It was only an intrasquad scrimmage with a few hundred spectators in attendance, but there was no mistaking who the best player on the floor was when the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team took to Cassell Coliseum Saturday for their official unveiling ahead of the 2011-12 season.
Junior Erick Green led all scorers with 20 points, and looked every bit like the leader Coach Seth Greenberg is hoping for this year. Whether it was jumping into passing lanes out of the Hokies’ 2-3 zone, making acrobatic driving layups or showing off his improved shot from three-point range, it appears Green is ready to for the challenge that will come from taking over for Malcolm Delaney.
After all, Green spent much of his summer watching film of how other ACC guards defended Delaney in the past. He said last week he has compiled a book full of notes with comments like “Shades him to the left,” “I can shoot over him,” or “He doesn’t like to go over the ball screen,” depending on the opposing player.
“I would just put it into the computer, turn it on and just watch when I’m bored,” said Green, who added the idea came from his parents. “I saw how Malcolm scored and I see how defenders got after him and kind of frustrated him and kind of picked up on defender’s habits.”
Green, a 6-foot-3 combo guard, had a breakout sophomore season a year ago filling the void left by injured shooting guard Dorenzo Hudson. He averaged 11.6 points and 2.7 assists and 1.75 assists per game. But even with Hudson back from his foot injury this year, Greenberg said Green’s biggest challenge is “now he’s going from Robin to being Batman.”
So far, Greenberg has liked what he has seen, and he believes Green is ready to assume the large amount of responsibility that will come with being counted on to be the team’s primary ball handler and top perimeter defender while remaining one of the Hokies leading scorers.
“He’s embracing his opportunity to be the leader,” Greenberg said. “I think he feels good about himself and he’s got earned confidence. Earned confidence is more important than empowering a person. He’s confident because you know what, he was thrown into that situation, he put his arms around that situation and seized the moment.”
One part of Green’s game that is still a work in progress is his shooting. He made just 41.8 percent of his shots, including a mediocre 24.8 percent mark from three-point range, last season.
So Green said when he wasn’t watching film of Delaney, he was in a gym, sometimes two and three times a day, hoisting shots because “if you think about me, I can’t shoot that well,” he admitted.
Whether he remains a streaky shooter or not, what has become clear is Green has confronted his growing list of responsibilities head on.
“The main concern I have is be more of a leader, making sure these young guys are doing what they can to help us win,” Green said. “Being more of a vocal leader, making sure guys know: ‘Hey, this is my team. I’m gonna run it.’ We’re all in the same boat. There’s not gonna be any one-man team.” . . .
As for the rest of the Hokies, here are some random observations from Saturday’s scrimmage. Though there were referees, the score wasn’t kept. So take what you will from it since Virginia Tech’s season opener isn’t until Nov. 13.
*The scrimmage pitted Green, Hudson, J.T. Thompson, C.J. Barksdale and Cadarian Raines versus Tyrone Garland, Robert Brown, Jarell Eddie, Dorian Finney-Smith and Victor Davila. Freshman point Marquis Rankin did not participate because of the knee surgery he underwent two weeks ago. Freshman forward Joey Van Zegeren was also held out of the scrimmage after suffering a concussion in practice last week.
*A major concern for the Hokies this season is three-point shooting since Garland is their best shooter back this year in terms of percentages. But watching sophomore Jarell Eddie and freshman Robert Brown effortlessly stroke three-pointers Saturday convinced me that Virginia Tech has better shooters than some thought. Eddie shot just 21 percent from three-point range a year ago, but Greenberg has raved about his touch over the past year. Brown, meanwhile, looks to have the smoothest release on the team, despite missing four practices last week after having his wisdom teeth removed.
*Though Green had 20 points and Hudson added 18 to lead their squad, it was Raines who stood out throughout the controlled scrimmage. His post moves aren’t a thing of beauty yet, but the 6-foot-9, 239-pound forward was very active on the glass and had a couple blocked shots on the defensive end. If he can stay healthy, Raines’s combination of length and bulk will add attributes off the bench that Greenberg simply didn’t have at his disposal a year ago.
*Finney-Smith, the highest rated recruit to ever come to Virginia Tech, didn’t attempt a shot in the scrimmage and was the lone player to not score. But that doesn’t mean he looked out of place. He had several nice passes along the baseline facing a 2-3 zone, and brought the ball up as a point guard on a few possessions. Greenberg has already warned us reporters that Finney-Smith is more facilitator than scorer.
*Hudson and Thompson seemed to show no ill effects from the injuries that sidelined them all of last season. Hudson, in particular, seemed bullish on getting the ball with the clock running down. Bodes well for a Hokies squad that doesn’t really have a proven go-to scorer in crunch time just yet.