Though he was a highly touted prospect who won two straight state championships coming out of high school, it didn’t really occur to Dorian Finney-Smith that he was the biggest recruit during Coach Seth Greenberg’s tenure at Virginia Tech until he actually arrived on campus this fall.
That’s when random classmates would come up to say hello and already knew Finney-Smith’s childhood nickname, “Dodo.” The expectations only got bigger when the freshman began his Hokies career in the starting lineup and finished with three double-doubles in his first five games, including a 10-point, 16-rebound, five-assist, four-block performance in his collegiate debut against East Tennessee State.
But like Virginia Tech as a whole, Finney-Smith has struggled in ACC play. And unlike many of his teammates, he wasn’t able to rectify the situation during the Hokies’ upset of No. 19 Virginia Sunday night.
Finney-Smith played just six minutes in the second half against the Cavaliers, attempted only one shot the entire evening and, for the third time in five conference games, was held scoreless. After averaging more than eight points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds through 12 games, those figures have fallen to 2.7 points and 6.4 rebounds the past seven contests.
Greenberg never considered the drop in scoring that big of a deal, because although he wanted Finney-Smith to be more assertive offensively, he had said all along the forward’s greatest asset was his “facilitator” mentality.
But in the past two games, Finney-Smith has gotten manhandled by North Carolina’s Harrison Barnes – Finney-Smith got in early foul trouble trying to guard the Tar Heels star, who ended up with a game-high 27 points – and grabbed just two rebounds and one steal combined. Those are troubling signs for a player who has started every game this season and is still the Hokies’ leader in plus/minus (plus-148) because of the fill-up-the-stat-sheet approach he usually brings to the court.
“We’ve got to get him back to rebounding the ball. We’ve got to get him running a little bit more. I don’t need him chasing shots, but I need him to be aggressive so he can make other people better,” Coach Seth Greenberg said Monday during the ACC teleconference, adding that Finney-Smith didn’t play at the end of the Virginia win because of matchup reasons.
Greenberg would like to see Finney-Smith improve his mental fortitude and get stronger. It seems in recent games, the 6-foot-8, 192-pound forward has been shy about taking it to the basket after struggling to finish at the rim early in the season. The team is also working on the release point on Finney-Smith’s shot, hoping they can get him to shoot quicker.
None of this, though, has dimmed any of Greenberg’s excitement for what Finney-Smith could accomplish during his time in Blacksburg. He wants to get Finney-Smith in better situations going forward and “find different ways to use him. But he’s a facilitator. That who he is.”
“He might be — and I don’t want to take anything away from any of the kids I’ve ever coached — one of the best young people I’ve ever been around,” Greenberg said, referring to Finney-Smith’s personality. “The magic of Dodo is he really gets it. He has a really good feel . . . He’s going to be special. He’s done special things already.”