On Friday night, the Hokies open up their basketball season against the Maine Black Bears at Cassell Coliseum. For Buzz Williams’ side, a strong performance in pre-conference play will be imperative if they want to still be competing in mid-March. Here is a first look at the Hokies roster (in numerical order):
Name: Tyrie Jackson
Jackson was a late commit for the 2016 class, but found a home in Blacksburg. It is unlikely the freshman one-guard will see significant minutes this season barring injury, but could fit in nicely as a role player. He brings toughness on defense and can knock down the three at a solid rate. Virginia Tech looks to be loaded in the backcourt for the foreseeable future, and Jackson is a vital part of that.
Name: Khadim Sy
The Hokies do not have a true center on their roster, but Khadim Sy may be the closest thing to one. The first commit of the 2016 class, Sy brings size to a front court that often started Zach LeDay at center. While that strategy usually worked, Virginia Tech was often outmatched on the glass. Expect to see plenty of the freshman big man on the court, particularly with Kerry Blackshear nursing a lower leg injury.
Name: Seth LeDay
The younger brother of Zach LeDay transferred to Buzz Williams’ program from Northwest Mississippi Community College in May. The Hokies hope they can get the same toughness and heart from Seth as they did from his older sibling. He will have to wait until next season, as he is expected to redshirt this year.
Name: Seth Allen
A former transfer from Maryland, Allen quickly made his presence felt last year with his scoring ability, finishing second on the team in scoring per game with 14.7 PPG. Allen possesses impressive quickness and got to the line frequently as a result. However, the main knock on Allen’s game is his efficiency. He only shot 39.4% from the field last year (just 28% from three) and he turned the ball over too much. Granted, Allen is a tough shot maker and he had not played in a year. The numbers should be better. Look for Allen to once again carry the scoring load in the backcourt.
Name: Justin Robinson
Now in his second year, Robinson has become one of the more integral parts of this team. He needed a little seasoning but took over the starting one-guard spot midseason and never looked back. Robinson averaged 7.3/1.8/2.8 in 2015, leading the team in assists. He has a knack for some eye-popping passes, and improved from three-point range as the season wore on. Blacksburg has been missing a true PG for a while and Robinson has the skillset and mindset to fill that role. For what it’s worth, Robinson is my pick to have a breakout season.
Name: Justin Bibbs
A three-point shooter extraordinaire, Bibbs was one of the most dangerous weapons on offense for the Hokies, knocking down a ridiculous 45% of his attempts beyond the arc. As a result, he finished third on the team in scoring per game. He may not be the flashiest player, but he fills his role very well. He is a solid athlete who can drive to the rim as well.
Name: Devin Wilson
Wilson has been with the Hokies’ basketball program since 2013 even though he came to Blacksburg as a football recruit. He has seen the growth in talent and maturity on this team. However, he did not see significant minutes last year, failing to provide much offensive firepower and had trouble taking care of the basketball. With the amount of talent in the backcourt, we probably won’t see much of Devin in his last year with the Hokies.
Name: Ahmed Hill
Hill showed plenty of promise his freshman season but was given a medical redshirt in 2015 as a torn patella tendon kept him from competing last season. The athletic 6-5 guard was a knockdown shooter (shot over 38% from downtown) his freshman year, and he has to be excited playing with more talent and experience in 2016. Hill has the potential to be an x-factor for this team even with the other three two-guards around him.
Name: Greg Donlon
Donlon is another player, like Wilson, that has been here for a while. He is also one of the most academic players on the team with an interest in being a doctor. However, that has not translated into minutes for Donlon. He has been a player the last two seasons that only goes in at the end of blowouts. However, the redshirt senior is a great locker room presence and you have to love the teams’ enthusiasm when he scores a bucket.
Name: Chris Clarke
Clarke is a dynamic athlete that really enhances the effectiveness of Buzz Williams’ small ball system. His size and athleticism not only makes him dangerous offensively, but it gives him a unique versatility on defense. Clarke’s ability to guard 1-4 allow the Hokies to have another slasher on the floor. The sophomore showed high basketball IQ, making smart passes and the right “basketball play”. He was a menace in transition as well. One of the more impressive traits Clarke has is his rebounding – he averaged six per game, partly due to his vertical explosiveness.
However, there were definitely areas to improve for Clarke. He needed to improve his outside shooting in order to round out his game and become even more of a threat on offense. As a freshman, it also seemed like the game was too fast for him or he tried to force things too often. If he can learn to let the game come to him then expect to see big minutes this year for Clarke.
Name: Nick Fullard
Fullard, along with Seth LeDay, will redshirt this season following a transfer. He has good size at 6-10 so he should provide some good depth in a year in the front court. Next season, only Blackshear, Sy, and Seth LeDay look to be the big men on the roster. Fullard will get his opportunities soon.
Name: Johnny Hamilton
The only 7-footer on the roster, Hamilton transferred from Jacksonville College to Blacksburg last offseason. He got some minutes when the matchup called for it. However, he was not the dominant presence on the glass, which is what you want out of a player with that size. Hamilton only notched 8 boards in 35 minutes of conference play, which simply isn’t good enough. We will see if the senior big man improved over the offseason to deserve more minutes.
Name: Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Blackshear is the third promising sophomore on this team. He averaged 6.2/4.5 in his freshman season, and he figures to get even more minutes this year. Blackshear possesses great length at 6-10, and was very good at rebounding on the offensive end. He needed to bulk up this offseason, however. Often times he was just outmuscled in the paint, but after a year in a college weight program that should be fixed. Blackshear also has the skillset to be a perimeter threat, although the coaching staff has expressed their desire for him to stay in the paint. Unfortunately, we may not see Blackshear for a prolonged period of time as he suffered a foot injury and there really isn’t a definite timetable for when he will be back on the court.
Name: Zach LeDay
One of the best stories in college basketball last year, LeDay was the heart and soul of the Hokies, leading the team in both points and rebounds with 15.5/7.9. Because LeDay is undersized for a big man, he played with intense effort and an infectious underdog mentality. He was also the Hokies most consistent and well-rounded player. LeDay surprised everyone last year against UVA with his ability to knock down the three ball at an efficient rate, but also put up great numbers on the offensive glass as well. Like Chris Clarke, his athletic ability allowed the Hokies to play smallball because he was often times matched up against Centers but was still able to hold his own. Now in his last year in Blacksburg, LeDay looks to continue to provide that spark and versatility that allowed the Hokies to go on an impressive run to end the season.
Name: Matt Galloway
Galloway, a former student manager for the team, walked on to the team in 2015. He only saw 35 minutes of action last year, and drained just a single three pointer. Again, given the volume of talent in the backcourt, there’s a very small chance that Galloway will see the floor much outside of blowouts.
Name: Ty Outlaw
After sitting a year with an undisclosed medical condition, Outlaw figures to have a big role for the Hokies. During his JUCO years, he was a knockdown three-point shooter, which is something a team can never have enough of. And at 6-6, he has great length for the 2/3 position that increases his positional versatility a la Chris Clarke. Outlaw has the potential to be the surprise breakout player for the Hokies this season. He is a player I am very excited to see, as we have only heard great things about him in practice.