Former head coach James Johnson turned quite a few heads when he named true freshman Ben Emelogu team captain, but the young guard quickly proved worthy of the honor.
A 6'4" shooting guard from Grand Prairie, TX Emelogu became the guy willing to do whatever was needed. He averaged 10.5 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 1.9 Assists in his first season wearing the orange and maroon.
Generally, Emelogu played under control—although he had more freshman moments than backcourt mate Devin Wilson—and proved to be pretty tough as he fought through injuries throughout the season including a sprained ankle and a head injury.
Those issues limited Ben to 22 games last season, but he still managed to finish third on the team in minutes played racking up 27.2 minutes per game.
A pleasant surprise was Emelogu's strong shooting performance during his freshman season. Ben had the second most made three pointers on the team (40) and made 37% of his outside shots which was also second just behind Jarell Eddie. His overall field goal shooting came in at 39.7% which was tops on the team for a non-post player.
He did show a tendency to take a handful of ill-advised shots, but his ability to make more of those shots than the average player makes it seem less egregious. It's like the risk-reward shooting style of Jarell Eddie with slightly less risk.
There's a lot to like about Ben E, but there are a couple of weaknesses in his game he'll have to address.
He had 41 assists to 34 turnovers and he wasn't even the primary ballhandler. Emelgou played point guard in a pinch last season but unless he makes huge strides here, don't expect to see him bringing the ball up the court very often.
Despite Ben's strong shooting he only made 68.1% of his free throws. He showed some ability to get to the basket but he has to capitalize at the line. Of course, he was far from the only Hokie to struggle in this department.
Emelogu stands to be an important player for the Hokies this season. Even if he doesn't crack the starting lineup with the infusion of guard talent coming in, Emelogu proved he can be a very effective sixth man coming off the bench. He seems open to whatever role presents itself, another reason he was named captain.
If you're concerned that Ben might fall by the wayside in the rotation in favor of the new players I don't think that will be the case. Buzz Williams recruited Emelogu to Marquette so he clearly values his skill set. In fact, Ben is pretty much exactly the kind of player Buzz has been bringing in, a 6'5" combo guard with toughness and strong shooting ability.
The good news for Ben is, he's already a year ahead of the new guys.
Overall Grade: A-
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To come all the way from Grand Prairie, TX and be named team Captain by a struggling coach for a team that was once again short-handed was a tall order to fill for an incoming freshman like Ben Emelogu. Suffering those injuries intermittently was also an unfortunate stroke of luck. Had Emelogu been available for more than 22 of the 31 games last year, the Hokies might have had a few more wins to their credit, especially in the ACC where close losses to Wake Forest and North Carolina stand out.
A key figure that stood out to me, in addition to the three-point FG % Justin mentioned above is that in 14 of the 22 games, Emelogu struck for multiple three pointers. If he can set a goal to knock down 75 threes next year, that should set him up among the elite distance shooters in the ACC.
Ben played particularly poorly in Saturday games this season, where the Hokies went 1-10 in the games he played in. His averages all dropped. For a player as physical as he was capable of being as a freshman, his reluctance to get his numbers at the dish led to him shooting just 47 free throws. And as the season progressed his efficiency dipped there too. Finishing at just 68.1% isn't going to deter opponents from fouling him on drives to the basket. He needs to find a way to add 10 percentage points to that figure.
3.1 rebounds per game needs to be closer to five. But the fact that Johnson's offense often called for him to be setting up on the perimeter for the kick pass off the drive left him out of position. He's measured at 6'5, and is thick enough to crash the boards more, and hopefully Buzz will have him utilizing his size advantage to score a little more in the painted area.
The team didn't convert on many assists last year. So who is to tell exactly how many more assists Ben could have made last year above his 1.9 per game. He is an naturally unselfish player who maybe should have taken more of the off the dribble load away from Devin Wilson and Jarrell Eddie this past season, and used his physicality more in getting to the hole. He can facilitate from the perimeter if they want to run Wilson off of screens and tire defenders out. Of course Devin Wilson will need to get more reliable with his own jumper before that becomes a viable wrinkle to the offense.
His defensive rating is at 107, which isn't very good, with 100 being average, and KJ McDaniels of Clemson checking in at a stingy 91. Ben was tasked with guarding the opposing scorer on multiple occasions and it was a learning experience for him. Look for that to improve drastically next year with a revamped front line with enough size to play help side and allow him to funnel the opposing ballhandler into bad decisions/shots. Hopefully the new Buzz Williams defensive sets will allow for more aggression on offense so that the defense won't rank 337th of 345 in Turnovers forced.
Ben did very well in facing the past season's adversities so far from home. He demonstrated the leadership qualities that James Johnson said he would. It will be interesting to see if he remains Buzz's captain, or at least one of them. I am very glad that this early exodus of players: Thompson, Kirby, Wood has managed to avoid Emelogu. He looks like a very solid four-year player.
Flyers13 Grade: B
We'll be back with a few more of these hoop grades now that the draft coverage is winding down. Thanks for stopping in. Nuestro Cassell es su Cassell.