The big news out of Virginia Tech's open practice here in Greensboro on Wednesday is the uncertain status of forward Jeff Allen. The Washington native injured his right ankle in Saturday’s loss at Clemson and hasn’t practiced much since.
Allen participated in some drills Wednesday, but for the most part stood on the sideline and watched as his teammates went through final preparations for Thursday night’s first-round matchup against Georgia Tech.
Upon leaving the floor about 10 minutes before the conclusion of practice, Allen had a slight limp as he ambled down the Greensboro Coliseum hallways. When reporters were allowed inside the Hokies' locker room, Allen’s
right ankle had ice taped to it, but he said he expects to be in the lineup against the Yellow Jackets.
“I ran on it a little bit,” he said. “I feel like it should be okay tomorrow.”
When asked whether Allen’s ankle is an injury or an inconvenience, Coach Seth Greenberg responded, “It’s an injury that will be an inconvenience.”
****As for freshman Jarell Eddie, Greenberg got to face another set of questions regarding the forward’s status with the team during this week’s tournament. Eddie is dealing with a marijuana-possession charge stemming from a Feb. 15 incident and did not play against Clemson.
But as has been the case for the past few weeks, Greenberg wasn’t too keen on providing many details as to whether Eddie would play in the ACC tournament. All he said was: “He’s here. If you want to talk about the game [Thursday], I’ll talk about that.”
****Speaking of Virginia Tech freshmen, earlier today guard Tyrone Garland was named to the all-ACC academic team for his performance in the classroom. He was Virginia Tech's lone representative. To be a part of the all-academic team, a player must carry at least a 3.0 grade-point average during the previous semester while also having a cumulative GPA of 3.0.
****Perhaps the most notable part of Wednesday’s practice was the number of Hokies players who took the floor. Seniors Dorenzo Hudson (foot) and J.T. Thompson (knee) and sophomores Allan Chaney (heart) and Cadarian Raines (foot) all participated in the warmup portion of the session after being out with injuries for much of the season. They did not, however, take part in any contact drills with the team.
Greenberg said not to read too much into it, as none of the four will be available to play this season. But I figured I would share his thoughts on their progress:
On Raines: “Cadarian, Dr. Anderson in Charlotte gave him approval to give it a run. He’s actually been assisting us in practice and every time he falls I’m like..." Greenberg then made a cringing face.
"But he’s kind of hanging in there. I just hope that thing doesn’t break again. Dr. Anderson said it’s about as healed as it’s gonna get, but he could break the other one just as easily as this one now. He’s full go. He’s not gonna play, but he’s full go, which has made our practices better.”
On Chaney: “I wouldn’t call that practice. Chaney’s in the gym all the time; he’s allowed to shoot. Can’t get too much of a sweat.”
On Hudson: “Dorenzo, this was the first day he was allowed to do anything.”
On Thompson: “J.T., this week, got cleared to do some layup stuff and a little bit of cutting.”
****Throughout this week, it’s been hard to get a sense of just how nervous the Hokies are. As we’re all well aware of by now, Virginia Tech has been in this position before – needing a win or two at the ACC tournament to cement its status as an NCAA tournament team.
So I went to walk-on Paul Debnam for some answers, figuring he might have a read on how this group is approaching what amounts to a make-or-break game against Georgia Tech. Debnam is a fifth-year senior whose dancing skills and personality have made him a student-section favorite at Cassell Coliseum. By all accounts, he’s also the quintessential joker who keeps this group relaxed and upbeat.
“He’s like the glue guy. He keeps everyone together,” sophomore Erick Green said. “He’s a huge help, to be honest. If we’re uptight, he’ll loosen us up.”
Wednesday’s open practice wasn’t all that strenuous, but the Hokies certainly took a business-like approach to it. There were no dunk contests or trick shots – except for the two half-court jump hooks Coach Seth Greenberg attempted at the end of the session.
Instead, the Hokies worked primarily on their 2-3 zone, as well as their man-to-man offense. Debnam’s attitude reflected this serious mind-set, but he mentioned that Greenberg said something that’s really stuck with him these past few days. He hopes the rest of the team feels the same way.
Greenberg “made a good point not to live in the past [or] look into the future too much, but stay in the present. Just take it all in and take advantage of the opportunity we have,” Debnam said. “Everybody knows what we want to do. We have a goal at hand – the NCAA tournament – and Georgia Tech’s our next opponent. We’re trying to make the most of it.”
Added Green: "I know it’s hard not to think about [the pressure], but I just try to put it to the side and play. I think the more I think about it, or the team thinks about it, we’re just gonna mess up or [it will] get to us. We can’t do that. We just got to go out and play.”