How much did you change between your junior year of high school and your sophomore year of college? My guess is that you changed quite a bit, both physically and otherwise. Why would Trevor Thompson be any different than the rest of us? Apparently, both the Thompson camp and Buzz Williams haven't changed their opinions of each other since they last met while Williams was evaluating Thompson's prospects for a career at Marquette. Thompson decided to leave the program this weekend. His father called Williams to request a release from his scholarship, and Williams obliged.
According to reports, Williams once told Thompson's prep coaches that the player was soft during the recruiting process, and it didn't sit well with the Thompsons, who eventually chose Virginia Tech and James Johnson. Now, soft can mean multiple things, especially at age 16 or 17. I for one, having watched every VT basketball game last year can attest to the fact that Trevor Thompson isn't soft mentally; but physically he could afford to add some base (or posterior) in order to elevate his power game. So in terms of the context Buzz used, or (more importantly) how it was interpreted, it might have been merely constructive criticism and not a condemnation of his lack of heart or mental fortitude.
I'd like to shame both parties for what transpired upon their reunion. In what amounts to a highly petty, unnecessary confrontation, Buzz challenged Thompson about his dedication and offered to grant him a release from his scholarship OVER A BUZZING CELLPHONE DURING THE FIRST TEAM MEETING. Did that need to be done in public? A call-out like that? Let's be real here. Unless Trevor took the call and interrupted the meeting, then you can bring yourself to overlook that. Especially if you know you might be on thin ice with the player anyhow. This is not how I foresaw the first team meeting under Buzz going upon hearing about the kind of guy he is, and the positive energy he is supposed to bring.
As for Thompson, he will be hard-pressed to find another opportunity to get big playing time in a league like the ACC as a sophomore. He still had a ton of work to do on his game, and the situation in Blacksburg was going to afford him that opportunity for growth. He and returning red-shirt junior Joey Van Zegeren represented one of the few bright spots the Hokies had to look forward to coming off of a 9-22 campaign. It was short-sighted of him to write Buzz off so soon, in spite of past misgivings. Perhaps all Buzz wanted was for him to say, "HELL NO COACH, I'm a Hokie, these are my guys, and I'm going to earn my minutes here!" Maybe to Buzz, that would have been the clue he was looking for to determine Thompson was anything but soft. I'm sorry, but getting chased out of there with his tail between his legs doesn't do anything to dis-spell Buzz's initial assessment of his softness.
It is my sincere hope that Thompson finds a nice, soft landing spot. As we all know, Dorian Finney-Smith, Montrezl Harrell, Manny Atkins, Ty Garland, Hank Thorns, and Nigel Munson all did (am I forgetting anyone?). And I am quite sure Buzz will probably find someone serviceable to replace what Thompson could have provided. You just hate to see what could have been a rewarding partnership dissolve so easily over nothing.
The attrition rate at VT is part of the program's DNA, and it was my chief concern about letting JJ go. Mainly because with only one rising senior in C.J. Barksdale, the kids we have coming and the rising sophomores and juniors would still be young enough to risk leaving Blacksburg. Obviously, with AD Babcock excising Johnson with surgical precision and then striking decisively with surprise financial firepower to snag Williams, the program was attempting to pre-placate the potential defectors by blinding them with the bright lights.
VT still isn't out of the woods yet on the three solid recruits Johnson had for next fall. T.J. Lang, Jalen Hudson, and Justin Bibb all need to have individual meetings to determine their place in Williams' plans. Ideally, the rest of the returnees recognize that last year represents a rock-bottom scenario for the program, and that they were going to improve either way. Leaving the program now would just disrupt most of their own personal momentum. Of course, the three incoming freshmen have no momentum as yet, but there may not be sufficient scholarship offers remaining at the other institutions they might consider attending. As with anything, I'm pragmatic. I'll be happy if 2 of the 3 keep their word. Hold the phones, Christian Beyer and Will Johnston have not been relegated back to the end of the bench just yet!
With Buzz all over CBS and their NCAA Tournament coverage yesterday, it was a fairly GREAT weekend for public relations, and for trying to change the overall tenor associated with the program following this year's sickly showing. But this casts a bit of a pall over things. It's no secret that I had high hopes for Trevor Thompson. However, he is but one player, and the program has so much need for improvement across the board that the focus cannot afford to narrow right now. If it was Buzz's intention to send a message to the players, and he is confident that he has adequate or better replacements at his disposal (such as top 100 recruit Malek Harris), then that will be the mantra going forward. Basketball is a business in Blacksburg again, and right now it is a bloated business that is in it's streamlining phase. The money was spent to lay the framework, and now we trim the fat (or whatever Buzz deems as fat). Or soft.
Stay tuned for updates on more player movement here at Gobbler Country.
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