Coach Buzz Williams and his staff are making positive impressions in recruiting circles, and players are definitely taking notice. As of right now, the Hokies only have one commit for the 2017 cycle, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who is a very talented guard. I've been wondering when the Hokies would add a front court player, as they lack strong depth at those spots, specifically over the next two years. Khadim Sy and Kerry Blackshear Jr. look to be the starting big men in 2017 without a lot of experience behind them which might be a problem people are overlooking.
Now obviously, Buzz Williams really loved his smaller lineups due to their ability to attack the basket. This lessens the need for four or five quality bigs but there remains a need, not to mention the fact that what works one year may not work the next. There's always some adjustment a coach needs to make in order to continue to be successful. The Hokies may be in a position where they'll have to rely more on their big guys to contribute from the post or simply run their offense through their big men in the future.
The Hokies know this, and have been involved with 4* recruit RaiQuan Gray. The Dillard HS (Florida) product has the frame and bulk - listed at 6-8, 235 pounds - as a rising senior to be an effective PF in college. The attention he's gotten has increased immensely, as he's one of the hotter recruits and names in recruiting circles. Gray recently put out a list of his Top 13 schools, and Virginia Tech is definitely in the mix for the talented big man.
Thirteen schools will be healthy competition for Buzz Williams to try and land Gray. It's kind of a similar situation where the Hokies signed Chris Clarke as he had 12 offers on the table - although I think it's safe to say Gray won't commit, decommit, and commit to another school within the span of a week. We are also in the preliminary stages of the 2017 recruiting cycle (especially for basketball) so things are bound to change. Even in his tweet, Gray says the list isn't final. Either way, I think Buzz should really go hard after this kid, and here's why:
Usually, your 6-8 players in high school are more dunk machines than anything else. Their superior size allows them to get away with not developing the proper technical ability needed to excel at the next level. That's why it's important to have some diversity to your game as a big man, and RaiQuan Gray exhibits that. The 4* recruit displays outstanding touch around the rim with both his midrange jumper and smooth finishes in traffic.
"I think having that touch comes naturally. I practice a lot of things short around the rim so I am able to make those soft shots," said Gray in an interview with GC.
Gray also isn't just a catch-and-finish guy. He can create his own shot. Gray's handles are solid for someone his size, which makes him an immediate threat from almost anywhere on the court. He possesses the fluidity and footwork to be a stud down low on the block. In addition, he's also a playmaker, which can be attributed to playing a different position growing up.
"When I was younger and shorter, I played guard, which helped play a part in my ability to drive and pass the ball," said Gray.
He's not wrong. Gray does a wonderful job staying balanced and under control on this play while looking off the defense to find the open cutter:
A big who can distribute the ball can have a monumental effect on offense. If you've watched the Warriors play in the last two seasons, Andrew Bogut and Draymond Green both are excellent at seeing the floor and timing their passes, hitting their teammates in rhythm for layups or open jumpers. It really opens the floor up and helps with spacing, which is something the Hokies struggled with during portions of last season. However, because of his handles, Gray compares himself to a different player.
"I'd say LeBron or Carmelo Anthony," remarked Gray. "I have the size plus the handles and passing ability."
Also in line with Melo is his shooting ability. Look how smooth his stroke looks:
Gray's shooting, as he puts it, is a positive. It's certainly a strength of his that will help any team stretch and space the floor effectively. Kerry Blackshear Jr. came to Virginia Tech as more a stretch-4 type player, but Buzz has wanted him to get dirty in the paint more often. I don't think you can do that with Gray. He's such a natural on perimeter that you have to spread his touches across the floor in half-court sets.
Usually, defense is left in the rearview on mixtapes. Outside of monster blocks, you'll rarely see great individual one-on-one defense on highlight reels, which makes it difficult to project how a recruit will defend in college. However, Gray thinks he'll be solid in that department. He has light feet and great length - two essential weapons in a defender's arsenal.
And as for things to improve upon this season:
"Just sharpen up my game overall and change my body," said Gray.
I already said that Buzz and Co. should go after this kid, and from talking to Gray it looks like that's exactly what they're doing.
"I like how me and Coach Roc (Steve Roccaforte) and Coach Buzz Williams have a relationship and just them being honest and up front with me," confirms Gray. "They've been really involved - I keep in contact with Coach Roc all the time."
An X-factor in Gray's recruitment could be Hokies' commit Nickeil Walker. Gray and Walker are friends and have a great relationship dating back to last year's UA All-American Camp. I actually see some similarities in their game despite the position difference. Both are smooth, skilled, controlled, and versatile in their abilities. For the Hokies' sake, let's hope that Walker nudges Gray in Blacksburg's direction. I think Buzz Williams would appreciate it too.
Gray hopes to commit to his school of choice sometime during his HS season.