In the hours leading up to Thursday’s matchup between Virginia and Virginia Tech, there will be plenty of discussion about the Cavaliers’ slow pace and the nation’s leading scorer, Hokies guard Erick Green. But perhaps the biggest question for these in-state rivals will be answered during pregame warmups at Cassell Coliseum.
Virginia and Virginia Tech could each have an important contributor return from injury Thursday. The Cavaliers may get forward Darion Atkins back after the Clinton native missed Saturday’s win over Florida State because of a stress reaction to shin splints. The Hokies, meanwhile, received some surprising news this week when freshman Marshall Wood joined practice again after being sidelined for more than a month with a fractured foot.
Both remain a game-time decision, but their availability would be crucial.
Atkins’s athleticism has added teeth to Virginia Coach Tony Bennett’s pack-line defense, and the return of his low-post game could buoy a Cavaliers offense that can struggle to find easy baskets at times.
Wood would give Virginia Tech Coach James Johnson some much-needed depth, and perhaps allow the Hokies to apply some full-court pressure and speed up the pace of the game. The freshman averaged 5.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in Virginia Tech’s first 10 games this season.
Johnson told reporters Wednesday that he was encouraged by Wood’s progress of late, but he had yet to be medically cleared by doctors. That could come Thursday.
Atkins, on the other hand, will have input as to whether he plays against the Hokies. Bennett said this week that it would be about how Atkins feels, since team trainers have indicated the injury would not be completely healed until after the season ends.
“His [availability] is now based on his symptoms,” Bennett said this week. “It’s kind of how he feels and what he can do. . . . He’s got a stress reaction. We quieted it down, tried to. And you test it. Is it ready yet? How are you feeling? How much can you handle? How does it respond? That’s what it will be from here on out or until we can get rid of it completely, which is probably not something until after the season, is my understanding.”