In his first public comments since his arrest last February on possession of marijuana charges, Virginia Tech forward Jarell Eddie said Friday he’s “definitely looking forward to a fresh start” after a freshman season in Blacksburg he’d like to forget.

Eddie was suspended from school for the remainder of the spring semester and sentenced to perform 100 community service hours as a result of his legal issues. In addition, his status during the early part of this season was in doubt because NCAA rules state that a player must complete six credit hours during the previous semester to be eligible.

Eddie appealed to the NCAA’s Progress-Towards-Degree Waiver Committee, and earlier this week Virginia Tech announced that the NCAA had ruled in favor of the sophomore and he would be available to play the entire 2011-12 college basketball season. Eddie says he has grown from the ordeal.

“I’ve just become more mature with having to deal with the situation, but it just reminded me that I’m up here for basketball, I’m up here for school,” he said before the Hokies held their first practice of the year Friday afternoon. “I don’t need to be putting myself in any other situation that can hurt anything I’m up here for.”

Eddie, who was able to practice with the team during individual workouts throughout the appeal process, averaged 2.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 27 games last year.

But he played just one minute in a Jan. 25 loss at Georgia Tech after “not fufilling academic requirements,” according to Coach Seth Greenberg. Then, following his arrest after Virginia Tech beat Maryland on Feb. 15, Eddie was suspended for the Hokies’ next game, at Virginia. He then played in three more games before the school announced he would be suspended for the remainder of the season the night before the ACC tournament began.

Eddie, a 6-foot-7 wing from Charlotte, said the most valuable lesson he took from last year was to “stay focused. Don’t get sidetracked, don’t let any distractions take you from what you’re here for.”

“I’m just gonna try to do everything I can for the team,” he said. “I’m gonna work as hard as I can just to be a positive asset to the team and not bring any negative attention to the team anymore.”

Greenberg hopes Eddie can turn into a matchup nightmare for opposing big men since he may be the best pure shooter on this year’s team and has a 218-pound frame that will allow him to play inside as well.

Eddie said Friday he has lowered his body-fat percentage and now has a 31-inch standing vertical jump, three inches better than when he arrived in Blacksburg a year ago. He will compete with freshman Dorian Finney-Smith to be the team’s starting small forward when the season tips off on Nov. 12 against East Tennessee State.

But Eddie is just happy to now have some distance between an incident he hopes won’t define his tenure at Virginia Tech.

“Of course it was a tough time, that negative attention. But it’s behind me now and I’m ready to just play,” he said.