“If I don’t get a workout in the morning, I feel weird. There were sometimes other years I did it, but I didn’t do it every day,” he noted. “Now, if I don’t get a sweat, if I don’t get shots up, someone’s getting better.”
Few have been better this season. A two-time All-Met from Winchester, Va., Green is averaging 25.3 points per game entering Thursday night’s matchup with No. 6 Duke, on pace to become the first major-conference player since Glenn Robinson in 1993-94 to lead the country in scoring, and the first from the ACC since 1956-57.
But it’s the manner in which he arrived at this point, on the verge of a feat nobody — not Green and not any of his coaches, past or present — expected that has transformed him into one of the more compelling stories in college basketball.
“Erick’s best asset is a lot of guys talk about working. He works,” former Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “He doesn’t have a fear of failure.”
A ‘gym rat’ is born
Current Hokies Coach James Johnson often jokes that when he arrives at his office in the morning and hears a basketball bouncing on the practice court below, he doesn’t need to look down to confirm who’s out there. But it wasn’t always like this.
The game used to come easy for Green. Growing up in Winchester coached by his mother, Tamara, a former basketball player at Howard, and his father, a former Howard running back also named Erick, opposing parents would often ask that Green be taken off the floor because he was so much better than the other children.
As a junior at Millbrook High in 2008, when Green led the Pioneers to the first Virginia AA state title ever won by a Winchester school, Coach Scott Mankins had his star player wear a 20-pound vest during practice while dealing with constant double-teams to ensure he was being challenged.
When Green transferred to Paul VI Catholic as a senior to prepare for the rigors of the ACC, he promptly led the Fairfax school to its first Virginia Independent Schools title. “He helped build the program,” said Coach Glenn Farello, whose Panthers have become one of the best teams in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference.
But Green encountered a new reality once he arrived at Virginia Tech, enduring a nightmarish freshman season in which he went scoreless in 16 games, averaged 2.6 points per game and shot just 29.3 percent.