Thursday, October 16, 2014

Let the Buzz Williams Era Begin!

I know we're in the heart of Virginia Tech football season, and honestly I have enjoyed this season so far with Michael Brewer at the helm, but I also got really excited today when I realized that the Buzz Williams era is less than a month away!  I think Coach Buzz would roll his eyes at a potential depth chart at this point in the year, but hey I'm no coach, so let's put one out for the fun of it:

PG: Devin Wilson, Malik Mueller
SG: Ahmed Hill, Adam Smith, Will Johnston
SF: Justin Bibbs, Jalen Hudson
PF: Shane Henry, Christian Beyer, Greg Donlon
C: Joey Van Zegeren, Satchel Pierce

The first thing you might notice is that there are a ton of new faces on this roster.  Mueller was on the team last year, but is an unfamiliar face because he was academically ineligible (nicely done NCAA!  We can't have students transferring from Germany without having any basket-weaving credits).  The redshirt will come off and Mueller will back up James Johnson's best find in sophomore point guard Devin Wilson.  RS-Junior Adam Smith missed half of last season with injuries, but he will return as the primary backup at shooting guard to offer some electricity off the bench.  Senior Will Johnston will see some minutes as our three-point specialist, but the majority of the minutes on the perimeter will go to freshmen.

Coach Buzz managed to lure two of his recruits from Marquette over to Virginia Tech, and the best of those two is shooting guard Ahmed Hill.  I am really high on this kid, I think he's going to be fantastic if his work ethic matches his raw talent.  Hill is 6'5" and crazy athletic.  He can handle, pass, shoot, slash, and finish at the rim with a monster dunk.  He can defend, get steals, and lead a fastbreak in transition.  I was pretty bummed about the transfer of Ben Emelogu until I got a chance to check out Hill.  He can really do everything you want at the guard position.  Hill is ranked #54 in ESPN's Top-100 recruits for 2014, but I honestly think that's too low.  He's a top-25 talent for sure, but I think the fact that he stayed at his local high school instead of going to one of the top prep academies is what hurt his rankings.

Tech adds another top-100 freshman in small forward Justin Bibbs.  Bibbs is not the freak athlete that Hill is, but the kid is a gamer.  Whether he is shooting (lefty) or driving to the hoop (either hand), he is a quality scorer and has really good size at 6'5" 210 lbs for a freshman perimeter player.  I am expecting that he will be the starter at small forward, but there's certainly a chance that freshman Jalen Hudson could claim that role.  Hudson is a bit undersized for small forward at 6'5" 195 lbs, but ESPN is high on him as a 4-star recruit (they're also high on Bibbs, ranking him 70th in their final Top-100 recruits for 2014).  Hudson is more athletic than Bibbs and can really get up in the air.  His jump shot looks great, but his handle may not be good enough to be more than a set shooter and fastbreak finisher right away.  Hudson is a graduate of St. Vincent-St. Mary in Akron (LeBron James' alma mater).

I feel pretty safe in saying that the Hokies will outperform their 2-16 last-place finish in the ACC last year simply by upgrading coaches from James Johnson to Buzz Williams, but I don't think they will be quite as successful as I was originally expecting.  I knew Coach Buzz would shake things up and bring in some of his own guys, but I was pretty shocked when CJ Barksdale announced that he was transferring.  He has one year left of eligibility and he was the clear starter at power forward this season.  I don't think he transfers unless Buzz nudges him out the door, and that freed up a scholarship that was offered to and claimed by 2015 point guard recruit Justin Robinson.  The loss of Barksdale leaves our frontcourt paper thin... expect to see a healthy number of minutes going to walk-on power forwards Christian Beyer and Greg Donlon this season.  I am expecting that JUCO commit Shane Henry is going to be our starter at power forward.  He's (this has to be the third time I've said it) super-athletic, springy, rangy, active... a nice compliment to the less mobile centers on our team.  Henry is a talented shot-blocker and weak-side helper, but he also has some ability to finish around the basket and a nice looking jump shot that should only get more consistent with time.  If Henry comes in with a JUCO-level work ethic (and frankly I'm not expecting this), he may lose that starting job to a walk-on.  Christian Beyer is not a special athlete, but he's consistent.  He knows how to box out and grab rebounds.  He knows where he's supposed to be in the offense.  He knows how to keep his body in front of an offensive player and limit scoring opportunities.  He got better as a finisher around the rim as last season progressed, but he's really not much of a scoring threat.

The center position is locked up by Joey Van Zegeren.  Joey doesn't move quickly, but he does move decisively on defense and he is a very talented shot-blocker.  His presence around the rim affects three times as many shots as he blocks.  JVZ's offensive game is still improving, but it's not terrible.  He's not a great rebounder considering his size and leaping ability, and this is an area that could use some attention.  Backing him up, Buzz Williams brought in a traditional center in 7'0" 255lb freshman Satchel Pierce.  I'm already predicting that he gets called "Satchel Paige" over 50 times by TV announcers this season... it's bound to happen.  Mike Patrick, I'm looking squarely in your direction as the worst offender.  Pierce is a big body who will cause some trouble for offensive players who wander into the paint without a plan.  On offense, he has a nice array of moves around the hoop and a solid jumper that he can hit regularly (guessing his max range is about 15 feet away).  He moves pretty slowly and I don't anticipate he will be much of a factor on the break.

As you can see, the Hokies depth in the backcourt is young and their depth in the frontcourt is non-existent.  Coach Buzz will be looking towards the future.  Next season the Hokies will have the services of a big-time transfer from Maryland, SG Seth Allen, a decent PF transfer from South Florida, Zach LeDay, and two quality freshmen recruits in PG Justin Robinson and PF Kerry Blackshear, Jr.

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