Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 13 No. 2 | October 2020

20 Inside Hokie Sports A simple search on the WebMD website for information on COVID-19 reveals that the disease produces any combination of fever, chills, coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, congestion, loss of taste, and fatigue. The Virginia Tech women’s basketball team probably would add heartache to that list. For sure, COVID-19 created plenty of that among the players and the coaches last March. The Hokies were set to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006 when the pandemic resulted in the NCAA canceling all of its postseason events last spring, including its signature basketball tournament. That left Tech with a final record of 21-7—and feeling unfilled about the 2019-20 season despite setting a school record for ACC wins (11), seeing Aisha Sheppard earn first-team All-ACC honors, and seeing Elizabeth Kitley being named the ACC Freshman of the Year. “We had put so much time, energy, and effort into it, and it wasn’t just this year,” Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “It was a culmination of years to get this program back to that point, and we felt that we had done it. For it to be taken right from under your feet is disappointing, disappointing for the seniors. But the group has bounced back, and I think they’re hungrier to actually hear their name called, so they’re working hard.” This summer marked a time of transition for the program, though, as two players transferred and two assistant coaches departed, including Jennifer Brown, who took the head job at Queens College in Charlotte and became the fifth former Brooks assistant to land a head coaching job. Brooks added Christal Caldwell and Lindsey Hicks to replace Brown and Britney Anderson, who took a position at Stanford. Caldwell had been an assistant at West Virginia, her alma mater, while Hicks was at Louisiana Tech and once played in the national title game while at Purdue. Also, almost half of the roster features newcomers, with the addition of a graduate transfer, a junior college transfer, a “traditional” transfer, and four freshmen. When practice started Oct. 14, Brooks was concerned about chemistry, toughness, and cohesion between seven newcomers and eight returning players. “This time last year, we had been to Europe for two weeks and had extensive practicing,” Brooks said. “The kids were well on their way to forming a good chemistry. This year, we’re at the total other end of the spectrum where we haven’t been around each other with a totally new group. I think that’s affected us a little bit as far as our chemistry.” The Hokies return Sheppard and Kitley, two of the premier players in the league, and they feature an interesting mix of size and talent. The ceiling for this group can be high—provided the pieces of the puzzle come together. THE BIG QUESTION The heart and soul of last season’s squad departed when point guard Taja Cole bid farewell after a nice graduate season. Cole led the ACC in total assists (194) and assists per game (6.5), and she earned a spot on the ACC’s All-Defensive Team after registering 42 steals. She also played a team-best 34 minutes per game. Now, Brooks needs to find a replacement—and he thinks it will take more than one person. He and his staff plucked a point guard out of the transfer portal when Da’Ja Green came to Tech as a graduate transfer from Wofford. A three- time All-Southern Conference choice, she produces in the same manner as Cole—she averaged 12.7 points and 4.7 assists per game last season. “Obviously, she has a wealth of experience from her three years at Wofford,” Brooks said. “She graduated from there and decided she wanted to challenge herself at a higher level. We were fortunate enough to get her, so she brings a wealth of knowledge to the point guard position.” The other pure point guard on the roster is Georgia Amoore, who enrolled at Tech last January. Brooks elected to hold the Australia native out of competition during the latter half of last season, but she worked out with the team as a member of the program’s scout team. Though she lacks the experience of playing at the collegiate level, Amoore excelled on Australia’s U18 and U16 international teams before coming to Tech, and she averaged 11 points and three assists per game for the Ballarat Rush, an Australian version of a club or AAU team. “I think she’s a tremendous talent,” Brooks said. “I think she’s going to be a tremendous player, but obviously she’s a freshman, and she has a lot The COVID-19 pandemic robbed the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team of an NCAA Tournament berth last March, but the Hokies have star power and a lot of intriguing pieces in place to make another run at that goal this season by Jimmy Robertson READY , EAGER TO MOVE PAST LAST SEASON’S HEARTACHE