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December 18, 2013

Johnson replenishes perimeter

By: Jimmy Robertson

The Tech men’s basketball coach signed three perimeter prospects to letters of intent during the fall signing period

The son of former Duke standout Antonio Lang, T.J. Lang
averaged more than 17 points per game as a junior and will be
looked upon to be a small forward at Tech.
(Photo courtesy of Mike Kittrell/

James Johnson has made no bones about his desire to press more and to play at a more rapid pace, but the second-year Tech men’s basketball coach simply has lacked the bodies, particularly on the perimeter, to accomplish that.

Johnson and his staff took steps to remedy that problem, signing three prospects during the fall signing period – all perimeter players.

“I am really happy about this entire class,” Johnson said. “It gives us depth in the backcourt and gives us guys who can play multiple positions. We want to play an attacking style on offense and defense, and this class will give us a lot of guys who can do a lot of different things on the court.”

The class consists of Justin Bibbs, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound guard from Dayton, Ohio; Jalen Hudson, a 6-5, 190-pound guard from Akron, Ohio; and T.J. Lang, a 6-7, 190-pound small forward from Mobile, Ala.

Of those three, Lang possesses the most name recognition. His father, Antonio, played at Duke from 1990-94 and later played professionally in the NBA and overseas before getting into coaching. T.J. Lang plays at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School and averaged 17.1 points and 4.9 rebounds per game as a junior. He hit 53 of 100 3-pointers and 156 of his 221 free throws.

Behind Lang, McGill-Toolen went 25-7 and made it to the South Regional final. He earned first-team Class 6A all-state recognition from the Alabama Sports Writers Association and was named the Mobile Press-Register’s Player of the Year.

Lang, ranked a three-star recruit by Rivals, had 20 offers, choosing Tech over Oregon State, Memphis, Oklahoma State and South Alabama. Other schools that offered included Samford, Georgia State, Tulsa, Louisiana Tech and Northwestern.

“T.J. has a great basketball mind, being the son of a former NBA player and professional coach,” Johnson said. “He is a skilled 3-point shooter with size. He can really shoot the ball. He projects as a small forward.”

Though an Ohio native, Bibbs – a left-hander – plays his prep basketball at Montverde Academy in Montverde, Fla., transferring after his sophomore year from Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton. He averaged 15.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists as a sophomore at that high school.

He helped lead Montverde to a 26-2 record as a junior and the No. 1 ranking nationally according to ESPN (no personal stats were available). He chose Tech over UCF and Xavier, and he also had offers from Wichita State, Dayton and Ohio University.

Rivals ranked Bibbs as a three-star recruit and the No. 142 prospect in the nation, and 247Sports ranked him as the No. 132 prospect.

“Justin is an athletic wing who can score the basketball in multiple ways,” Johnson said. “He is very good with the ball. He is a good passer, he rebounds his position extremely well and he has a college-ready body. He plays for Montverde, a nationally recognized program that plays against top competition night in and night out.”

Hudson plays for St. Vincent-St. Mary High School in Akron – the same program that produced Miami Heat star LeBron James. He averaged 15 points, five rebounds and three assists as a junior in leading his team to the Division III Ohio state finals. He earned special mention to the Division II All-Ohio boys basketball team.

Hudson chose Tech over Arkansas and a host of other schools. He was born in Akron, but spent a majority of his childhood in Richmond, where he attended Benedictine High School until leaving after his sophomore year to live with his father. He helped Benedictine win the state title in 2011.

ESPN ranked Hudson as the No. 40 shooting guard prospect in the country, and 247Sports ranked him No. 41 (and No. 161 overall).

“Jalen is another young man who comes to us from a very good basketball program, St. Vincent-St. Mary’s,” Johnson said. “He is a versatile player who can play either guard position. He is a strong, athletic player who can get to the basket and shoot the deep 3 and has the potential to be a very good defensive player. He’s played against top competition all of his high school career.”

Given that the Hokies lose only Jarell Eddie among perimeter players on this year’s squad following the season, they go into next season with a stocked roster on the perimeter for the first time in years. These three prospects will give Tech at least eight perimeter players heading into the 2014-15 season.

“This is a great group of young men who are outstanding people both on and off the court,” Johnson said. “They come from winning backgrounds and winning programs, much like this season’s freshman class. We feel good about the class. If you are trying to improve in the ACC, you have to put multiple good recruiting classes together, and we feel that we have accomplished that.”