Virginia Tech forward J.T. Thompson suffered a grade 3 tear of his right anterior cruciate ligament during practice Wednesday and will undergo season-ending surgery, Virginia Tech announced Thursday. The 6-foot-6 fifth-year senior forward missed the 2010-11 season after tearing his left ACL last September in a pickup basketball game.
As a junior in 2009, Thompson averaged 7.3 points and 4.6 rebounds as the Hokies’ sixth man. Though Coach Seth Greenberg has declined to reveal his starting lineup for this season, Thompson was in line to receive extensive minutes as an undersize power forward.
Thompson is eligible to receive a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and return to Virginia Tech for a sixth year, but as Greenberg said in a school-issued statement, “our main focus right now is his health and preparing him for graduation this December.”
“To think of all he has been through, it’s disheartening that bad things happen to good people,” Greenberg said. “My heart goes out to J.T. He has been a model student-athlete, despite all the obstacles he has faced. He was back to playing at or above the level we had expected of him following last season’s surgery. Now is not the time to discuss a sixth year.”
The Hokies do have some options with Thompson out. Greenberg has already talked this preseason of using forwards Cadarian Raines and Victor Davila together down low for a big lineup. But Greenberg has also mentioned how excited he is to have small forwards Dorian Finney-Smith and Jarell Eddie on the court at the same time with the 6-7, 218-pound Eddie playing the role of undersize power forward.
Freshmen C.J. Barksdale (6-8, 232 pounds) and Joey Van Zegeren (6-10, 220 pounds) should also see their roles increase with Thompson’s absence. Greenberg said Thursday he’s still evaluating his options.
But if there’s one coach in the country that knows how to make injury-related adjustments, it’s Greenberg. Last season, the Hokies finished the year with just seven scholarship players and only used one player who was taller than 6-7 (Davila). The question facing Greenberg is whether his most talented alternatives (using Finney-Smith and Eddie together) can adequately defend the post and provide enough rebounding with Jeff Allen now playing professionally in France.
As for Thompson, who Greenberg refers to as the team’s “Energizer bunny,” it remains to be seen how he’ll move forward from here. When practice began three weeks ago, he spoke of how difficult it was to watch from the bench a year ago and how comforting it was to have his cousin, guard Dorenzo Hudson, also nursing a season-ending foot injury.
Now, he has to go through that recovery process all over again.
“The toughest part was having to sit out knowing I have to come back. I mean I just wanted to play my last year with the guys I came in with. So that has been the hardest, having to come back and do it all over again,” Thompson said three weeks ago. “But at the end of the day, I was relieved that, you know, I was gonna have a chance to do it again with somebody I came in with [Hudson]. It was crummy for a second, but a little relief.”