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December 18, 2013

Eddie off to fast start

By: Jimmy Robertson

Tech senior Jarell Eddie has already broken his career high in scoring and recorded three double-doubles in the Hokies’ first nine games

Jarell Eddie, who scored a career-high 34 points in Tech’s win over Winthrop, has produced at a high level in the early going for the Hokies.

Jarell Eddie has no plans of pursuing a career with the U.S. Postal Service. He’s not looking for a position at FedEx, or UPS, or DHL or any other package delivery service.

Yet he certainly knows a lot about delivering. He’s been doing quite a bit of that early on in the 2013-14 basketball season for the Virginia Tech Hokies.

The 6-foot-7 senior from Charlotte, N.C., has started every game through 10 games, played four different positions and leads the team in both scoring and rebounding in that span. Through 10 games, he was shooting 44.7 percent from the floor and 48.6 percent from beyond the 3-point arc, though those numbers get skewed because of a rough outing against USC Upstate in the season opener. Toss out that 6-for-21 performance (2-for-9 from beyond the 3-point arc), and Eddie is shooting 47.3 percent from the floor and 52.4 percent from beyond the 3-point line.

“I’m definitely feeling confident in my play,” Eddie said. “My teammates have confidence in me. They’re finding me in the right places, and I’m shooting with confidence. I’m going to continue playing with that confidence.”

His best performance to date came in the Hokies’ 81-63 victory over Winthrop. On an evening in which Tech played without starter Adam Smith (strained calf) and key bench cog Ben Emelogu (post-concussion symptoms), Eddie scored a career-high 34 points.

He hit 13 of 18 from the floor, including 6 of 8 from beyond the 3-point arc. Eddie’s six 3-pointers were one shy of the school record held by three players, most recently by Malcolm Delaney at North Carolina in 2011. Eddie’s 13 baskets were a career high and his six 3-pointers tied a career high.

“He got in a zone, and we went to him,” Tech coach James Johnson said of Eddie. “He delivered. He made some nice plays. He didn’t force anything. I thought he was very, very efficient. He scored the ball, he rebounded the ball, he played the point – he was our backup point guard … that was a performance by him.”

Eddie played some point guard for the first time in his career. With Smith out and without the services of Marquis Rankin, who hasn’t played a game this season while dealing with personal issues, the Hokies went into the game with only one point guard – Devin Wilson. Normally Smith rotates to the point when Wilson leaves a game. So to give Wilson a breather at points during the game, Johnson played Eddie at the point position.

It was fun,” Eddie said. “I hadn’t ever played the point before. Running the team, there is a lot of pressure up there, with everyone looking at you and the ball in your hand. I don’t think I had any bad turnovers. It was just fun when I was out there.”

Point guard was the latest of the positions in which Eddie has seen playing time. A natural small forward, he has played briefly at the shooting guard position in certain games and the power forward spot in certain games, depending on matchups.

Johnson likes to post Eddie up against smaller defenders and let him use his 6-7 frame. He took 18 shots against Winthrop, with eight of them being 3-pointers. But some of the other 10 shots included turnaround jumpers against smaller defenders.

Eddie also has rebounded well this season. He recorded three straight double-doubles at one stretch, scoring 19 points and grabbing 10 rebounds against Seton Hall, 14 and 10 against Furman and 13 and 10 against Radford. The three double-doubles give him six for his career.

He nearly missed another double-double in Tech’s 61-60 overtime win in the ACC opener against Miami. He scored 24 points and grabbed eight rebounds in that one.

I was a center all the way up until my sophomore year [of high school],” Eddie said. “I feel kind of natural down there. I’m just taking advantage of mismatches.

They’re [Tech’s coaches] on me real hard in practice about offensive rebounding, so I’m trying to do that a little bit more. As far as defensive rebounds, I’m just going and getting them. I’m going after them in my area and getting as many as I can.”

A year ago, former guard Erick Green scored in double figures in every game and went on to lead the nation in scoring. He earned the ACC’s Player of the Year honor as well.

But Eddie isn’t trying to reach that level. He only wants to do what the team needs for him to do to win games.

“It’s not about living up to what Erick did last year,” he said. “It’s about doing what I can for the team now. It’s not about living up to past players. I would love to have a great year like Erick, but it’s just about doing whatever I can to help this team win.”

Hokies notch road win in ACC opener

A year ago, Tech won exactly one ACC road game, a 75-70 overtime decision at Georgia Tech.

But this season, the Hokies have already equaled that total, registering a 61-60 overtime win at Miami on Dec. 8 in the ACC season opener for both teams. Tech rallied from a 13-point deficit with 15:05 left to force overtime. Eddie scored Tech’s last 11 points of regulation, including a 3-pointer with 46 seconds left that tied the game at 56. He had a jumper blocked in the waning moments that would have won the game.

In overtime, Eddie’s jumper with 20 seconds left gave the Hokies the lead for good. Miami’s Garrius Adams made a free throw with seven seconds left to cut the lead to 61-60, but he missed the second. Donnavan Kirk got the rebound for the ’Canes, but rushed a shot that hit the back of the backboard, giving the ball back to Tech, and the Hokies threw the ball inbounds to run out the clock.

“We talked to the guys [in the second half] about keep plugging away,” Johnson said on the postgame radio show after the game. “I knew we hadn’t played our best basketball, and give Miami credit. They played really well, but I knew we had a little more in the tank. We got things going, and we got stops, and that helped.”

Eddie’s 24 points are the most that he has scored in an ACC game, surpassing the 21 he scored at BC last season.

Wilson ties single-game mark by a Tech freshman

Freshman point guard Devin Wilson put his name into the Tech record books by dishing out 11 assists in the Hokies’ win over Furman. He tied former star Dell Curry’s mark for assists in a game by a Tech freshman. Curry handed out 11 assists on Dec. 4, 1982, in an 88-62 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Wilson’s 11 assists came one short of the Tech single-game record shared by former standouts Dave Sensibaugh (vs. Oregon, 1975), Bimbo Coles (vs. Missouri, 1987), and most recently, Troy Manns, who had 12 in Tech’s win over St. Bonaventure on Jan. 2, 1997.

Tech won the game against Furman by shooting 47.5 percent from the floor and knocking down 12 3-pointers.

“They were giving me lanes where I could drive and kick to my teammates,” Wilson said. “Will Johnston was knocking down 3’s (four of them), Jarell [Eddie] was knocking down 3’s (two) and Adam [Smith] was knocking down 3’s (three). Big Joey [van Zegeren] was finishing his dunks. All my teammates were helping me.”

Wilson dished out 55 assists in the Hokies’ first 10 games and has become a favorite among his teammates for feeding them for open shots.

“I love playing with Dev,” said Marshall Wood, who scored 13 points and hit three 3-pointers against Furman. “It’s definitely enjoyable to go out there and know that he’s going to dish the rock off.”

Wood bounces back after slow start

Wood, the sophomore from Rustburg, Va., got off to a slow start this season. He scored just 10 points combined in the Hokies’ first three games and 25 combined in their first six games.

But he got it going against Furman, scoring 13 points in 19 minutes. He hit 4 of 8 from the floor, including 3 of 5 from beyond the 3-point arc.

“I haven’t been looking for my shot as much as I should be,” Wood said. “I haven’t been as aggressive as I know I can be. Coach [Johnson] has told me that. I decided to go out and be aggressive and take what the defense gives me, and it all came out well.”

Wood followed his Furman performance with a 10-point outing against Radford in which he hit 3 of 4 from the floor and 1 of 2 from beyond the 3-point arc. He also grabbed six rebounds – a season high.

“We need him,” Johnson said. “He’s a stretch 4 [power forward who can shoot], and when he puts the ball on the floor and attacks the basket, he can be dangerous.

“What he’s able to do is stretch things out, open the floor for us, and he can rebound the basketball. With these stretch 4’s and the way these smaller teams have smaller guys that drive the basketball, he’s able to guard those positions for us, too.”

Barksdale’s return

Johnson suspended forward C.J. Barksdale for the first three games of the season for a violation of team rules. But Barksdale returned with a vengeance, scoring 16 points in Tech’s win over VMI in his first game of the season.

Barksdale hit 7 of 12 from the floor against the smaller Keydets, and he also grabbed six rebounds. His three assists against VMI were a career high.

It hurt being away,” Barksdale said after the game. “But I try not to let that bother me at all. I just wanted to leave that in the past and not even think about it. I want to just go out and play basketball.

I’ve been working on my game all summer, and I’m pretty confident with my game. I still don’t think I did as well as I could do. Just like everyone else, we’ve just got to keep getting better.”

Barksdale scored 14 points in the Hokies’ win over Radford and 13 in the win over Winthrop.

Johnson receives praise from Izzo

Tech traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., for two games in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic held Nov. 22-23, with one of those games coming against then-No. 1 Michigan State. The Spartans topped the Hokies 96-77 in the first game, while Seton Hall made some plays late to beat Tech 68-67 in the second game.

After the Michigan State game, Johnson and Izzo had a rather extended handshake at midcourt. Then a few moments later, Johnson ran into Izzo as Johnson left the media center and Izzo was walking in. The two shook hands and exchanged more pleasantries.

“He said he really like our team, and he told me that he was going to call me,” Johnson said. “We’ve been playing phone tag. But he was very complimentary of our program, and I’d be foolish not to gather some insight from him. He’s a championship coach.”

Izzo has guided the Spartans to seven Big Ten championships, six Final Four appearances and a national championship (2000) in his career.

Raines responds to sitting

Johnson has been pretty clear about wanting to see effort and intensity out of his players, and when he didn’t see it from Cadarian Raines early in the Furman game, he put him on the bench for the remainder of the game.

Raines sat the last 37 minutes of that game and then did not get to play against Radford, even though Tech beat the Highlanders by 25 points. Johnson, though, inserted Raines early in the Winthrop game, and the 6-9, 238-pounder made the most of his time. He scored eight points in 15 minutes, hitting 3 of 4 from the floor and both of his free-throw attempts.

The Hokies are learning, occasionally the hard way, that Johnson demands effort. A year ago, he sat Barksdale for a game because of a lack of doing things the right way. This time, Raines learned the hard way.

“That’s the way I coach, and that’s how it’s going to be,” Johnson said. “This year, we’re fortunate that we have more bodies, but it has to be like that no matter what. Guys have to work hard and compete, and there’s going to be competition out there.

“I don’t want anyone to get relaxed. We’ve got to bring it every day. We’ve got to bring it every day individually, and we’ve got to bring it as a team every day because that’s what we’re going to see in the games. That’s what we’re going to see in the league. It’s going to be tough.”