Getting tougher was a priority, Smart said, because the Rams have "so many nice guys on this team."
"An ideal team . . . is you have a bunch of nice guys off the court who are assassins on the court. But that's hard to find. It's hard to flip that switch.
"We knew we were going to have to get some of these guys a little tougher, a little meaner on the court.""One of the things I've always been impressed about here at VCU . . . is there is camaraderie, a kinship between former players and current players," Smart said. "I've been at other schools where that's not necessarily the case.
"Those guys who played here really, really pull for our guys. Probably Eric is the best example. He's in the NBA now. It would have been really, really easy for him just to move on. . . . He's been as involved in our program as any former player.""It was an unbelievable challenge mentally, and it brought our guys closer together," he said. "It really brought to light a lack of toughness at times for certain guys, and when things are brought to light, they're easier to address.""I can't coach soft kids," VCU associate head coach Mike Rhoades said. "I know our whole staff is like that. We don't want soft kids where winning and losing doesn't matter that much. We want them to be competitive in every little thing we do, from a foul shooting drill to a sprint to the scoreboard.
"Shaka does a phenomenal job of making practice uncomfortable but making the guys understand why it's uncomfortable. If you can fight through being uncomfortable in practice, you're going to get to your goals."