Posted: 5:33 a.m. Saturday, March 23, 2013
The Hokies' 2012-13 season has been hampered by their lack of scholarship players, leaving them to play with only eight available scholarship bodies all season long provided no injuries or sicknesses occurred (something we all know hasn't happened). Several players have toughed out injuries and played through sickness because the team needed it. But the real unanswered question is why are they in this predicament in the first place? Well, the Hokies lost a minimum of two players with Seth Greenberg's firing and maybe as many as four (depending on if he was able to land another recruit or not). But this isn't the first time or only reason the Hokies are short on bodies. Below we'll examine why this has been an issue in the past and continues to haunt the Virginia Tech basketball program.
Everybody knows that whether or not the Virginia Tech basketball team should have made the NCAA Tournament from 2008-2011, each time having a full complement of healthy bodies would have probably done the trick and gotten the Hokies over the top. Unfortunately, each season saw one or more of the names mentioned below miss extended time or transfer away. One of my only condemnations of Seth Greenberg remains that he was unable to stop the constant attrition of players (and coaches, but that's a matter for another time) to transfer, when often he could have easily given them the time on the floor that they desired. You may disagree, but Greenberg was notorious for pushing star players like Malcolm Delaney to the brink in minutes, which led to late season collapses.
While not every transfer or recruit that never reached Blacksburg was Greenberg's fault (Justin Holt, Marquie Cooke, Hyman Taylor, Nigel Munson, Darrion Pellum and Manny Atkins to name a few), several were as simple as playing time issues. Others were results of academic/qualifying issues and some disciplinary. We did not include the likes of Holt on this list as he never was able to catch on at any other school and receive any significant playing time to our knowledge. So enjoy reading about players/recruits past and try not to bludgeon yourself with heavy objects thinking about what could have been.
Finney-Smith, Virginia Tech's highest ranked basketball recruit in the recruiting-site era, decided to leave Blacksburg after a decidedly mixed freshman campaign in 2011-12. Finney-Smith averaged 6.3 ppg. 7 rpg. (which led the team) 1.9 apg. 0.7 spg. and 0.7 bpg. while shooting a .33/.37/.58 line for the Hokies. He also, however, put together one of the most dubious streaks in program history with an 0-for-26 stretch over a 7-game stretch, earning him the nickname "Doe-Doe" (or well, making sure that it stuck). Finney-Smith announced his intentions to transfer after Greenberg's firing in early 2012. Despite rumors to the contrary, a source inside the program indicated to me that DFS' decision to transfer was based on his lack of comfort with both the environment and people of Blacksburg/Virginia Tech. Although it was rumored that he would be heading to Old Dominion University, where his brother Ben Finney started for several years, he chose one of his other two finalists, the University of Florida. He is currently sitting out his required transfer year. UPDATE: Finney-Smith's Gators made the NCAA Tournament as a 3 seed and have advanced to the Round of 32. He will not be able to play however per NCAA transfer rules.
Harrell averages 5.5 ppg. 3.8 rpg. 0.7 bpg. 0.6 spg. and 0.2 apg. while shooting a .56/.00/.47 line for the 25-5 (13-4) Louisville Cardinals who are tied for the Big East lead. Harrell, previously a 2012 Virginia Tech commitment, asked out of his letter of intent upon Seth Greenberg's firing. After a heated late recruiting battle, Harrell, a consenus 4-star prospect, chose the Cardinals. Harrell is second on the team in field goal percentage and last on the squad in free throw percentage. UPDATE: Harrell's Cardinals overcame a 13-point halftime deficit to defeat the #19 Syracuse Orange in the Big East Championship Game on the strength of his team-leading 20 points (a career-high) on 7-13 shooting, 6-9 from the line, 7 rebounds and 1 block. The Cardinals are a #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and are still alive in the Round of 32.
Chaney, a 2009 transfer from Florida, and childhood best friend of Malcolm Delaney, transferred to Virginia Tech after an injury and a falling out with Gators coach Billy Donovan which caused him to miss the last 13 games of the Gators' season. Despite playing in a crowded frontline with the likes of Alex Tyus, Dan Werner and current Miami Hurricanes' star Kenny Kadji, Chaney averaged 3 ppg. 2.1 rpg. 0.5 spg. 0.4 apg. and 0.2 bpg. while shooting a .46/.20/.63 line in just under 10 minutes per game. He currently averages 14.4 ppg. 7.9 rpg. 1.5 apg. 1.3 bpg. and 0.5 spg. shooting a .52/.24/.82 line for 17-12 (12-4) High Point Panthers who are tied for the lead in the Big South and lead their division by four games. Chaney leads the team in rebounding and is second in scoring. UPDATE: Chaney's High Point Panthers were eliminated from the CIT Wednesday by UC Irvine in Irvine, Ca. Despite having one of the top seeds in the Big South Conference Tournament, they were eliminated by Liberty in the quarterfinal game. Chaney was named CBS Sports' Comeback Player Of The Year.
Tyrone, everyone's favorite Predator look-alike, transferred to La Salle late in 2011 when upon his return from injury, Marquis Rankin usurped him as the backup point guard. In a very pointed criticism of Greenberg, Garland essentially said if you're not going to use me, I'm gone. Garland averages 12.6 ppg. 2 rpg. 2.3 apg. 1.2 spg. and 0.1 bpg. while shooting a .42/.24/.77 line for the 20-7 (10-4) La Salle Explorers, who sit in third place in the Atlantic-10 and are two games behind the conference leaders. Garland has missed seven games on the season, but is third on the team in scoring average, assists and tied for third in steals. He is last on the team in 3-point percentage. UPDATE: Garland's La Salle Explorers are fresh off one of the biggest upsets in the NCAA Tournament, beating Kansas State in Kansas City just days after a virtuoso performance by Garland helped them to stave off Boise State, a team that was expected by many to beat them in the First Four. The Explorers are a #13 seed.
After spending five injury-riddled years in Blacksburg, the determined Thompson, no longer with any of his classmates or his cousin Dorenzo Hudson in the program, decided to transfer closer to home (Marshville, NC) to UNC Charlotte. Thompson is averaging 4.1 ppg. 2.4 rpg. 0.8 apg. 0.3 spg. and 0.2 bpg. and is shooting a .45/.14/.91 line for the 18-10 (6-8) Charlotte 49ers who are No. 11 in the Atlantic-10. Thompson leads the team in free throw percentage and assist-to-turnover ratio.
Atkins, who attended high school in Georgia, decided after the Hokies' 2010-11 season to transfer closer to home, despite the possible opportunity to crack Tech's starting lineup a year ago. Averages 14.2 ppg. 6.7 rpg. 2.2 apg. 1.5 spg. and 0.3 bpg. while shooting a .42/.41/.80 line for the 15-16 (10-8) Georgia State Panthers, who are sixth in the CAA. Unbelievably, Atkins (who played a lot of guard for the Hokies) leads the team in rebounding. He also leads the team in free throw and 3-point shooting percentages, is second on the team in assists and third in points.
Ben, who miraculously overcame a compound fracture in his leg between his senior season in high school and his freshman year at Tech, decided to leave the program in late 2010. By that time he was the last scholarship player off the bench for Seth Greenberg, averaging a paltry 2.8 minutes per game. Ironically, Boggs was the first freshman Greenberg trusted early in 2009-10, and missed out on an opportunity to play in a numbers-crunch after his transfer in 2010-11. Boggs is averaging 5.6 ppg. 2.3 rpg. 0.6 apg. and 0.5 spg. while shooting a .47/.33/.82 line for the 24-7 (13-3) Valparaiso Crusaders who lead the Horizon League by a game. Boggs is eighth on the team in scoring UPDATE: Boggs and his 14 seed Valparaiso Crusaders ended their season Thursday with a loss to Michigan State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. Boggs, however, led the team in scoring with 15 points on 4-6 shooting, 3-4 from 3-point range and 4-4 from the line (nearly triple his average) despite playing only 15 minutes.
Jones, the phantom fifth commitment of the Hokies' 2009 class, committed to Arizona (his fourth prior to entering college), where he spent his first two years (where he was playing often, averaging 6.6 ppg. as a freshman and 9.7 ppg. as a sophomore for Arizona's Elite Eight squad) before transferring to Iona. Jones is averaging 23.2 ppg. 3.6 apg. 3 rpg. 1.2 spg. and 0.1 bpg. while shooting a .45/.33/.87 line for the 17-13 (11-7) Iona Gaels who are tied for fourth in the MAAC. Jones is third in the nation in scoring and his team's leader in points and turnovers (as he accounts for over a fourth of his team's turnovers) and is tied for third in steals. UPDATE: Lamont finished third in the nation in scoring (23 ppg.) behind Erick Green (25 ppg.) and Creighton's Doug McDermott (23.1 ppg.). His Iona Gaels, however, suffered a quick exit from the NCAA Tournament, losing to Ohio State in the First Round by 25. Jones played poorly, scoring 9 points on 3-14 from the field, 1-8 from 3 and 2-2 from the line with 4 turnovers and a foul.
Swindle, always considered a project, redshirted in his first season for the Hokies (2008-09), before playing all of one game for the 2009-10 Hokies, missing his only shot and collecting one rebound, missing the rest of the season due to injury. Before transferring to JMU, Swindle served as a student manager for the team. Swindle is averaging 0.2 ppg. 1 rpg. 0.3 bpg. 0.2 apg. and 0.2 spg. and is shooting a .13/.00/.50 line for the 17-14 (11-7) James Madison Dukes who are fourth in the CAA and trailing the conference leaders by three games. Last season Swindle averaged 2.9 points 2.8 rpg. 0.3 bpg. 0.3 spg. and 0.2 apg. while shooting a .51/.00/.61 line in almost triple the minutes per game as he is receiving this year. UPDATE: Swindle's James Madison Dukes won a First Four game against LIU Brooklyn on a would-have-been buzzer-beating missed layup by the Blackbirds. They were bounced by the tournament, however, on Friday with a 21-point loss to top-seeded Indiana. Swindle did not appear in either game.
Hank Thorns, often blamed unfairly by Hokie fanatics for the inability to land Seth Curry, was a great change of pace point guard for the Hokies for two years from 2007-09. Thorns, though diminutive, played an important role for the Hokies, by coming off the bench as a change of pace guard and moving Malcolm Delaney off the point when he came in. He was the Hokies' best passer, and although he did not excel in the way of the jump shot at Tech, he was a valuable player to two NCAA Tournament bubble teams. Thorns averaged 4.6 points while shooting a .34/.29/.67 line as a freshman and adding 3.2 assists, 2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game in 21 minutes. Due to an injury, he missed most of the first half of his sophomore year, and when he returned his stats regressed. He transferred after the season to TCU, where in his last two seasons, Thorns averaged 12.1 points, 5.8 assists, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 steals while shooting a .37/.35/.75 line and starting all but 2 games for the Horned Frogs. His career concluded in 2011-12.
Pellum, a 2007 wing commitment out of Hampton, Va. never enrolled at Virginia Tech due to a discrepancy over his SAT scores. Pellum was accused of having someone else take his SATs for him (a la Derrick Rose) after experiencing an inexplicable jump in scores between tests. Pellum denied this accusation, but did not meet NCAA Clearinghouse requirements and was declared ineligible. He was forced to transfer to a junior college before ultimately ending up at Hampton University where he led the Pirates to an NCAA bid in 2010-11. Pellum averaged double-digit scoring numbers in his last three seasons, culminating with 18.3 ppg. 4.2 rpg. 1.7 apg. 1.2 spg. and 0.3 bpg. while shooting a .36/.30/.76 line for the Pirates.
Munson, a pivotal backup to Zabian Dowdell, on the 2006-07 NCAA Tournament squad, transferred away from the Hokies after the season, citing family issues as the reason. Munson had a legitimately ill family member, and the Hokies granted him his release to transfer closer to home (Washington, D.C.) on the condition that he did not sign with any ACC school (standard), Georgetown (as I remember) or George Washington (who were on the Hokies' future schedule), seriously limiting his options. In 2009, Munson finally stuck on with the University of the District of Columbia (Division II) who play in the East Coast Conference (ECC). Munson averaged 19.2 ppg. 5 rpg. 4.3 apg. 2.1 spg. and 0.08 bpg. while shooting a .38/.29/.75 line as a sophomore and 18.4 ppg. 3.8 rpg. 6.7 apg. 0.7 apg. and 0.4 bpg. while shooting a .48/.37/.81 line as a junior. In 2011-12, his final year of eligibility for the Firebirds, Munson finished second on the team in scoring by 3 points (19.4 ppg.), led the team with 6.5 apg., third among regulars in rpg. with 5.5 and tied for second in steals with 1 per game. He shot a .48/.31/.73 line for the 22-6 (13.3) Firebirds.
Witherspoon, also known affectionately by broadcasters and those close to the program as "rubber-band man" due to his acrobatic finishes and body contortions mid-air, transferred to George Washington in 2006-07 in search of more playing time after being buried at Virginia Tech behind Deron Washington and A.D. Vassallo. His best year at Tech was in 2005-06, when as the team's second man off the bench, he averaged 6.3 points, 1.5 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.3 blocks per game in just under 19 minutes per game on .41/.29/.52 shooting for the Hokies. In his two years at George Washington, Witherspoon averaged 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals and 0.4 blocks per game in 27.4 minutes per game while shooting a .42/.30/.66 line for the Colonials. His career ended in 2008-09.
Taylor, a 2005 commitment out of Fort Lauderdale, never played a game for the Hokies after being kicked off the team prior to the 2005-06 season by head coach Seth Greenberg due to a violation of team rules. After his dismissal from Virginia Tech, he caught on with the University of San Francisco Dons from 2007-09 in a minor role. Unfortunately, he was shot to death in 2010 in Oakland.
Cooke, a 4-star guard out of Suffolk, Va., committed to the Hokies as part of their 2004 class. He averaged 3.6 ppg. 2 rpg. 1.6 apg. and 0.9 steals while shooting .31/.19/.57 line for the Hokies in 27 games, starting one. He was kicked off the team by Seth Greenberg after the season for disciplinary reasons. He resurfaced at Colorado State and University of Louisiana Lafayette (both of which dismissed him) and I swear I remember reading something about him trying to attend or ending up at the University of Denver. But ultimately, Cooke latched on at Elizabeth City State in Elizabeth City, Nc. (Division II) for the 2011-12 season, his last eligibility-wise. Cooke averaged 7.6 ppg. 4.2 apg. 3.7 rpg. 1.7 spg. and 0.2 bpg. (with over a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio) while shooting .40/.31/.65 line for the 15-14 (7-9) Vikings (don't let the ESPN profile confuse you, as that was the only game against D-I competition that season in Norfolk State, a 12-point win over the NCAA-bound team. His other profile is here).
For all your Virginia Tech basketball needs and time traveling posts, Gobbler Country continues to be your best bet.