Earlier today, Rivals reported that Class of 2014 basketball signee TJ Lang signed a release from the letter-of-intent he signed with Virginia Tech and James Johnson back in November, during college basketball's early signing period. The lanky 6'6" son of former Duke standout Antonio Lang has a good deal of upside, and already possesses a jumper smoother than anything his more post-inclined father ever displayed; even during the elder's short stint in the NBA. The class Johnson inked in November also included similarly sized Justin Bibbs and Jalen Hudson.
Of the three, I thought Lang had the most polished jumper, and catch and shoot game. But that all comes in the context of the offense your team runs, and if you can't create your own looks when you need to, your success will be at the mercy of the system. Buzz likes his guys a little more rugged too, and I'm not sure if that's just what the former Big East called for, but Lang doesn't fit that bill. He's still a bit delicate.
While GC has been disappointed that new coach Buzz Williams and Trevor Thompson could not find a way to make it work out, we are considerably more ambivalent about this loss. Let's be honest, with senior C.J. Barksdale, sophomore team captain Ben Emelogu, and incoming would-be classmates Bibbs and Hudson creating a logjam at the position, minutes would have been hard to come by early-on. Then when you factor in minutes for Stretch Four/Tweener Marshall Wood, and experienced bench player Will Johnston, it's easy to imagine one or two of these wing players getting lost in the shuffle.
In fact, it was surprising to learn about the supposed "solidarity" (as in: we are a package deal) of the three from Lang upon Williams hiring, considering the bond that he had developed with his classmates would likely eventually be strained by the nature of the competition for minutes. And this doesn't even take into consideration the possibility that one of the two open scholarships might have been snagged by yet another swingman during the spring signing period (like Malek Harris, or Jeff Garrett).
Before accepting VT's offer, Lang also held offers from Stanford, Oregon State, South Alabama, Florida International, Appalachian State, Western Carolina and Cal-State Northridge. Most notable to me among these suitors is South Alabama. Jeff Garrett, who we profiled here earlier, after Buzz offered him last week, has also listed the Jaguars in his top five. It would be an interesting game of musical chairs if everyone still wound up with a good player. Lang hails from Alabama, so staying close to home might be attractive, and if Garrett is lured by Williams to Blacksburg, they will essentially swap spots.
Curious to me, was his wording when his text was quoted in the Rivals piece:
"I just didn't feel like it was the right fit anymore," Lang texted. "(I) rarely spoke with the coach and I just felt like it would be best for me to look at other options."
I'm not sure what lengths he was expecting Williams to go to in order to make him feel as though it were the right fit. This is, after all, a 9-22 team Buzz is trying to rebuild on the fly in the most competitive league in the country. The prestige of the ACC and VT sells themselves, and THESE players need to get in where they fit in. Coach doesn't have time to snuggle afterwards. As many have commented to me, none of the players we have now are indispensable. While I contend that we have a serviceable core, it's a difficult point of contention. Technically, after a 9-22 finish, with a second straight last-place finish, nobody's job is safe.
I said here that I'd be happy if we kept two of the three signees, and I figured it would be one of the two lesser prospects (Hudson and Lang) that walked. So let's hope we hold serve here, and upgrade the three available scholarship openings with even better players than we previously had on-board. Williams is going to raise the bar with the recruiting effort, and while his approach may seem a little cutthroat at first, it will ultimately result in us not even entertaining a visit from a guy who isn't a projected top-150 player. And we'll all laugh hearty belly laughs and drink from crystal, bejeweled chalices as we look down at the rest of the basketball world's dumb poors.
VT's Sole Signee For 2015, Warren Craft, Re-opens Recruitment
Rivals reported also that rising William Fleming (Roanoke) senior Warren Craft has re-opened his recruitment. As he signed way back in 2012, he only had a limited number of offers prior to his verbal commitment to Johnson. Among them were UNC and Radford, who have both had a great deal of success recruiting Roanoke in the past.
I asked HokieHaven if they thought he would have been Rivals Top150 material, and they said the following:
@gobblercountry I like Craft, but don't think he's a Rivals150 level player, no.
— HokieHaven.com (@Hokie_Haven) April 1, 2014
A 6'2" point guard, Craft could have potentially apprenticed under Devin Wilson before moving into a more prominent role, similar to Erick Green playing behind Malcolm Delaney. However, his game would require some growth before he was ready to compete in the ACC. Wilson wasn't exactly ready this year himself, but his size and football background were to his advantage, as he was able to hold up physically to the unconscionable minute load Johnson put on him.
Williams has his blueprint for VT's success, which he for some reason hasn't called and shared with me personally. It certainly involves recruiting top-20 classes, not fringe talents. And unfortunately some of the collateral damage has a much more intimate effect on those involved. It was good on Buzz to get with Craft as early as possible so that the player might entertain as many schools as will offer him in the time allotted. It was also good for Virginia Tech, as there were no real losers here, except MAYBE Craft's family/friends who may have more of a road-trip ahead of them to watch him play.
Another busy day on the basketball beat, and where it will stop, nobody knows! We'll be back with more updates as they come in. Have a great Wednesday!
Mi Cassell es su Cassell......
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