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October 12, 2009

With a lot of experience and talent returning, Hokies again have high hopes

By: Jimmy Robertson

Jeff Allen

Though wildly speculated, Seth Greenberg did not move during the offseason.

But he certainly changed addresses in one respect over the summer - he moved his basketball program’s headquarters roughly 100 yards down Washington Street.

In August, both Tech basketball programs moved into a sparkling new basketball practice facility just a bounce pass away from Cassell Coliseum. This basketball Taj Mahal contains everything a head coach could possibly want – new offices, practice courts, locker rooms, film rooms, lounges, a weight room, a sports medicine area, etc. – and represents a rather hefty commitment to the sport of basketball by the Tech athletics department, one to the tune of $21 million.

Such a commitment brings forth expectations, but Greenberg and the Hokies already have created those. A year ago, the Hokies finished with a 19-15 record and advanced to the postseason for the third straight year – something only accomplished one other time in Tech’s history (the Hokies made the postseason five straight years from 1982-86).

Most characterized last season as a good season, but even Greenberg admitted it wasn’t a “great” season and the players left the locker room feeling disappointed following the season-ending loss to Baylor in the second round of the NIT. The group came into the season with NCAA aspirations, but close losses – six in the final minute – came back to haunt the Hokies

“We lost some tough games on the final possessions,” Greenberg admitted. “If we’re a little tougher and win three of those, then all of a sudden, we’re walking around talking about a great season.

“But it’s pretty good when you’re disappointed when you win 19 games. That’s a sign of progress. That’s what we want. We must be doing a lot of good things to be in that position. When you’re on the [NCAA Tournament] bubble, you’ve had a pretty good year. You’ve got to find a way to win those close games to have a great year.”

The Hokies go into the 2009-10 season with similar expectations, even with the loss of A.D. Vassallo. Vassallo, a third-team All-ACC selection as a senior, departed after averaging 19.1 points per game in his final campaign. He finished as the school’s career leader in 3-pointers (267) and in the top five on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,822 points).

“One guy is not going to replace A.D., but I think we can have greater balance,” Greenberg said. “I think we’ll have more pieces. I’m hoping that we can create more offense out of our defense, which will alleviate some of that.”

The Hokies return three starters in Malcolm Delaney, Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson, and they return eight players who started at least one game last season. Sixty-six percent of the scoring returns, along with 69 percent of the rebounding. Even without Vassallo, this year’s team figures to be even more experienced than last year’s.

Now, here’s a closer look at the 2009-10 squad:


Any discussion of this year’s squad starts with Delaney, the versatile 6-foot-3 guard with a Charmin shooting touch and yo-yo like ball-handling skills. Delaney, like Vassallo, earned third-team All-ACC honors last season after averaging 18.1 points per game and leading the Hokies in assists (4.5 per game) and in free throws made (225), attempted (259) and percentage (86.9). The only negative of the junior from Baltimore, Md., was that he struggled down the stretch, shooting 28 percent in the team’s final eight games.

“I think we asked him to do a lot, but I don’t think he tried to do too much,” Greenberg said. “I want him to improve on making other people better. He’s going to garner a lot of attention and he’s got to have confidence in his teammates. I’ve got to make sure he doesn’t try to do too much and that he trusts his teammates.”

Delaney alternated between shooting guard and point guard and figures to do so again, but that depends on what transpires with the players around him.

Hudson returns after starting 24 games at shooting guard a year ago. But he averaged just 4.6 points per game and shot 36.2 percent from the floor. The staff loves his work ethic and hopes that his work in offseason workouts transfers to the floor on game days.

Also, two other juniors, Terrell Bell and JT Thompson, return and will attempt to replace Vassallo at the small forward spot. Thompson, who has played mostly at power forward in his career, averaged 4.6 points and nearly four rebounds per game a year ago and may be better suited in the post because of his tenacity and toughness. Bell has struggled shooting the ball in two years at Tech – he shot just 33.3 percent last season – and Greenberg is toying with the idea of playing him some at power forward to better use his skills.

Then there are the freshmen looking for time in the backcourt. Erick Green, from Winchester, Va., is a pass-first point guard who looks to make everyone better. Ben Boggs, from Roanoke, Va., gives Tech some size on the perimeter. And Manny Atkins, from Stone Mountain, Ga., is a sweet shooter and could provide that perimeter punch that left with Vassallo.

“We’re going to play two wing players,” Greenberg said. “It could be Dorenzo and Ben Boggs. I’ll expect all those guys to compete for minutes. They’ll determine who plays.”


The Hokies return everyone in the frontcourt, with the exception of Cheick Diakite, a 6-9 center who graduated, and seldom-used Terrance Vinson, who left the program.

Allen anchors the Hokies’ frontcourt. He averaged 13.7 points and a team-leading 8.4 rebounds per game a year ago, and he could be a double-double machine this season.

“We need for Jeff to be consistent,” Greenberg said. “We need to know that we can count on him. That’s where it starts. He needs to be consistent in his approach and his day-to-day commitment to the team. He’s one of the elite power forwards in our conference.”

Thompson, Victor Davila and Lewis Witcher return as well. It took Thompson most of the year to get untracked following hernia surgery, but toward the end, he started displaying the skill set that makes him a fan favorite – toughness, offensive rebounding, defending and drawing charges.

Davila has nice skills in the post, but needs to use his 6-8, 245-pound body a little more and be more aggressive. That holds true for Witcher, a talented 6-9 senior, as well.

Gene Swindle and freshman Cadarian Raines round out the group. At 6-11, 260 pounds, Swindle, who redshirted last season, ranks as Tech’s biggest player and remains a work in progress. Raines, a 6-9, 240-pounder from Petersburg, Va., broke his foot in an offseason workout on Sept. 23, but should bounce back and use his size and athleticism to give the Hokies some quality minutes this season.

“We have options,” Greenberg said. “Lewis has experience. Victor is probably our best low-post scorer. Cadarian has a huge body and untapped potential athletically. He’s got legit ACC size and strength as a freshman. Gene is huge. He’s making progress. He’s got a long way to go, but he’s sure made progress.”

Rounding out the post players is Allan Chaney, a 6-9, 235-pounder who will not be eligible this season. Chaney transferred from Florida and must sit out a season to meet the NCAA’s residency requirements for transfers.

The Schedule

The schedule again appears to be solid, with non-conference dates at NIT champion Penn State, at Iowa and against Temple in Philadelphia. A solid non-conference record and a .500 record in the rugged ACC would put the Hokies, for the most part, on the cusp of returning to the NCAA Tournament.

But as Greenberg said following the loss to Baylor, “We’ve got to get better. Coaches and players – everyone.”

How much so will dictate where the Hokies go following the end of this 2009-10 campaign?

To view full schedule visit