When Virginia Tech faces Miami on Thursday, its biggest challenge – literally – will be slowing down Miami center Reggie Johnson. The 6-foot-10, 284-pound junior from Winston-Salem, N.C., scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in the Hurricanes’ overtime upset of No. 10 Duke on Sunday afternoon.
Johnson, who was named the ACC’s player of the week after his performance, missed the first nine games of the season after tearing his meniscus during a pickup game last July. Without him in the lineup this year, Miami is 5-4. Since Johnson returned on Dec. 17, the Hurricanes are 9-3 and enter their matchup against the Hokies with a four-game winning streak and a spot on the NCAA tournament bubble.
Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg has always admired Johnson’s combination of size and skill, but on Monday’s ACC teleconference his depictions of Miami’s big man went above and beyond the usual coach-speak.
Here’s a sampling of what Greenberg had to say:
“Well, he’s a mountain masquerading as a man. He’s a massive mass of humanity.”
“Again, it’s like a different time zone when you get from one side to the other side. So he has the ability to create an angle and finish around the basket, not by getting up, but by creating angles because of the size of his body.”
“A lot of times there is a direct correlation between the size of someone’s rear end and their ability to score. But he’s like SpongeBob SquarePants. The guy is square. It is impossible to get around the guy.”
Johnson is currently averaging 11.8 points and seven rebounds per game, but the Hokies have actually done a decent job against him in the past. Last year when Virginia Tech beat Miami, 72-68, at Cassell Coliseum, Johnson was held to just six points and 10 rebounds.
When these teams met three times two years ago – the Hokies went 1-2 and lost to the Hurricanes in the first round of the ACC tournament, a defeat many believe kept Virginia Tech out of the NCAA tournament – Johnson averaged 6.7 points and 8.7 rebounds.
The job of defending Johnson this time around will fall on the shoulders’ of forwards Victor Davila and Cadarian Raines. Both, however, are giving up more than 40 pounds to Johnson, which means they need to keep him from getting position underneath at the start of possessions.
Johnson “obviously takes up a tremendous amount of space,” Greenberg said. “The big thing with Reggie, if you do your work late, you’re done.”