The off-season got off to a shaky start. Buzz Williams left the program after leading the Virginia Tech Hokies to the Sweet Sixteen. Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Justin Robinson left for the NBA. Kerry Blackshear Jr. elected to transfer to Florida. Even with the hiring of Mike Young and the restructuring of the 2019-20 class, the ACC media pegged the Hokies to finish near the bottom of the conference.
While it is still very early days, the opening pair of games has shown Hokie Nation that there is plenty to look forward to this season. Wabissa Bede runs the point as expected and P.J. Horne has delivered so far as Virginia Tech’s big man inside. However, it’s been the new faces on the court that have shined the most in the Hokies opening wins.
Nolley dazzles in collegiate and ACC opener
With Young’s few experienced players expected to shoulder much of the team’s output early on, the starting five against Clemson came as a bit of a surprise. Landers Nolley, the highly talented redshirt freshman, was expected to finally make his debut, but not many would have predicted that Hunter Cattoor would round out the Hokies lineup at tip-off.
Clemson looked the more experienced team in the first half. The Tigers played together during the World Games over the summer and had the comforts of opening this new ACC-era at home. But after having to sit and watch for a year, Nolley was more than ready to step up for the Hokies.
Quick to shoot and full of confidence he racked up 30 points in his debut. Nearly half of Tech’s offense, including four three-pointers. Nolley added five rebounds as he lead the team in minutes played (37) on opening night. Cattoor saw plenty of action, at 27 minutes, but struggled shooting, going 0-3. Fellow freshman Nahiem Alleyne was VT’s second leading scoring against Clemson, coming off the bench to collect 11 points and 3 rebounds, including going 5 for 6 from the free throw line.
Nolley deservedly got the headlines as the Hokies left South Carolina with a big win to start the season. That Mike Young was able to call on five different freshman in the game might have been even more important long term.
Hokies Spread the Love in Home Opener
In front of a sold out Cassell Coliseum, all eyes were on Landers Nolley and how he would fare against a more vulnerable defense in Coppin State. He struggled to find his shot in the first half, eventually going 0-5 from behind the arc on the night. Instead he relied heavily on drawing fouls and converting from the line, 5 for 7, on his way to putting up 11 points and 7 rebounds.
Nahiem Alleyne stepped up in his absence, leading the Hokies with 18 points, but the real stand out against Coppin State was the overall performance of the team. Even with Nolley struggling to score, Virginia Tech quickly pulled away from the visitors, leading 25-3 at one point.
Six different freshman saw at least 10 minutes of action. Cattoor and Tyrece Radford both ended the night with eight rebounds. Radford especially stood out, putting up 10 points, adding to the overall depth at Mike Young’s disposal early in the season.
Up Next: USC Upstate
The Hokies starting five look fully capable of managing the season - Bede, Nolley, Alleyne, Wilkins, and Horne. Behind them, freshmen Cattoor and Radford look poised to contribute right away. Which gives fellow freshmen Jalen Cone and John Ojiako, both who look to have high potential, time to work their way into the college game.
Virginia Tech is back in action Wednesday night at 7 pm hosting Coppin State. You can find the game on the ACC Network or on the ESPN app.