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December 10, 2010

Greenberg and staff land top-15 recruiting class

By: Jimmy Robertson

Dorian Finney-Smith is the top-rated recruit in Tech’s class and a big reason why the Hokies’ recruiting haul was ranked No. 12 nationally by ESPNU.Photo courtesy of The Daily Press in Newport News

Since arriving at Virginia Tech, men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg has led the Hokies to the NCAA Tournament and the NIT. He’s been named an ACC coach of the year. He’s helped to mold several unheralded players coming out of high school into professionals overseas.

And during the early-signing period, Greenberg added yet another accomplishment to the list.

Greenberg – and his staff – put together a nationally ranked recruiting class for the first time, inking four ESPNU top-100 recruits that comprise a class that came in at No. 12 nationally by that service. The class, which includes two Virginia natives and three who are spending their senior seasons at Hargrave Military Academy, checked in at No. 12 by Scout and No. 18 by Rivals.

“It [the national rankings] reflects Virginia Tech basketball and where we’re going,” Greenberg said. “It reflects the ACC. The ACC is a vehicle to help us build our basketball program. We’re a long way away from where we want to be, but we’re getting closer every day.”

Dorian Finney-Smith headlines this star-studded class. The 6-foot-7, 190-pound small forward from Portsmouth, Va., is ranked as the No. 26 prospect in the nation by ESPNU and No. 28 and No. 37 by Scout and Rivals, respectively.

Finney-Smith averaged 19.7 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks per game in leading I.C. Norcom to the Group AAA championship. In late September, the Group AAA player of the year committed to the Hokies over Old Dominion, where his brother plays, and Florida.

Dorian Finney-Smith

Finney-Smith has drawn comparisons to former Maryland star Joe Smith, though he probably possesses better perimeter skills than Smith. He rebounds the ball well, and he also handles the ball well enough to start the fast break. His biggest strength, though, lies in his ability to score in a variety of ways.

“He’s a complete basketball player,” Greenberg said. “He can handle the ball like a point guard. He can shoot the ball like a 2-guard. He’s a terrific offensive rebounder. He can rebound the ball and start the break. He’s a tough match-up and that’s really big.

“He’s a wing player who can start the fastbreak, and he’s a wing player that can move the ball against pressure. He’s almost too unselfish. He wants to win. He’s a winning player. He extremely skilled, but he doesn’t have the ego of a great player, yet he’s a magnificent player.”

C.J. Barksdale, a 6-7, 220-pound power forward from Danville, Va., is the other Virginia native in the class. Barksdale is rated the No. 88 prospect nationally by ESPNU and No. 65 and No. 95 by Scout and Rivals, respectively. Scout ranked him the No. 14 power forward prospect nationally, while Rivals ranked him at No. 17.

C.J. Barksdale

Barksdale averaged 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots in his junior season at George Washington High School on his way to earning second-team All-Group AAA honors (he was also first-team All-Western Valley District and first-team All-Northwest Region). He decided to transfer to Hargrave Military Academy for his senior season.

Barksdale poses a match-up problem of opposing defenders, with his length and his ability to hit jumpers from out to 18 feet. He passes the ball well out of the post, too. Defensively, he blocks and alters a lot of shots, especially from the weak side.

“C.J. came to camp here at the end of his freshman year, I believe, and you could see he was a special player,” Greenberg said. “He’s got great, big shoulders and long arms. He loved the game. He was excited to be in the gym. He’s active and quick. He’s competitive. He’s a guy that you can see getting better and better because he’s got great shoulders and terrific hands.”

Barksdale’s teammates at Hargrave include two other prospects in Robert Brown and Marquis Rankin.

Robert Brown

Brown, a relative unknown from Clermont, Fla., 18 months ago, exploded onto the scene over last season and this summer, and ESPNU rated him the No. 83 prospect nationally. The 6-6, 195-pound shooting guard is ranked No. 105 nationally by Rivals, which also rated him the No. 28 shooting guard prospect in the nation.

Brown averaged 16 points per game for East Ridge High School as a freshman and 19 points per game as a sophomore. Last season as a junior, he averaged 21 points, four rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, and he also scored his 1,000th point.

Brown shoots it well and also loves taking it to the basket. He brings size, length and speed to the shooting guard position.

“He’s the prototypical athletic, rangy wing player that’s been successful in my system,” Greenberg said. “He’s long, he’s active and he’s quick. He can make shots and he can defend the basketball. He plays fast. He’s a terrific student and a great person. He’s the type of guy we want in our program.”

Marquis Rankin
Nike/Kelly Kline

Rankin, a 6-0, 170-pound point guard from Charlotte, N.C., was rated the No. 95 prospect nationally by ESPNU and Scout ranked him the No. 84 prospect nationally. He probably would have been rated higher if not for some nagging injuries that limited him over the summer.

Rankin averaged 13.6 points per game, seven assists and 4.4 rebounds per game last season for Vance High. He excels in transition and covers a lot of ground in a hurry. He uses screens well and his quickness allows him to get into the lane for a shot or a dump off to a teammate. He’s not a consistent shooter yet, but that should come with added strength.

“I call him the ‘Mailman,’ Greenberg said. “He’s a general. He’s got no ego. He just wants to make other players better. He distributes the basketball and he’s unselfish. He’s fast with the ball. He gives the ball up early.

“Kevin Keatts says he’s the best on-the-ball defender they’ve had at Hargrave, which is a terrific compliment. He can pressure the basketball on both sides, whether he’s bringing it or defending it.”

Most of the prospects weren’t on the national radar a year or so ago – Finney-Smith being the exception. But they improved drastically in that year’s time, particularly Brown, who wasn’t on anyone’s top-100 list, and as signing day approached, they all continued to receive more and more interest from big-time programs.

Fortunately for the Hokies, they bought into the school and into Greenberg’s philosophies.

“A big part of what we try to do is evaluate those guys ‘up’ and I think we did a good job of evaluating,” Greenberg said. “I’m not saying Jamon Gordon wasn’t a terrific player. He was. Zabian Dowdell was a terrific player. They were undervalued.

“These guys [the 2011 class], we evaluated them early and they moved up. To me, that’s what recruiting is all about. It’s not just about recognizing great talent when they’re seniors. It’s about recognizing a guy that has the potential to be a great talent.”