With Trevor Thompson exiting, and Marquis Rankin having left in December, the Hokies have two scholarships available for next season. The rumor mill has an unsigned Marquette prospect at the forefront of the gossip, with Malek Harris potentially primed to follow new coach Buzz Williams to Blacksburg.
Harris, a top 100 prospect from Chicago-land, is a 6'7, 195 lb finesse forward. He's comfortable on the perimeter, and most of the mixtape in the link below shows him flexing his jumper and making shifty drives. He doesn't show much of an above-the-rim or physical game, and naturally there are few defensive highights (it's a MIXTAPE yo). To be honest, I've seen better tape from the three swingmen we have coming aboard in Jalen Hudson, T.J. Lang, and Justin Bibb.
Because our system is acting up I can't embed, but will link it for you:
Some of the early copy on Buzz is that he flouts the rules a bit, and might examine the gray areas more than most. And in bringing Harris to Blacksburg with him as his first big "get" might be moving in concert with that reputation. Harris missed his entire senior season due to running afoul of school policy. And to add insult, that was a follow-up to a suspension that saw him miss his first 11 games of his junior year as well, and as a result his team at Carl Sandburg High (IL) went 0-11 to start the season.
As any die-hard VT fan can attest, not having players available has been the single biggest excuse for our shortcomings in recent years. Injuries/Dismissals/Grades/Our Pets Heads Falling Off, you name it, and we've pretty much dealt with it. Openly welcoming a situation that others might shy away from might be a risk you take when you have an established program that can afford to jettison an under-performing player, but this program needs every player it brings in to perform. Buzz also needs to build up goodwill and prove that the grumbling that follows him out of Milwaukee is more sour grapes about an exception or two, rather than a measured response to incidents that had become the rule.
I am also concerned about what the addition of Harris might indicate to the three incoming freshmen, all of whom play the same position: swingman. It would create an untenable logjam, and therefore render the "we're just replacing Thompson" scenario moot, as one of them (or more) might be inclined to ask for releases themselves.
As it stands, this may be much ado about nothing, as Auburn was already high on Harris's wishlist before his verbal commitment to Marquette. Now that they have Bruce Pearl, chances are good that the Tigers will be in his ear as well. Who of Williams and Pearl is the smoother talker? Which situation fits Harris better? These answers will all shake out fairly shortly, if this past week's pace is any kind of indicator.
After the early fireworks with Thompson, and all the hullabaloo on CBS yesterday, one thing is apparent: VT has thrown it's hat in the ring as an ACC BASKETBALL SCHOOL. The spotlight is going to be bright. People will be looking to see if we're operating on the level, or taking shortcuts. No, I don't mean cheating, I just mean making high risk decisions that might leave us in roughly the same place as we were before: short-handed. The players cannot win games if they aren't on the floor, and this prospect hasn't demonstrated that capability in his last two seasons of high school play. And for what this team's roster composition dictates, there is not another need for a swingman at this juncture. We needed a big man, like Thompson. Or whoever Buzz sees fit to replace Thompson at the power forward spot. Just don't let yourself be fooled into thinking this represents an even swap.
Stay with us as we continue to wrap up the basketball season. We should have some Season Grades for you guys this week if all works out.
Mi Cassell es su Cassell.
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