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October 7, 2008

2008-09 Men's Basketball Profiles

By: Jimmy Robertson

40 A.D. VASSALLO Class: Senior
Position: Guard/small forward
Height: 6-6
Weight: 215
Hometown: Toa Baja, Puerto Rico Inside the numbers: Started all 35 games last season … Averaged a team-leading 16.9 points per game and 34.3 minutes per game … Also averaged 4.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists … Shot 44.3 percent from the floor and 39.5 percent from beyond the 3-point arc … Led the team with 85 3-pointers … Hit 76 percent of his free-throw attempts.
Analyzing Vassallo’s game: A second-team All-ACC performer, Vassallo enjoyed a terrific season a year ago in large part because of his ability to score in a variety of ways. He’s always been an outstanding shooter, but last season, he exhibited an ability to take the ball to the basket and showed nice touch when shooting that floater in the lane. He also got to the free-throw line more (125 times, second on the team).
Vassallo also did a nice job on the boards last season. He still needs to improve his ball-handling – he had more turnovers than assists (87-77) – and he still needs to work on his defense, though he’s improved in that area as well. Overall, he could be in for a huge season.
Quick comments: “I expect him to continue on the path he’s been on the past three years,” Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “I think he can be one of the elite players in the ACC. I didn’t say ‘shooters,’ I said ‘players.’ He impacts the game a lot of different ways. We expect him to be an elite player in one of the best basketball conferences in America.”
34 CHEICK DIAKITE Class: Senior
Position: Center
Height: 6-9
Weight: 217
Hometown: Bamako, Mali
Inside the numbers: Started 16 of 34 games last season, averaging 11.9 minutes per game … Averaged 1.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per game … Hit 42 percent of his shots from the floor and 37.5 percent from the free-throw line … Tied for the team lead with 41 blocked shots … Had three assists and two steals.
Analyzing Diakite’s game: Diakite is a rugged, physical player in the post who excels at rebounding and defending. In fact, he may be the Hokies’ most physical player. His offensive game continues to evolve. He possesses a nice turnaround jumper, particularly along the baseline, but the Hokies probably need for him to be more of an offensive rebounder who scores on stick-backs. He needs to work on his free-throw shooting and on taking better care of the basketball when he gets it in the post.
Quick comments: “We need him to be consistent in every aspect – on the floor, off the floor, in the locker room and in his approach,” Greenberg said. “If he does that, he can help us win. He’s a physical low-post defender and he’s helped us win games in the past.”

15 TERRANCE VINSON Class: Redshirt junior
Position: Power forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 215
Hometown: Valdosta, Ga.
Inside the numbers: Played in 11 games last season, averaging 3.2 minutes per game … Scored four points and grabbed seven rebounds … Hit 1-of-7 from the floor and made both of his free-throw attempts … Had an assist and blocked two shots.
Analyzing Vinson’s game: Vinson’s game resembles that of Diakite’s, though Diakite is bigger and stronger. But Vinson’s game centers on defense and rebounding. A knee injury suffered the summer after his redshirt freshman year robbed him of some quickness last season, but a summer in the strength and conditioning program has him in better shape now. He’s limited offensively, but could help this team on the offensive glass.
Quick comments: “He’s a great teammate,” Greenberg said. “He coaches our locker room. He understands what this thing is all about. He’s an extremely valuable member of our team.”

21 LEWIS WITCHER Class: Junior
Position: Power forward
Height: 6-9
Weight: 218
Hometown: Rocky Mount, Va.
Inside the numbers: Started 13 of the 35 games in which he played, averaging 12.7 minutes per game … Averaged 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds per game … Shot 52 percent from the floor – second on the team – and 65.2 percent from the free throw line … Blocked 17 shots and had eight steals.
Analyzing Witcher’s game: This may very well be the year that Witcher breaks out. He played much better the second half of last season and possesses all the tools to be a very good ACC post player. He’s long – tall with long arms – he’s quick and he got stronger over the offseason. He continues to refine his offensive game and expand his range, and on the defensive end, he certainly could alter a lot of shots. If he plays with the aggressiveness he displayed toward the end of last season, he could take a big step forward this upcoming season.
Quick comments: “I expect him to take a huge step forward this year,” Greenberg said. “I’ve got to empower him and make sure he knows he’s good, and then he’s got to pay us back by playing hard every day and every play. He’s got every attribute you could want on and off the court to be a successful player.”

32 PAUL DEBNAM Class: Junior
Position: Guard
Height: 6-3
Weight: 195
Hometown: Farmville, Va.
Inside the numbers: Played in seven games a year ago for a total of 11 minutes … Averaged 1.1 points and 0.4 rebounds per game … Hit 3-of-5 from the floor and nailed both of his free-throw attempts … Had one blocked shot and one steal.
Analyzing Debnam’s game: A year ago, Debnam was an unknown, as he joined the basketball team after playing on the football team his freshman season. He established himself as a solid walk-on who really helped the Hokies in practice, where he makes Tech’s guards work hard. He defends pretty well and he has a good shot. If he improves his ball-handling and passing, he could see some time in a reserve role this season.
Quick comments: “Paul is the ultimate teammate,” Greenberg said. “He never has a down day. He always says the right thing and he always has a smile on his face. Plus, he keeps things loose.”

0 JEFF ALLEN Class: Sophomore
Position: Power forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 240
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Inside the numbers: Started 32 of 33 games, averaging 28.2 minutes per game … Led the team in rebounding at 7.6 per game and finished third on the team in scoring at 11.8 points per game … Led or tied for the team lead in scoring on seven occasions and led or tied for the team lead in rebounding in 16 games … Shot 49.1 percent from the floor and 60.7 percent from the free-throw line … Led the team in blocked shots (41) and steals (69) … Also dished out 30 assists and hit four 3-pointers.
Analyzing Allen’s game: Allen, a selection to the ACC’s All-Freshman Team, is an immensely talented young man with the ability to dominate a game. He possesses the size and strength to be a force in the post, and displays a wide array of post moves, which enable him to be a scoring machine. His long arms, combined with his size and strength, enable him to be an excellent rebounder and defender as well. He also has great hands and anticipation – he led the team in steals.
He needs to be more careful with the ball, though. He turned the ball over a team-leading 89 times last season.
The only person who can stop him is himself. If he plays with intensity and passion every time out, he could be a first-team All-ACC selection.
Quick comments: “He’s a unique talent,” Greenberg said. “He can do so many things. He’s unselfish. He rebounds in traffic. He’s as good as he wants to be and it seems like he wants to be better. That’s extremely encouraging.”

1 TERRELL BELL Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard/forward
Height: 6-6
Weight: 205
Hometown: Stone Mountain, Ga.
Inside the numbers: Played in 33 games last season, averaging 7.1 minutes per game … Averaged 1.8 points and 1.0 rebounds per game … Shot 43.5 percent from the floor and 21.7 percent from beyond the 3-point arc … Made 66.7 percent from the free-throw line … Dished out 18 assists, blocked four shots and had 10 steals.
Analyzing Bell’s game: Bell got buried a little on the bench behind Deron Washington and A.D. Vassallo at the small forward spot last year, but figures to pick up more minutes following Washington’s departure. Bell reminds the staff of Washington. He has long arms and tremendous athleticism, and could develop into a top-notch defender, like Washington. He flourishes in the open court. He needs to work on his perimeter shooting and on his post-up skills because the staff would like to take advantage of his length against smaller defenders.
Quick comments: “He’s got the potential to be our next stopper,” Greenberg said. “He’s long, he’s quick and he can shoot it. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and I’d like for him to enjoy the process a little more. He’s much more confident now, though. He’s really improved his ball-handling, which he needed to do.”

5 DORENZO HUDSON Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard
Height: 6-5
Weight: 220
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
Inside the numbers: Played in 26 games last year, starting in two of them and averaging 12.3 minutes per game overall … Averaged 3.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per game … Shot 35.6 percent from the floor and 21.3 percent from beyond the 3-point arc … Shot 54.5 percent from the free-throw line … Had 12 assists, nine steals and two blocked shots.
Analyzing Hudson’s game: Hudson arrived at Tech at the end of the first semester and spent the remainder of the season getting acclimated to Division-I basketball. He is a tough, physical guard and a good rebounder for a guard. He spent the offseason getting into better shape, which figures to help him tremendously. He struggled shooting a year ago, but his form leads one to believe that he’ll be a much better shooter once he gains confidence. He still needs to work on defending and ball-handling. If he enhances those parts of his game, he’ll see more and more time, perhaps even starting.
Quick comments: “He’s dropped over 20 pounds,” Greenberg said. “He’s got a bounce to him now and he’s better defensively. He was in a tough situation. He knew where to go, but he didn’t know why he was going there. I think he’ll have a better understanding of what we want to do now.”

10 HANK THORNS Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard
Height: 5-9
Weight: 160
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nev.
Inside the numbers: Started 12 of the 35 games in which he played, averaging 21.1 minutes per game … Averaged 4.6 points and 2.0 rebounds per game … Led the team with 113 assists, an average of 3.2 per game, and only had 67 turnovers … Finished second on the team with 40 steals … Shot 34.4 percent from the floor and 28.9 percent from beyond the 3-point arc … Hit 66.7 percent from the free throw line.
Analyzing Thorns’ game: Thorns goes into this season hoping to secure a starting job at the point guard spot, if Greenberg decides to play Malcolm Delaney at shooting guard and Vassallo at small forward. Thorns excels at getting his teammates involved. He’s a very good passer with a feel for getting into the lane and distributing the ball to the right person. He needs to get stronger and quicker to be able to defend bigger guards, and he also needs to work on his perimeter shooting. Tech’s staff feels he’ll shoot the ball much better this season with a year of experience under his belt.
Quick comments: “He’s got a great work ethic,” Greenberg said. “He’s the new Energizer bunny. He gets guys to follow him. He has a knack for getting his teammates involved.”

23 MALCOLM DELANEY Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard
Height: 6-3
Weight: 170
Hometown: Baltimore, Md.
Inside the numbers: Started 24 of 35 games, assuming the starting job at point guard roughly one-third of the way into the season … Finished second on the team in assists with 107, averaging 3.1 per game … Finished fourth on the team in scoring at 9.6 points per game and also averaged 2.9 rebounds per game … Shot 42 percent from the floor and 40.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc … Led the team by shooting 78.7 percent from the free-throw line … Had 28 steals and four blocked shots.
Analyzing Delaney’s game: Delaney really came on toward the end of last season, gaining confidence with every game. He is a world-class shooter, with tremendous range. He knows how to use screens when playing off the ball, yet has the ability to create his own shot from the point guard spot. He handled the ball well for a freshman and is only going to get better in that area. He could be one of the best guards in the ACC this season.
Quick comments: “Malcolm, when he shoots it, you think it’s going in every time,” Greenberg said. “He’s improved his body. He’s improved his ball skills. I want him to continue to make himself and others better. He’s got tremendous leadership ability. He’s got a chance to be really special.”

33 J.T. THOMPSON Class: Sophomore
Position: Forward
Height: 6-6
Weight: 210
Hometown: Monroe, N.C.
Inside the numbers: Played in 34 of 35 games and started five of those … Averaged 18.4 minutes per game … Averaged 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per game … Shot a team-leading 54.8 percent from the floor … Hit 64.2 percent from the free-throw line … Also had 21 steals, 15 assists and 17 blocked shots.
Analyzing Thompson’s game: Thompson quickly became a fan favorite at Cassell Coliseum because of his work ethic and toughness, and also because he plays the game smartly. He rarely takes a bad shot and he rarely turns the ball over.
Thompson is a little undersized to be a post player and doesn’t quite have the range to be a small forward. But he is a strong, powerful player who attacks the glass at both ends of the court, scoring mostly on stick-backs. He never shies from guarding players taller and bigger than him, and he’s fearless when it comes to drawing charges as well. He certainly figures to see plenty of time this season, regardless of whether he earns a starting job.
Quick comments: “People ask, ‘where are you going to play him?’” Greenberg said. “You can call him whatever you want. He’s going to play because he helps you win games.”

3 TOM AMALFE Class: Sophomore
Position: Guard
Height: 6-0
Weight: 170
Hometown: Mountainside, N.J.
Inside the numbers: Played in seven games last season … Scored two points and grabbed one rebound … Made one of his four shot attempts.
Analyzing Amalfe’s game: Amalfe is a walk-on who has embraced his role of helping this team get better each and every practice. He understands the game, so Greenberg uses him in a variety of ways in practice to help prepare the team for upcoming games. He lacks size and strength, but he’s a good shooter with a good basketball IQ and nice instincts for the game. He’s the perfect walk-on for this team, as his teammates respect him.
Quick comments: “He’s just a great teammate,” Greenberg said. “He has the respect of his teammates. He helps us get better every day.”

14 VICTOR DAVILA Class: Freshman
Position: Power forward
Height: 6-8
Weight: 245
Hometown: Canovanas, Puerto Rico
Inside the numbers: Averaged 20 points, 11.5 rebounds and six blocked shots his senior season at Starmount High in North Carolina … Averaged 23.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots per game as a junior … Finished as the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder with more than 1,900 career points and 1,400 rebounds.
Analyzing Davila’s game: Davila gives the Hokies size and toughness in the post, which are traits this team needs. But he’s more than just a big body with a passion for rebounding. He possesses a nice array of offensive skills. His footwork for a big guy allows him to score in a variety of ways, and he has decent range on his shot. Unlike a lot of big guys these days, he knocks down his free throws. On the other end of the court, he affects shots with his size and shot-blocking ability.
Like most freshmen, he’ll have to learn how to play hard and compete at this level. But he certainly adds capable depth to the Hokies’ thin post.
Quick comments: “If he gets up to speed, he has a chance to make a huge impact,” Greenberg said. “He’s a legitimate low-post player who can command a double team. And he makes his free throws. He’s physically strong.”

42 GENE SWINDLE Class: Freshman
Position: Center
Height: 6-11
Weight: 260
Hometown: Miami, Fla.
Inside the numbers: Averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks his senior season … Averaged 11.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and one block per game as a junior … Averaged 15.3 points, 10.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots for his career.
Analyzing Swindle’s game: Swindle will not turn 18 until December, so he’s still developing and maturing. He can run for a big guy and he possesses terrific hands. Greenberg likes his work ethic as well, so if one combines that with good hands and good feet, one can see the potential for Swindle being a good player. Greenberg compares him to former Pittsburgh center Aaron Gray, who blossomed into an all-conference type of player his final two seasons with the Panthers.
Quick comments: “He is making huge progress,” Greenberg said. “He’s learning how to work. He’s buying into the fitness program. I said when we signed him that I thought he could be a little like Aaron Gray [former Pittsburgh center] and I still believe that.”