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December 16, 2011

Though a freshman, Brown giving the Hokies solid production

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech men’s basketball coach Seth Greenberg joked earlier this season that Robert Brown hadn’t seen a shot that he didn’t like to take.

Yet the funny thing is this: Greenberg wouldn’t want the young man to stop shooting.

Robert Brown

The 6-foot-5, 190-pound freshman from Clermont, Fla., came out of the blocks quickly in his introduction to college basketball, scoring in double figures in his first two games. He scored 12 points in the season opener against East Tennessee State and 19 points in the Hokies’ win over Monmouth in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

And he hasn’t stopped producing since then, even with Tech facing some of the better teams on its schedule. In a four-game span, the Hokies played Oklahoma State, St. Bonaventure, Minnesota and Kansas State, and Brown averaged 10.3 points per game. His best scoring game came against Kansas State in which he scored a team-high 15 points.

In fact, he averaged nearly 10 points per game in the Hokies’ first eight games.

“I’ve probably had success because I was at Hargrave for a year,” Brown said. “I got to play against great competition, and with the coaches they had, they really prepared me to come here and handle everything that’s happened.”

Brown gives the Hokies instant offense off the bench – he hasn’t started a game yet. But even coming off the bench, he averaged nearly 24 minutes per game through the first eight games, a number that ranked fourth on the team. He played at least 20 minutes in six of those first eight games, including a career-high 31-minute game against Kansas State.

“When Coach Greenberg recruited me, he said I would come in and play minutes,” Brown said. “He said the whole freshmen group would have to play minutes, and that he would play us. He’s a man of his word. He’s been true to it. He told me it would happen, so I’m not really surprised.”

The only negative with Brown, if one wants to get particular, is his low shooting percentage at less than 40 percent, which belies his tremendous shooting ability. But typical of most freshmen, he needs to take better shots.

“Robert had great looks,” Greenberg said following the Kansas State game in which Brown made 6 of 17 from the floor. “He just didn’t make them. He’ll make them. He’s going to make shots.”

Once he learns the definition of a good shot, he figures to see his scoring output go even higher. Greenberg recognizes the young man’s potential, and he needs Brown’s scoring, considering the Hokies’ low scoring outputs in several games this season.

“If anybody takes a bad shot, he’s going to get on you about it,” Brown said. “But he told me not to be shy. He told me not to be afraid. If I’m open and I feel like I have a good shot, then take it.

“He is really confident in me, and that’s carried over to me. I’m really confident in my game. So the shots, I’m taking them, and I’m confident they’re going to fall.”

Rankin makes debut

Marquis Rankin, a freshman point guard from Charlotte, made his collegiate debut in the Kansas State game after missing the first seven games of the season while recovering from knee surgery to repair and clean up cartilage. He scored two points and dished out an assist in seven minutes of action.

“I was really proud of him,” Greenberg said after the game. “He’s only practiced two days. I just think he’s got a good feel at pitching it ahead, and he’s unselfish. We got in transition a little more with him.

“Now, we’ve got to get him on the practice floor. We were very limited with what we could run offensively. But he can get in the lane, and he’s going to be a really good defender. He’s going to be a good player. I like the kid, and I have a lot of confidence in him.”

Rankin’s return probably means a reduction in playing time for sophomore Ty Garland, who did not play in Tech’s loss to Kansas State.


Tech center Victor Davila played one of the best games of his career in the Hokies 73-64 victory over St. Bonaventure on Nov. 27.

Offensively, the 6-8 senior scored 13 points, hitting 5 of 8 from the floor and all three of his free-throw attempts. But his defense was arguably more important.

Davila drew the assignment of guarding St. Bonaventure’s big man, 6-9 Andrew Nicholson, who scored just nine points and hit only 4 of 14 shots from the floor.

I didn’t want him to get tight touches [touches close to the basket],” Davila said. “I just tried to get in front of him and get some backside help. I wasn’t going to let him get close to the basket.

“We knew what we were getting into because we played him last year. Us big men had to play hard and not let him get tight touches.”

“I thought he [Davila] did a terrific job of defending the post early,” Greenberg said. “I thought we gave him good help. I thought we had a good defensive game plan against Nicholson.

“We’ve challenged Victor before. We need this from him each and every night. The challenge for Victor is real simple – consistency. We need Victor that engaged each and every night. He was awfully good defensively. I thought he worked hard and defended the post early, which was key against a kid like Nicholson.”

Davila started the first eight games of this season, giving him 85 starts for his career. That number ranks No. 1 in the ACC among active players.


Despite a career-high 25 points from point guard Erick Green, Tech fell 58-55 to Minnesota in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge on Nov. 30. He surpassed his previous career high of 24 points, which came on Jan. 20, 2010, in a game at Maryland.

The junior from Winchester, Va., hit 9 of 18 from the floor, including 4 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc, and all three of his free-throw attempts. Unfortunately, Green, playing with a sore shoulder after falling off the raised court at Williams Arena, missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime.

With the loss, Tech fell to 2-5 in Big Ten-ACC Challenge. The Hokies’ lone victories came in 2009 (Iowa, 70-64) and in 2006 (Iowa, 69-65).


Dorian Finney-Smith, the highest-rated recruit in Tech’s freshmen class, enjoyed a memorable collegiate debut. The 6-8 forward from Portsmouth, Va., scored 10 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, dished out five assists and had four blocked shots in the Hokies’ 64-53 victory over East Tennessee State at Cassell Coliseum.

“Rebound the ball hard – that’s what I do,” Finney-Smith said. “I expected to do that and to play some defense. It [his collegiate debut] was everything I expected.”

He’s a facilitator,” Greenberg said. “He affects the game in so many ways. He’ll rebound, he’ll block a shot, he’ll make a pass, he’ll make shots, he plays without an ego … he’s an unbelievable teammate. He’s extremely unselfish. He knows how to play, and there’s still a lot of room for growth.”

Finney-Smith became the first Tech freshman to record a double-double in his debut since 2007 when Jeff Allen scored 19 points and grabbed 10 boards in a Tech win over Elon.

In Tech’s first eight games, Finney-Smith recorded three double-doubles.


In the opener against ETSU, Garland made the first start of his career, getting the nod in place of Green, who sat out while nursing a strained Achilles tendon.

Garland, a sophomore from Philadelphia, made the most of his start, scoring a game-high 13 points He hit 3 of 7 from the floor and 7 of 8 from the free-throw line, including four straight in the final 1:04. He dished out three assists, but also had seven of Tech’s 15 turnovers in a career-high 24 minutes – five of those coming in the first half.

“I just wanted to get this win,” Garland said. “I just wanted to go out there and play my role. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but as the game went on, I got a good feel for it.

“This was my first time playing the point since my 10th grade year, so it was different. But I got used to it as the game went on.”

“I thought he hung in there,” Greenberg said of Garland. “He got better defensively, and he got more confident. He’s got to be more vocal. But he hung in there. I’m proud of him.”

Green returned to the starting lineup for Tech’s second game – a contest against Monmouth – but Garland came off the bench and enjoyed the best game of his career. He scored a career-high 18 points, hitting all seven of his shots from the floor, including both of his 3-pointers. His previous career high of 16 points came against Mount St. Mary’s last season.