to me.”

This season may be the toughest challenge Baucom has faced at VMI. He lost three starters, including point guard Rodney Glasgow and D.J. Covington, who was a two-time Big South Defensive Player of the Year but still managed to average 20.4 points per game in Baucom’s offense. The head coach was dealt perhaps an even bigger blow just a week into preseason when brothers Jon and Ot Elmore left the school. Jon – the rare VMI commitment who had plenty of other Division I offers – was Baucom’s most heralded recruit and expected to start at point guard as a freshman. His brother Ot, who redshirted last season, was also expected to be a key contributor. Their father, Gay Elmore, was VMI’s all-time leading scorer until 2008. Add that to the fact that VMI is a new member of the Southern Conference this season, and this may be the toughest challenge Baucom has faced since his first couple of seasons on campus — VMI was picked sixth by the coaches in the SoCon preseason poll. But when you’re used to being the underdog, that may be just the fuel the young Keydets need. “Some of our best teams were picked real low, so expectations don’t matter much to us,” Baucom said. “We talk about being Keydet fast, and although we weren’t in the first game, we will be, don’t worry.”

Indeed, VMI looked more like itself in the All-Military Classic final, scoring 53 points in the first half against Army but falling 92-86 to the much-improved Black Knights. VMI subsequently took out some frustrations on NCCAA school Johnson with a 124-42 beatdown. QJ Peterson scored 19 points per game last year, and will have to get help from de facto point guard Brian Brown, junior Jordan Weethee (who had knee surgery in the offseason), and the hero in the opener, Chapman. Julian Eleby (20 points) and Phillip Anglade (13) came off the bench to score in double figures against Army. How does Baucom – who has posted winning records in four of the last six seasons (after having just two in the previous three decades) – get players to buy in to his system at VMI? “We have to find a kid that has some D-II offers that might want to play D-I and is willing to do all the military stuff that VMI entails,” Baucom said. “It’s not a mandatory commission, but without question, for the four years you’re there, we’re harder than any military academy or The Citadel. We’re always under time constraints.”

Keydet fast, on and off the court.

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