Of the players on the Cassell Coliseum floor last season, perhaps no one made more noticeable progress from the previous season than Joey van Zegeren.
During the 2013-14 season JVZ went from a shot in the dark project to a very promising post player with room to grow on a team without much big man competition to speak of.
The 6'10", 225-pounder proved to be a defensive force for the Hokies blocking 53 shots—good for 6th in the ACC—on a team that otherwise lacked a significant defensive presence. Van Zegeren averaged 6.4 PPG along with 5.0 RPG and 1.7 blocks. Once the Hokies hit ACC play, van Zegeren's totals saw a slight uptick with 7.6 PPG and 5.7 RPG.
The Dutch big man has evolved to become an offensive threat, albeit a somewhat inconsistent one. The biggest issue with van Zegeren's game is his lack of refined post moves. When he gets the ball down low he can certainly finish, but if it isn't a dunk it's no sure thing. He's added a hook shot to his repertoire but it has yet to become a reliable threat.
Still, he made 50% of his shots from the floor (84-168) and had a number of games where he posted double-figure scoring including a career high 21 points in the regular season finale at Georgia Tech.
JVZ's free throw shooting took a nose dive last season when he posted just 36% shooting at the line. As often as he gets fouled, Joey desperately needs to improve his free throw stroke to avoid opponents going with the "hack-a-Shaq" defense on him.
Speaking of fouls, van Zegeren has to be better on his own end about fouling. In 14 games last season, Joey racked up at least four fouls and on five occasions he fouled out of a game. It forces him to sit for long periods of time which is something the Hokies can ill afford from their starting center.
Those seem like pretty big issues, but with a strong offseason it's not hard to imagine JVZ becoming a more well rounded threat on offense. With the length of his arms, a more consistent hook shot could turn van Zegeren into a force in the paint. He needs to get better handling the basketball, but his size and passion serve him well in the post.
That passion is an intangible that sometimes gets overlooked. Even when he's not playing well, van Zegeren clearly wants to win badly. He shows incredible emotion when he finishes a ferocious dunk over a hapless defender. He gets excited for the success of the guys playing around him and has the willingness to put in the work needed to get better. He's also a member of the All-ACC Academic team.
All in all, Joey van Zegeren is a great teammate with a very high upside in his final two seasons for Virginia Tech.
Overall Grade: B
First, rewind that dunk and watch at least three times....ah....beautiful. OK let's talk about JVZ, one of the few bright spots of 2013-2014 campaign. First let me just say how happy I am he red-shirted, so that we have two years left!
JVZ ranked 97th nationally in blocks last year with 1.71 per game. With a full diet of minutes, I am anticipating that this will jump to at least 2.5 in 2014-2015. Perhaps 3.0 isn't out of the question if he can keep his fouls under control as Cates mentioned above.
The 1.71 was good for 6th in ACC play. He averaged just 22 minutes per game. Hopefully as a function of having a reputation around the league and more heady play he can stretch that to offer the Hokies 30 minutes per night and improve each of his numbers by 50%.
With A Little More Discipline How Does He Project?
If he were to improve each metric by 50% you'd have a player who averaged 10 pts, 8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks manning the pivot. And if his FT % could revert from 36% back to that 55% he shot as a r-FR, that ppg total jumps to 12 ppg.
Joey's effective field goal percentage was an even 50%, which is not good considering how many of the makes came on dunks last year (at least half). But on the bright side, the missed dunk gene that possessed so many Hokie players throughout the Greenberg era seems to have skipped a generation in his case. He finishes when he gets to the cup.
JVZ still struggled with the ball in the post at times. If he didn't have a direct path, he would get the ball stolen from him. As a youth coach, and former player who relied on every bit of fundamentals, I wince every time he brings the ball below his shoulders or attempts a dribble. There are still too many moving parts there, he isn't compact enough in his movements. Hopefully, Buzz and his assistants will continue to drill him on moving with a purpose immediately upon receiving the ball. No more backing down defenders for three seconds in order to segue into the awkward baby hook; but more utilization of the duck-in move to get himself into the restricted area.
Improvements In Basketball IQ Still Coming
Joey did a nice job sealing off the block on screens to help secure open looks for our shooters from the short corner, but out on the perimeter he's still too two-dimensional while setting screens. He needs to make himself be bigger and set the screens at the appropriate angles. Of course, a function of this is his shooters bouncing their defenders off of him properly to set their shots up. Everyone could use improvement there. The fact is, the screener has to move in concert with the projected shooter or else it's movement for the sake of movement, and it eats up shot clocks and ends with VT not generating good shots or turning the ball over.
Part of what inspired me to watch VT basketball each night during this Bataan Death March (term used loosely of course #veterans) of a season was how JVZ was developing. He may very well be the best actual big man VT has had in decades when he's done. All of our productive big men since I became aware of VT basketball in the mid-80s have largely been undersized, glorified Power Forwards. As of right now JVZ is Big Jimmy Carruth's equal in terms of being big, active, and productive at less glamorous plays. Hopefully next year he adds some polish, and continues his growth pattern in order to gear up for a fantastic senior year wherein I hope he earns some All-ACC accolades.
Final Grade: B+
We're not done yet with the hoop grades. Hopefully you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy writing them!
Nuestro Cassell es su Cassell! @gobblercountry