In this installment, we'll take a look at the wings as well as some frontcourt players.
While Jalen is technically listed as a SG, he saw more time playing the 3 over the last portion of the season so I'll include him here. It seems like Hudson shines when the lights are brightest. He was essentially half the reason the Hokies beat Princeton, posting a 28/8/2 stat line. Hudson's ability to split his feet and attack the basket off the catch is by far the best on the team. Combined with his explosiveness and strength, he was a force when attacking the basket.
Despite having a few games to remember, Jalen was very boom-or-bust. One game after lighting up Princeton, Hudson was held to just 4 points against BYU on 2-for-9 shooting. He didn't take a step back after a solid freshman season, but he didn't take a big step forward in terms of his consistency. I think he's a lot like Seth Allen in that regard. Both players have all the confidence in the world, have the ability to be game-changers, but were inconsistent with their shooting (Hudson shot 40.1% on the year, down from his freshman season). If I had to give Jalen an award, I would give him the "Kobe" award. He is capable of making plays that no one else on the team can, but he can be a streaky player as well.
That's not to say Hudson didn't improve in a lot of areas. His three-point percentage jumped from 28% to 34.6% this season. Against ACC teams, Hudson made 36.5% of his attempts behind the arc, which at least made defenses respect him from the perimeter which allowed him to use his athleticism to blow by defenders and get to the rim. Hudson also cut down on his turnovers. He had a 20.2% Turnover Percentage last year and cut it down to 14.3% this season. If Jalen can keep working and improving on his consistency and efficiency, he should be averaging a lot more than 8.4 PPG next winter.
Highlight of the year:
The #2 recruit in the state of Virginia, Clarke came to Blacksburg with high expectations. Unfortunately, a foot injury caused him to miss 13 games in the thick of the ACC schedule, which was a major obstacle in his development. In the games he did play, he made a noticeable impact (VT was 14-8 with Clarke, 6-7 without him), especially on the defensive end. I take Defensive Ratings for individual players with a grain of salt, but Clarke's 99.6 Defensive Rating was best among players not named Greg Donlon. His 6-6 frame and crazy athletic ability give him the measurables to match up with almost anyone, but his instincts and intelligence as a defender really impressed me.
Weirdly enough, it seemed like Clarke's athleticism worked against him at times. Sometimes it looked like his body was going faster than his mind and he ended up making a reckless decision as a result, especially on fast breaks. But then again, his athleticism resulted in some circus-shot and-ones that helped shift momentum in the Hokies' favor. Around the rim, he's a very good finisher and gets plenty of tough buckets. An underrated trait Clarke has is a quick, explosive second jump. Even if he missed a layup, he was first to the ball once it bounced off the rim for the putback, and that trait also came in handy on the defensive end. That's why he ranked second on the team with 6 rebounds per game. I really liked how well he moved off the ball, making well timed cuts going backdoor to get relatively easy finishes. He's got a great basketball IQ.
The easy answer to what Clarke has to improve on is his shooting. Defenses weren't really caught off guard when he drove to the basket - he only took 8 three pointers the entire season and made one of them. He would be extremely dangerous if he could add a jump shot to his game, similar to what Hudson did this past offseason.
Overall, Clarke is a high energy player who made plays on defense but still needs refinement on offense. His potential is off the charts and I get the feeling that Buzz really, really likes him.
Highlight of the year:
The only senior on the roster, Henry leaves Blacksburg on a positive note. However, he found himself in a similar position to Devin Wilson in that his minutes declined this year compared to last year due to the increased depth of this year's squad. He only averaged 8.7 minutes per game, often being pulled out by Buzz after the first media timeout of a lot of games. To be frank, he wasn't that great on offense or defense. For a senior, he didn't show good situational awareness and instincts in certain situations. For example, in a close game against Notre Dame, Henry was pressing Zach Auguste 4-5 feet behind the three-point line, even though Henry should know that Auguste isn't a perimeter threat. Predictably, Auguste was easily able to blow by Henry for an and-one monstrous dunk, which turned out to be a huge momentum bucket with just a few minutes left. You would expect him to know better.
Outside of dunking the ball, Henry provided little to no offense. His 29.4% clip from the charity stripe was horrific for a senior. However, he did do a nice job as a screener and knew when to release and roll to rim, clearing space for Robinson or Allen to beat their defender. Henry's rim protection was his best contribution on the defensive end. He finished the season averaging 0.4 blocks per game, which is a little above average considering his limited minutes. But at 6-8, it was tough for him to be a truly elite shot blocker. Henry also did a nice job on the glass with a 20.9% Total Rebound Percentage, which the Hokies really needed when they got pounded on the boards by bigger teams.
We at GC thank Henry for his contributions for his team over the past two seasons and wish him the best of luck wherever life takes him from here.
Highlight of the year:
As a freshman, Pierce got big minutes during conference play, and the hope was that he would use that experience to improve this offseason and become a solid big man in the Hokies' rotations. Clearly that didn't happen. The 7-footer didn't get nearly as much playing time as I expected, averaging just 6.2 minutes per game and didn't even play in 7 ACC contests. Pierce's lack of minutes might have been the biggest mystery of the season aside from Ty Outlaw. It's tough to evaluate someone who got a total of 77 minutes on the court against quality opponents, many of which were in garbage time.
When the sophomore was on the floor, he was an energy player. Buzz put him in for rebounding, both on the defensive and offensive glass. He had a 12.3% Rebound Percentage which really isn't all that great. I will say that Satchel took efficient, high-quality shots when on the floor, something you want your bigs to do. He shot 63.2% from the field, but it is from a small sample size (19 attempts on the season). Pierce also shot 80% from the free throw line this season, a marked improvement over last year.
Pierce surely is looking at the past season in disappointment, but he's got to improve if he wants to impress the coaches to warrant more minutes. If he could add a mid-range jumper, that would be monumental. It would allow more space for the wings to attack while also providing an outlet option if the defense collapses.
Highlight of the year: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=14466487
There wasn't anything eye-popping from Satchel this year, and the ESPN link above is pretty much the only video they have of him this year.
*all per game stat tables are courtesy of www.sports-reference.com/cbb
Again, leave your grades for these guys in the comments.