Since James Johnson has arrived, he has taken a lot of the restrictions off of the players. If you shoot three-pointers well in practice, you have the green light to shoot any time in the game. Shoot whenever you have a good look at the basket, regardless of the shot clock. If you think you have a good chance at a steal, then go for it. I just see a lot more trust between the coach and his players, and so far his players are rewarding him for it. Are we seeing the middle of the pendulum swing before it flies over to the other side? Possibly. As players get used to this style and as new players come in who never played for Seth Greenberg, we could see situations where players get wild and out-of-control on offense, jacking up shots whenever they want. However, I think this is where recruiting comes into play... JJ has been going for high character guys who really want to be at Virginia Tech and play for him. He seems to be creating a sense of family where he is the father, and I think that is the coaching style that always gives the best results. You are going to bust your ass for your brothers and you're going to work hard to get praise from your father. That kind of unity can't be discounted, and that's the unity I feel when I watch this year's basketball team.
Through 2 games, I think we can all say that we're pleasantly surprised with our team. I think everyone thought we would beat ETSU and URI, but I don't think we expected the team to come out playing as well as they have. This team can SHOOT IT! I would not be at all surprised to see Erick Green, Robert Brown, and Jarell Eddie all over 40% from the 3-pt line this year with Eddie being closer to 50%. Even walk-on Will Johnston is looking to be a dangerous outlet at the 3-pt line. If Marquis Rankin and Marshall Wood can shoot around 33-35%, our squad will be absolutely devastating from deep.
I would add Joey Van Zegeren to the list of pleasant surprises, but I've already touted him on here before the season started. It was a hunch at the time and it's still an unproven theory, but when I watched videos of him and when I watched him in the first two games, I noticed a very athletic 6'10" player who absolutely has the tools of a high-major center. At this point he is only averaging 1 block per game, but the thing I have noticed the most is that you are not going to get a cheap "and-1" when he's on the floor... JVZ is going to block it. I have seen this happen at least 3 times so far where JVZ comes flying out of nowhere to insure the shot doesn't go in on a shooting foul attributed to a teammate. A lot of guys stop playing after the whistle blows, but shot-blockers should not... a shot can still go in and count after the whistle.
This post could run on for a really long time if I wanted to do it, but I won't. Instead I'm going to hit up a couple more thoughts in bullet points and then ball out.
- Erick Green is playing like a star player. He's doing just about everything you could ask from a senior point guard. He's leading, he's scoring, he's passing well, he's playing great defense, and he needs to stay confident.
- Robert Brown is on the track I expected... this guy is an explosive scorer with an array of moves. Next year will be his breakout year.
- Jarell Eddie has shown that he really did work on shooting off the dribble. Not necessarily hitting jumpers after dribbling full-speed on the break (right now he's flying forward and isn't getting his feet under him), but when the 3-pt line is guarded, he's added a nice shot fake where he fakes the shot, dribbles once or twice moving forward, and nails the long 2-pointer. Very effective. He's also looked better driving to the basket.
- I like Marshall Wood a lot more than I thought I wood (punny). You can tell from his form that he's going to be a good 3-point shooter, but he's not hitting them yet. I'm pretty sure all of his 3-point shots against URI hit the rim twice before coming off... they'll fall eventually. The thing that has been the best surprise is his intensity. He goes hard for rebounds, he covers distance to block shots, and he can finish with contact around the rim. He's going to be a better player as a freshman than Dorian Finney-Smith was last year. I have no doubts.
- Cadarian Raines is looking to be in the same form as when he finished last season... had a bit of a stinker against ETSU and then put up a much better showing against URI. I am still shocked at his offensive game. He was recruited as a defender and rebounder, but it's the offensive side of the ball where he's shown some fantastic abilities. My theory: he was out so much time redshirting for 2 years that working on post moves is about all you can do when you're by yourself. My guess is that he spent 2 years working on that and we're seeing the fruits of his labor.
- CJ Barksdale is supposedly playing in spite of injury. I don't know what injury, but it seems to make sense to me. He has shown an improved jump shot, but I haven't seen a lot of toughness out of him and he's not rebounding as well as last year. I hope he gets some time before the ACC slate to get his body and mind in the right state. I like him though... he can be as good as any of our post players on the right night.
Overall, watching this team has been extremely fun. They are showing a lot of joy out on the court and their confidence is sky-high. I am excited to see what they can do against Iowa in a couple weeks as that should be their first real test.