RICHMOND,Va. — The Washington Wizards dunked and danced their way through the Siegel Center at VCU on Friday evening, entertaining hundreds of fans who attended the only practice during the team’s NBA training camp open to the public.
More than 2,300 fans from around Richmond filled up the stands at “The Stu” to see their favorite players practice and participate in fun games. The public practice was part of the team’s training camp at VCU last week, which included seven additional practices between Tuesday and Saturday.
Benny Stiller, a fan of both the Wizards and the VCU Rams, brought his son to the open practice on Friday to watch some of his favorite players. Stiller believes that VCU’s recent successes with its basketball program made it an obvious candidate to host an NBA training camp.
“Everybody loves the Wizards,” said VCU student Mitch Conley, who also watched the Friday practice. “Even though Beal is out right now because of his concussion, I was really excited to watch John Wall.”
Conley, wearing a #3 Bradley Beal jersey in support of one of his favorite players, was excited to see Beal and star point guard John Wall.
“I definitely think that this is something VCU should do every year,” said VCU student Chad Layman. “Since basketball is so much bigger at VCU, it is awesome to have an NBA team here.”
Even though Layman thought that there were not many VCU students at the open practice, he believes that if VCU continues to invite the Wizards to practice, then more students will hear about it and attend the practices.
The training camp is only a one-year deal, but VCU has expressed interest in the Wizards returning in the future.
Chris Kowalczyk, the assistant athletic director for athletic communications at VCU, said that the university and Wizards are open to having the training camp return to the Siegel Center depending on the team’s schedule.
This deal stands in contrast to Washington Redskins training camp in Richmond.
While the Wizards paid VCU $9,000 to use VCU’s facilities, the city of Richmond pays the Redskins to have its training camp here every summer. This year, the city paid $360,694, an increase by $75,000 over the previous year.
“The Wizards training camp was scheduled at the Siegel Center based on an agreement between VCU Athletics and the Wizards for use of a VCU-owned and operated facility,” said Kowalczyk. “VCU Athletics welcomed the opportunity to host the Wizards and to work with them to give the VCU and Richmond community access to an NBA franchise open practice and autograph session last week.”
He added that “the Redskins training camp is held at a facility which is not affiliated with VCU. VCU Athletics has no involvement in the Redskins training camp.”
The Wizards are fresh off a 41-41 season in which they finished 10th in the Eastern Conference and missed the playoffs. This led to the dismissal of head coach Randy Wittman and the hiring of former Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks.
Brooks joined in on the fun during the open practice at VCU by participating in a halfcourt shooting competition with the team and four Wizards fans. Wizards players also showed off their athletic abilities by participating in a dunk competition.
In the midst of the frenetic atmosphere, Brooks got a hold of the microphone to thank VCU for being hosts to the Washington Wizards for five days.
“We are thankful and we appreciate the hospitality,” said Brooks.
Wizards point guard John Wall also took to social media to thank VCU and the city of Richmond for their hospitality.
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students from the project reported this story.