Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg has been in contact with former Connecticut forward Alex Oriakhi in hopes of persuading him to transfer to Virginia Tech, according to multiple people familiar with the program’s plans who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the situation.
Oriakhi announced last week that he would be leaving Connecticut because the NCAA will begin enforcing a rule that would preclude teams from the postseason if they do not meet a minimum academic progress rate. Barring a successful appeal, the Huskies are expected to be the most prominent program held out of the NCAA tournament next season as a result.
The Hokies have three scholarships available for the 2012-13 season, and if Connecticut is ineligible for the NCAA tournament, Oriakhi would not have to sit out a year when he transfers.
Two people with knowledge of the situation said Virginia Tech is viewed as a long shot to land Oriakhi, who has reportedly received interest from North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky and Missouri, among others, since being officially released from his scholarship at Connecticut on Tuesday. But the 6-foot-9 rising senior would instantly become the Hokies’ most established big man if he were to unexpectedly choose Virginia Tech.
Oriakhi was a key cog on Connecticut’s national championship team in 2011, averaging 9.6 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game at the center position. But the Lowell, Mass., native saw his minutes decrease and his production slip as a junior this past season because of the emergence of freshman Andre Drummond.
Greenberg said earlier this offseason that he hoped to add two players to Virginia Tech’s roster – a combo guard and another big man — for the upcoming season and that he wasn’t opposed to going the junior college route if the prospective player could graduate. Oriakhi reportedly left Connecticut in good academic standing and would not have issues getting into schools, one person said.
Big East rules prohibit Oriakhi from transferring within the conference. He would have to receive a waiver to transfer to an SEC program, because that conference prohibits one-year transfers.