The Hokies’ season ended just about two months ago in their first NCAA tournament appearance in a decade. It was a successful season in year three of Buzz Williams’ reign in Blacksburg, and the Hokies are on the recruiting trail trying to add talent to make NCAA tournament appearances an annual event.
Let’s start with a recruit the Hokies have already received a commitment from in BJ Mack. The 2019 big man made a move to Oak Hill Academy about two weeks ago, one of the best high school basketball programs in the country.
BJ Mack, a class of 2019 Big Man playing for Team CP3 (NC), announced that he will be transferring to Oak Hill Academy next year.— Pat Lawless (@PatLawless_) April 27, 2017
Oak Hill Academy has a long list of current NBA stars who played there, not to mention current Hokie Khadim Sy. Mack will assuredly gain solid experience over the next two years with some of the best talent and coaching in the country. It would be great to see Buzz Williams really build a connection with Oak Hill Academy, as it is located just 100 miles away from Blacksburg and the team usually oozes with talent.
Last season, the Hokies were decimated by injuries, specifically to the front court which was already a shallow position on the roster. PJ Horne, a 2017 commit, will help fill the void left by Zach LeDay as well as the return of Kerry Blackshear. However, there are many question marks surrounding this current group. Can Blackshear stay healthy? Can Khadim Sy step up after being a liability on defense? Can Seth LeDay and Nick Fullard jump up and handle the competition in the best league in the country? These questions will linger past the upcoming year, with so many unknowns and variables to consider.
With that in mind, Virginia Tech has been linked to Connecticut transfer Juwan Durham, who is expected to visit Blacksburg later this month.
UConn transfer Juwan Durham is expected to visit Notre Dame this weekend, sources told ESPN. Virginia Tech also heavily involved.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) May 1, 2017
Durham was one of three players who decided to leave the Huskies this offseason, after playing just 8.3 minutes a game in 28 games his freshman year and averaging 1.6 points and 1.5 rebounds. Per 24/7 Sports, Durham was rated as a four-star prospect and the 51st player in his class. The 6-11 forward has length, but possesses a lean frame, listed at just 207 pounds. Still, you can teach strength, but you can’t teach height. Nearly every ACC team has players with that reach and for the Hokies to be able to compete, they need to add more height to the front court.
It is worth nothing that Durham had a Virginia Tech offer on the table when he decided to sign with Connecticut.
While Durham would not be eligible to play this winter, the most exciting development of this recruiting cycle is fringe five-star wing MJ Walker. Just a month ago, there was little chance of him ending up in Blacksburg, but now the majority of Crystal Ball predictions have him landing with the Hokies.
An Atlanta-area product, Walker is listed as the 25th best player in his class and participated in the McDonald’s All-American game on the West team. Seriously, when was the last time the Hokies had a commit that was good enough to play in that game?
Let me save you the trouble of looking it up: never. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Wabissa Bede already make up a historic recruiting class for the Hokies, but adding MJ Walker would give Virginia Tech a top 10 recruiting class in the country. Alexander-Walker and Bede are a primary reason MJ Walker has heavy interest in the Hokies due to their recruiting efforts. This culminated with a visit to Blacksburg three weeks ago. Walker may have to make a decision soon, with NLI signing day just four days away – although it is entirely possible he could choose not to sign a letter of intent and pick a school over the summer, like what Tyrie Jackson decided to do last year.
One of the reasons Walker may not choose the Hokies is simply because of the amount of talent the team already possesses in the backcourt and on the wings. Typically, high-profile and uber-talented recruits want minutes as soon as possible but Walker may not see that his freshman year. Take a look at who the Hokies already have on the roster, including the 2017 commits (note: not a depth chart).
Point Guard: Justin Robinson, Wabissa Bede, Tyrie Jackson, Devin Wilson
Shooting Guard: Justin Bibbs, Ahmed Hill, Nickeil Alexander Walker
Wing: Chris Clarke, Ty Outlaw
There is a lot of competition for minutes, a testament to how deep the Hokies are in the backcourt as a result of Buzz Williams’ recruiting. The good news for Walker is that Buzz Williams loves his guards, and builds the team around them. He is also the type of coach to reward his more experienced players with more minutes, but he has shown to go with youth if he feels they are ready, such as when Justin Robinson took a starting spot from Seth Allen during his freshman year. It certainly never hurts to add blue-chip talent, however, and that is exactly what Walker is.
Walker has also shown strong interest in Ohio State, Florida State, and Georgia Tech.
UPDATE: Per Jon Rothstein, Walker is on an official visit to UCLA this weekend.
2017 SG M.J. Walker will officially visit UCLA beginning on Sunday, per a source. Five-Star prospect.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) May 13, 2017
Virginia Tech has also extended offers and been actively involved with a few 2018 guards, namely Kiyon Boyd and Dwayne Cohill. They have both unofficially visited Blacksburg and are considered four-star recruits. It will be interesting to see if and how next year’s recruiting plan changes should Walker decide to come to the Hokies.
Be sure to follow me @soundslikejafar on Twitter for the latest Hokies basketball updates.