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April 7, 2011

Tech's 2010-11 season comes to end with NIT loss to Wichita State

By: Jimmy Robertson

Erick Green, who averaged 11.6 points per game this season in his first as a starter, will be a critical figure for Tech next season.

Seth Greenberg wasted little time in putting this past season to rest and beginning preparations for next season.

In fact, it took him roughly three hours.

Virginia Tech’s 2010-11 season came to an end with an excruciating 79-76 overtime loss to Wichita State in the second round of the National Invitation Tournament. A season of injuries, a suspension and a transfer mixed with character, grit and great wins came to a conclusion when the Shockers’ Joe Ragland hit a short floater in front of the rim with less than three seconds remaining, a final blow to a trying year for a Tech squad that finished 22-12 on the year.

Not that Greenberg spent a lot of time reflecting on said year, at least in the short term.

“I’m meeting with these guys at 5 o’clock basically to paint a picture of where we’re going now,” he said following the early-afternoon game.

That’s because Ragland’s shot all but finished an era in Tech men’s basketball. It put an end not only to the Hokies’ season, but also to the careers of a senior class that tied the school record for career wins by a class. Led by the trio of Malcolm Delaney, Terrell Bell and Jeff Allen, the senior class won 87 games, tying the 1985-86 senior class’ mark.

Greenberg expects this class to be remembered forever for that and for reaching postseason play all four years, though none of those appearances included an invitation to the NCAA Tournament

“They’re not going to be defined by not making the NCAA Tournament,” Greenberg said. “Malcolm Delaney and those guys are going to be defined by … those guys won a lot of games. You can have all the cynics you want, and all the people are going to take swipes at you and say, ‘you need to do this with your schedule’ … that’s all BS.

“These kids played their tails off for four years. Anyone who doesn’t think they have accomplished a great deal, that’s their problem, not these kids’ problems. We’re not going to be defined by a group of 10 people in a room [the NCAA selection committee]. They’re going to be defined by what they did for every single day for four years, and that’s win a lot of games.”

Statistically, Delaney and Allen rank as two of the best players in the history of the school. Delaney finished third behind Bimbo Coles and Dell Curry on the all-time scoring list with 2,255 points. Allen became the first player in ACC history to finish with at least 1,500 career points, 1,000 career rebounds, 200 career steals and 150 career blocked shots. He ranks in the top five in career rebounds, steals and blocks at Tech.

Victor Davila, who started all 34 games for Tech this past season, could be one of three seniors in the starting lineup for the Hokies in 2011-12.

And while Bell didn’t put up those types of numbers, he certainly provided the invaluable plays that never find their way onto a box score.

“I’ll remember how much I’ve grown with my senior class,” Delaney said. “We came in as a bunch of guys who liked to joke around and play around, but usually when we got in the gym, we got after each other. Whatever we did, we were competitive. Coach helped us out with that. When we got here, everyone was the man on their team in high school. We had to work on coming in with Deron [Washington] and A.D. [Vassallo], two players who had already established themselves in the ACC. We had to play that backseat role.

“I’ll remember T-Bell [Terrell Bell] … we had to find a spot where we could put him because he was so athletic, but we knew he could play. And Jeff, how he turned his whole career around in one year. It’s good to see how our senior class ended up tying the record for career wins, and Jeff breaking records and me breaking records. That’s stuff we can look back on when we leave here. That’s the biggest thing. I’m just proud of our senior class.”

Now, though, all eyes look toward the future of Virginia Tech basketball – and the picture appears slightly blurred.

Tech returns two starters off this year’s team in guard Erick Green and center Victor Davila. Green started 26 games after Dorenzo Hudson went down for the season with a foot injury and averaged 11.6 points per game, while Davila started all 34 games and averaged 7.4 points and 5.1 rebounds. Both played solid basketball, particularly Green, who played really well as a starter.

Reserves Manny Atkins and Tyrone Garland are slated to return. Atkins, a rising junior, averaged 4.9 points and two rebounds per game, but he gave Tech terrific minutes down the stretch. He could step into Bell’s spot. Garland played in 30 games, but he played way too tentatively. The offseason figures to be huge for him.

After those four, questions remain. Can Hudson return to his All-ACC form? Can JT Thompson, who tore his ACL before the season, return and be an explosive force? Will Cadarian Raines, plagued by foot problems for two years, be able to help in the post? What about Jarell Eddie, an immensely talented youngster who was suspended down the stretch for an off-court issue? Will he return? Then, there’s Allan Chaney, the transfer from Florida who missed the season with an inflammation of the heart. Will he play basketball ever again? It’s not looking likely.

A nucleus of Green, Davila, Hudson, Thompson and Atkins certainly gives Tech an experienced five, with three seniors and two juniors. Garland and Raines (and Eddie, if he returns) could provide production off the bench, and Greenberg figures to get significant minutes from four incoming freshmen, including Dorian Finney-Smith, the highest-rated recruit whom Greenberg has ever signed. Finney-Smith led his I.C. Norcom [Va.] High team to back-to-back Group AAA titles.

Of all those players, Green is the biggest key to Tech’s future. He assumes the mantle from Delaney, a two-time All-ACC first-team selection who started the final 125 games of his career and every game for three straight seasons. Green appears to want the challenge.

“The main thing I’m going to work on coming up is leadership,” Green said. “This is my team, and I want to get these guys right. I have high expectations. We’re going to work hard, and our goal is the [NCAA] tournament. There’s not going to be joke time. We’re going to get after it.”

Greenberg called this past season a grind, but “it was a grind that was worth the ride.” Now, it’s over.

How will the ride be next season? It’s tough to say.

But for sure, it’s already in motion.

Delaney named to ACC all-tournament team

Malcolm Delaney finished his career as Tech�s third all-time leading scorer with 2,255 points. He left as the school�s all-time leader in free throws made (721), attempted (853) and free-throw percentage (84.5).

Delaney received a spot on the ACC’s all-tournament team after leading the Hokies to two victories at the event in Greensboro, N.C. Tech bounced Georgia Tech and Florida State before succumbing 77-63 to Duke in the tournament semifinals.

Delaney averaged 16.7 points per game in the tournament, including a 19-point performance in a losing effort to the Blue Devils.

In the NIT, Delaney scored 13 points in the Hokies’ blowout win over Bethune-Cookman and 30 points in the loss to Wichita State. Against the Shockers, he hit 8 of 14 from the floor, including 3 of 6 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also made 11 of 13 at the free-throw line.

It marked the ninth game in his career with at least 30 points.

“It’s tough to go out with a loss like this,” Delaney said. “But we played our hardest. I can’t be mad about how we did. It’s better to leave Cassell like this than the way we did senior night [in the loss to BC].”

Delaney also dished out three assists in the loss to Wichita State. He finished his career with 543 assists – just four short of tying Bimbo Coles’ school record.

Delaney does hold the school record for free throws made (721), attempted (853) and percentage (84.5 percent).

Delaney and his future plans

After the Wichita State game, Delaney was asked about his future plans as he prepares for the NBA Draft. He moved to Atlanta just a couple of weeks after the season ended to start working out with a group down there.

“I’ll be working out two times a day, six days a week,” he said. “This is going to be the hardest I’ve ever pushed myself in my life. This is a big summer for me. Now it’s about trying to help my family out and establish my career wherever it is. I’m not pressed to play anywhere. Wherever I can be the best fit, that’s where I’ll go. Wherever I can help my family out, that’s what I’m going to do. But I’m going to push myself as hard as I can this summer.”

The NBA Draft is scheduled for June 23 in Newark, N.J. It lasts two rounds.

Wrapping up Allen’s career

Allen, who earned All-ACC honors for the first time after being named to the second team, scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds in his final collegiate game before fouling out with a little more than six minutes remaining.

Greenberg called Allen the key to the team during the season, and that was apparent down the stretch. As Allen struggled, so did the Hokies, as they lost four of their final seven games. He averaged 8.8 points per game and 4.5 rebounds per game in those four losses, and he fouled out in two of those four games.

Still, Allen finished with 1,702 career points, which ranks 11th on Tech’s all-time list. His 1,111 rebounds rank fourth, just six behind Ace Custis, and his 233 steals also rank fourth, just eight behind Zabian Dowdell. His 150 blocked shots rank fifth on the all-time list.