Friday, January 3, 2014

Let's Meet Your 2013-2014 Virginia Tech Hokies

Yesterday I wrote a post focused on the entire Virginia Tech basketball team and their play up to this point in the season.  Today I'd like to focus on the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players.  Nothing does this better than bullet points (I'm way into bullet points).

  • SF Jarell Eddie - I think that if you're going to start talking about the players on the VT basketball team, then you need to start with Eddie.  In the past, he was known as nothing but a shooter, and you only wanted to see him jack it up in catch-and-shoot situations.  Putting the ball on the floor usually spelled disaster.  To his credit, he's worked on that part of his game and has become a pretty good offensive threat from just about any spot on the floor.  His game is starting to resemble AD Vassallo in his senior year, except that he's been more efficient at shooting up to this point.  His numbers will almost certainly take a dip during ACC play, but he's a legit offensive weapon who you love to see open on the 3-point line.  He's become borderline automatic in those spots.  Jarell still likes to dribble a bit too much in situations where he needs to pass and can be prone to turnovers, but there's much more to like about his game this year than not.
  • SG Ben Emelogu - What a find this kid is!  As a freshman, he sure looks like the complete package.  In fall practices, he was showing such leadership and tenacity on both ends of the floor that James Johnson decided to make him captain of the team.  As a frosh, that's a huge accomplishment.  Emelogu was only a 3-star recruit on just about every major scouting services' listings, but he's already shown that those services were wrong.  He's an excellent and disruptive defender who can steal the ball, block shots, and shut down opponents.  He can knock down 3-pointers with a beautiful jump shot.  He can drive and finish around the rim.  He can find teammates and rack up assist numbers (had nine the other day against Maryland - Eastern Shore).  He even makes julienne fries!  Okay that's an old and terrible joke, but he's really looked good.  As a freshman, he makes his share of dumb passes and missed defensive assignments, but his future is incredibly bright.
  • PG Devin Wilson - Another impressive freshman who seemingly came out of nowhere.  He decided late in the recruiting process that he didn't want to be a college football player as most were projecting and decided he would rather play college basketball.  I think it was a smart move... his skill set reminds me of long-time NBA player Andre Miller.  I talked a little about his skills yesterday, but to recap: he can drive the ball & finish or draw fouls, he can pass the ball, he's got good size, and he plays excellent defense... he cannot shoot a lick.  Like Emelogu, he can be prone to making freshman-esque mistakes and will turn the ball over when facing big time pressure.
  • C Joey Van Zegeren - I would like to toot my own horn in saying that JVZ has turned into the type of quality ACC-caliber center who I thought he could be.  +Richie Stockholm and I made comments to each other a year ago on this very blog saying that we both thought he could be something special.  His offensive post game has been disappointing, he fouls way too much, and he can't hit a free throw to save his life, but he's been very impressive blocking shots, rebounding, and cleaning up around the basket.  I said yesterday that I think he's the best shot blocker I've seen on the team since I started classes at VT in 1998, and I still feel that way a day later.  He's added a little bulk to his athleticism and will surprise a lot of teams in the ACC.  He took over the starting role from super-senior Cadarian Raines, and I can't say it wasn't the right move.  He really does need work on his post game, though.
  • PF C.J. Barksdale - Remember J.T. Thompson?  Barksdale reminds me a ton of him, right down to having two letters as a first name.  Barksdale works hard for rebounds and can score inside and out.  His jump shot extends to one full step inside the 3-point line and he's even an excellent free throw shooter.  His biggest bugaboo is the injury bug, which bugs me (yup).  He's been in and out of the lineup all season with various ailments, and I don't see that changing.  When healthy, he essentially provides Virginia Tech's only offensive presence in the post.
  • PF Marshall Wood - When Barksdale is healthy, Wood basically splits the power forward minutes with him 50/50.  Wood is much more polarizing in his style of play, though.  He's really stepped up his 3-point shooting this season and is a real threat to hit open shots from just about anywhere outside of the paint.  Inside the restricted area is a different story... Wood has been utterly awful at converting shots there.  He also has a knack for being lazy on defense, often spacing out for a moment before trying to catch up to the play.  He has excellent size and athleticism... the only things that are truly missing from his game are toughness and hustle.
  • C Trevor Thompson - A talented freshman, he is JVZ-lite.  I'm not sure I really have to say much more about him, as every single strength and weakness that JVZ has are also common to Thompson.  Thompson will be an excellent shot blocker (he's already good), but he needs to add bulk in order to battle with the big guys in the ACC.  He has supplanted Cadarian Raines recently on James Johnson's depth chart, but part of me wonders if that was just to get him some play this season while the Hokies took on lesser competition.  I don't believe he has the bulk yet to be a factor in ACC play, but he does rebound and block shots... two things that Raines has not been able to do.
  • SG Adam Smith - He's that streaky bench scorer that every team needs.  He's small for his position and doesn't have the handle to play PG except for in short doses while spelling Wilson, but he can light up the scoreboard when he's on his game.  His shooting has improved since his freshman season at UNCW, and he makes the offense more dynamic when he's on the floor.  His defense can be brutal at times, and we knew this about him coming into the season.
  • SG Will Johnston - Another guard who can be brought off the bench when JJ needs some shooting.  Johnston is a very good three point shooter who can get his shot off quickly.  Unfortunately there isn't much else that he does well.  Johnston is a former walk-on and I do think that he earned the scholarship that he's playing with this season.  He's a useful contributor in the right scenarios, however injuries and the losses of Rankin and Mueller have forced him to play much more than I'd like.
  • PF Christian Beyer - A walk-on, but with more talent than your usual walk-on.  I'm not just saying that to be a homer, either, as I've seen tons of walk-on players during my time as VT fan.  Beyer is right up there with Paul Debnam in usefulness.  He plays tough and he rebounds the basketball.  He can't really score, but he's not completely devoid of ability in that area.  He's a nice player to have.
  • PF Greg Donlon - At 6'8" and 230 lbs, he has great size for a walk-on.  However he rarely ever gets into the game, and frankly that's how it should be.  I've been extremely disappointed with him as the end of the bench guy.  He needs to be waving that towel much faster and making sweet 3-goggles when the Hokies bury a deep one.  I'd love for JJ to bring in Paul Debnam to teach a crash course.
  • C Cadarian Raines - I'm going to finish up with Raines because he may be the most interesting story of the season.  A 6th-year senior, Raines was really being counted on by JJ at the beginning of the season to bring leadership and stability to a young team.  However, I think the years of injuries to Raines' feet have left him timid on the court.  He's mentioned in interviews that he has a bit of a mental block when it comes to going for rebounds outside of his area because he's worried about what will happen to his feet as he moves into other players' zones.  Due to these issues, Raines has been little more than a body to foul other bodies.  The promise that he showed on the offensive end a couple seasons ago is gone and never to return.  He hasn't been able to score, rebound, or block shots consistently, and I think this is why James Johnson has dropped Raines from his rotation in spite of his ability to provide a veteran presence on the court.  Will size alone be enough to get Raines minutes against ACC opponents?  I'm really not sure about that.

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