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VCU's Weber helps to sustain disorder on the court
VCU's Weber helps to sustain disorder on the court

Even "Havoc" needs order.

This, paradoxically, is where Briante Weber comes in.

Virginia Commonwealth's one-man defensive tornado, Weber is the NCAA leader in steals, and quite possibly in energy. He is also tasked with running the offense as the point guard.

If one part of his job description requires abandon and the other a steady, measured hand, well, the junior from Great Bridge High has no problem flipping that switch.

"I've been playing point guard my whole life," Weber said this week. "And I've been playing this style of play."

It is a style the tireless Weber was seemingly born to play, a plague of defensive pressure designed to sew panic and disorder among opponents. The Rams, a No. 5 seed, face No. 12 Stephen F. Austin in a South Region NCAA tournament game at 7:27 tonight in San Diego.

Weber, perpetual motion in a headband and dubbed a "turbocharged octopus" by VCU radio analyst Mike Litos, is the wiry personification of the Rams' frenetic defense.

"Defensively, there could not be a better player for our style," coach Shaka Smart told The Associated Press.

Offensively, Weber is a work in progress, the latest in a line of quality VCU point guards that runs from Eric Maynor to Joey Rodriguez to Darius Theus, a Norcom High graduate who handed the reins to Weber after last season.

The 6-foot-2, 165-pound Weber averages 9.5 points on 45.5 percent shooting, and 3.8 assists vs. 1.85 turnovers. The handling of the team, as much as the ball, demands much of his attention.

Loud and demonstrative on the court, Weber is learning which players respond to a kick in the pants and which require a pat on the back.

"At times, (his leadership has) been very good," Smart told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "We're still working to get him to the point where it's every day at a high level."

Work, Weber does not shy away from. Unless it's housework. An aversion to chores helped launch the career college basketball's top thief.

Growing up in Chesapeake's Crestwood neighborhood, Weber would stuff his backpack with a day's worth of supplies and head to a nearby outdoor basketball court - an escape from the to-do list his mother, LaSandra Wingate, had for him at home.

"Cleaning my room, dishes, trash, stuff like that," Weber said.

Wingate recalls the middle school-aged Weber leaving in the morning and not returning until evening. But even as a younger child, he was not one to sit around.

"He's always been very energetic; he came in the world that way," she said. "He's never been one of those kids who would stay in the house and play video games."

Basketball was a constructive outlet for Weber's energy. During recreation and AAU ball, he played on teams that pressed relentlessly.

During a middle school game, Weber caught the eye of Great Bridge coach Gary Obenour.

"He had this big headband on, and he was the smallest kid on the court," he said. "I remember him weaving through people with his head bobbing up and down.

"I just noticed how much energy he had, and although he was short, the length of his arms and his foot speed."

Injured as a freshman, Weber sprouted 4 inches before his sophomore year and became a starter. He played both point guard and off the ball. Over the course of his career, the Wildcats' style ranged from up- tempo to methodical.

"A lot of people forget how versatile he was," Obenour said.

VCU took notice, identifying Weber as an ideal fit for the defensive style Smart has labeled "Havoc."

As a freshman, when he was used primarily as a defensive attack dog, he ranked 20th in the nation in steals, at 2.24 a game. Last year, he was fifth, at 2.76. This year, he ranks first, at 3.38.

Weber's 115 steals this season set a VCU record, and he already owns the school career mark at 290. With more than a season left to play, he needs just 96 to break the NCAA career record, set by Providence's John Linehan.

That Weber has ramped up his defensive pestilence while shouldering a bigger part of the offensive load is a tribute to his growth.

"He's really good on offense," Richmond coach Chris Mooney said after an 81-70 loss to VCU last month. "He can score. He has a really good sense for the game.... As fast and active as he is on defense, he knows when to slow down on offense."

Still, defense is Weber's calling card. Among all his steals, deflections and general disruptiveness, the moment that might best demonstrate what he's all about came late in a 71-57 win over George Mason this year.

To delay the clock from starting, the Patriots tried to roll the ball inbounds. Weber sprinted from midcourt, stole the ball and called time out. Jumping to his feet, he pumped his fist.

"He's got all these antics," Smart said after the Richmond game, when Weber also played to the crowd. "He's a trip."

As well as the player behind the wheel for VCU.

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