Virginia Tech, which won seven of its last 11 games last season after a 1-6 start in conference play, is -- literally and figuratively -- on the move. Ricky Stokes replaced Bobby Hussey as coach, and he takes over a program that hopes to improve significantly before joining the Big East Conference next season.
Stokes, known as a savvy recruiter, comes to Virginia Tech from Texas, where he spent last season as the associate head coach after working as an assistant at Wake Forest from 1990 to 1997 and at Texas in 1997-98. He is a graduate of the Hokies' biggest rival, Virginia, for which he played in a school-record 134 consecutive games from 1981 to '84.
He enters this season with four returning starters -- Rolan Roberts, Brendan Dunlop, Andre Ray and Russ Wheeler -- but only two players taller than 6 feet 8.
"We're definitely not big, so we're going to look to use our athleticism more," Stokes said. "We're going to push the ball, pick people up full court and press and work to take high-percentage shots. I think it takes a whole new philosophy to turn a team around."
For example, Stokes said Wheeler has lost 10 to 15 pounds from his 250-pound frame and is running the floor much better. The Hokies should get an additional boost from newcomers Tony Dobbins, who averaged 26 points per game as a high school senior, and Jon Smith.
"We're excited about this season, and about the future here at Virginia Tech," Stokes said. "We've got talented guys already here, and moving into the Big East [next season], one of the premier conferences in the country, immediately gets us in the door with the caliber of kid we couldn't get in with before. This is definitely an exciting time for us."
Last season: 13-15, 7-9 Atlantic 10 Conference.
Coach: Ricky Stokes, first season.
Top returning players: G Brendan Dunlop, 6-2, Sr. (11.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.9 apg); F Dennis Mims, 6-9, Soph. (7.4 ppg, 5 rpg, 1.5 bpg); F Andre Ray, 6-4, Sr. (3.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg); F Rolan Roberts, 6-6, Jr. (14.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 2 bpg, third-team all-Atlantic 10); F-C Russ Wheeler, 6-9, Sr. (6.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Key departures: G-F Eddie Lucas (14.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, led Atlantic 10 with .434 three-point pct., third-team all-Atlantic 10).
New faces: G Tony Dobbins, 6-3, Fr. (Maret School, All-Met); F Brian Felts, 6-5, Fr. (Knoxville, Tenn.); F-C Jon Smith, 6-8, Fr. (Dunbar, W.Va.); F Keith Willis, 6-5, Fr. (Norfolk).
22 at William & Mary, 7
29 at UNC Asheville, 7:30
2 at E. Tenn. State, 7:30
4 UNC Charlotte, 2
6 at VMI, 7
9 Radford, 7
11 Liberty, 2
20 vs. Illinois State*, 2
21 vs. Auburn or Puerto Rico Mayaguez*, TBA
22 vs. TBA*, TBA
28 West Virginia, 7
6 at Xavier, 8
9 at Dayton, 3
12 Duquesne, 7
15 George Washington, 2
19 Fordham, 7
22 at Temple, 4
24 vs. Virginia**, 7:30
29 Massachusetts, 2
3 St. Joseph's, 7
5 at La Salle, 2
7 Old Dominion, 7
10 at St. Bonaventure, 7:30
12 at Rhode Island, 2
17 at Geo. Washington, 7:30
19 Xavier, 2
27 at Duquesne, 4
1 La Salle, 7
4 Dayton, 2
8-11 Atlantic 10 tournament in Philadelphia
*San Juan Shootout, Puerto Rico