It wasn’t long ago that Dorian Finney-Smith was being hailed as one of the biggest recruiting coups in Virginia Tech basketball history. Over the weekend, however, the freshman blindsided the Hokies with a decision that will go down as the first major setback for first-year head coach James Johnson.
Finney-Smith has requested a release from his scholarship and intends to transfer after one season at Virginia Tech, Johnson confirmed Tuesday, a move the coach admitted caught him by surprise. Johnson said Finney-Smith did not give a reason as to why he decided to leave Blacksburg for good, other than to say it had nothing to do with Virginia Tech’s decision to fire Seth Greenberg last month.
“He just said that it’s been in the makings, brewing for a couple of months now,” said Johnson, who also spoke with Finney-Smith’s mother, Desiree Finney, about the decision this weekend. “He just wanted to wait until after exams and finish out the semester before talking about it.”
Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 points and seven rebounds per game during his only season at Virginia Tech and earned a spot on the all-ACC freshman team as a result. He was considered the crown jewel of what turned out to be Greenberg’s final recruiting class, which ESPN ranked among the top 15 in the country last year.
A marquee prospect because of his multi-dimensional skill set, the 6-8 Finney-Smith led Norcom High in Portsmouth, Va., to back-to-back Virginia AAA state titles. He was named a third-team all-American by USA Today as a senior in 2011.
His first season in the college ranks had its ups and downs. Finney-Smith registered a double-double (10 points, 16 rebounds) in the first game of the season against East Tennessee State, and later scored the game-winning basket in the closing seconds of a victory over Boston College in February.
But he also went through a prolonged shooting slump in January, and at one point went five-straight games and 25-consecutive shots without a field goal. At the time, Greenberg said he had begun to overhaul Finney-Smith’s shot but constantly praised his pupil as “one of the best people I’ve ever coached.”
It likely didn’t help that Finney-Smith’s primary recruiter, former Greenberg assistant John Richardson, left Virginia Tech last month for a job at Old Dominion. Part of the reason Greenberg hired Richardson before the 2010-11 season was because of his relationship with Finney-Smith. Richardson was previously an assistant for the Monarchs from 2006-2010, and he coached Finney-Smith’s older brother, Ben.
Along with Virginia Tech, Dorian Finney-Smith had Old Dominion and Florida in his final three during the recruiting process. As is standard protocol throughout the country, the Hokies will not allow him to transfer to another school within the ACC.
Johnson isn’t deterred by this high profile defection, even though it leaves the Hokies with just seven returning scholarship players for next season.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m also still excited about the team,” Johnson said. “I still think we’ve got some good pieces. You got Erick Green. You got Cadarian Raines. You got Jarell Eddie. You’ve got Robert Brown, and C.J. Barksdale is going to have to step up.
“This is just a bump in the road and it’s all part of it. It is what it is and you keep plugging away.”