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Affable, accurate Rozzell helps keep VCU on target

by | CBSSports.com
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SAN ANTONIO -- If basketball doesn't work out for VCU's Brandon Rozzell, he might have a viable alternative -- off the court.

"He can definitely be the mayor of Richmond," coach Shaka Smart said. "Everyone in Richmond either knows him or knows of him. And he's very well-liked."

Rozzell certainly isn't looking past Sunday's Elite Eight game against Kansas, though. The senior guard has been a key cog in the NCAA tournament for the Rams, averaging 14.5 points in four games.

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On Friday against Florida State, Rozzell helped jump-start a second-half run with three consecutive 3-pointers that turned a two-point deficit into a five-point lead. He finished with 16 points against the Seminoles, with all 16 coming in the second half.

"Florida State went to zone, and he hadn't shot at all in the first half," Smart said. "And he shot them out of the zone. If he doesn't do that, they stay in that zone and I don't know if we're as comfortable. He's done that all year for us."

The most impressive part is that Rozzell is doing it all off the bench. He is the team's third-leading scorer and has 17 double-figure scoring games despite starting only four games all season.

"When he goes in the game, he has unbelievable belief in himself," Smart said. "He could go out there against anybody and he's going to believe he can get it done."

"You need someone on your team like Brandon," senior forward Jamie Skeen added. "I'm glad we don't have to play him. He gives us a J.R. Smith/Jamal Crawford lift. And 16 points in one half is a lift."

Rozzell brings more to the table than rapid-fire scoring off the bench.

If you notice the Rams looking relaxed and calm in the early minutes of games, credit that to Rozzell, too.

"He's the most outgoing personality on the team," Smart said. "He is certainly a huge energy giver. Our guys, to a man, really like and respect Brandon."

Rozzell says, "I'm the one keeping guys loose and laughing. I'm the one, right before the game, poking guys in the side, keeping them loose. That's just me."

Raised in Richmond, Va., Rozzell also is giving his hometown a lift, looking to bring his local school to the Final Four for the first time in school history.

The 6-foot-2 senior grew up 10 minutes from the VCU campus, choosing the Rams early in the recruiting process.

"I'm a hometown kid," Rozzell said. "Why go far away if I have everything I want right at home?"

When it comes to Smart's comment about Rozzell having the potential to be the mayor of the city, Rozzell attributes that to the people of Richmond sticking with him through all his adversity.

He's looking to give back to the fans now.

With Richmond losing to Kansas in the Sweet 16, the onus is all on VCU to get the job done for the capital of Virginia.

"We've got the city on our back now," guard Joey Rodriguez said.

No matter what happens on Sunday, Rozzell and fellow Richmond native Bradford Burgess are bringing excitement to the sports-deprived city.

"We don't have any pro teams, so we're kind of the pro team," he said. "To do this, for our city, it feels great. There's a billboard in the city of him and me. It says, 'Our city. Your team.'"

In addition to the prospect of bringing a team he's rooted for since a child to the Final Four, Sunday holds another special place for Rozzell.

"It's my birthday tomorrow. Getting to the Final Four, that would be a great gift."

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