Showing staying power now next task for Tech men's basketball program
The Roth Report
March 22, 2007
By Bill Roth

While Virginia Tech's 2006-07 basketball team won a lot of big games this year, its biggest victory might have been changing the perception of Tech basketball both on campus and nationally.

Three years ago while flying to Richmond on the school plane for the Hokie Club tip-off banquet, head coach Seth Greenberg bristled when he read an anonymous ACC assistant coach's quote in the publication ACC Handbook that said, "I don't think they'll ever win an NCAA Tournament game at Virginia Tech."

EVER? Greenberg was furious, but that single line, and tone of the article, gave an insight to the perception of Tech's program by those seemingly in the know. Tech basketball, one was led to assume, was to become the ACC's desolate black hole of hopelessness. Turns out that ACC assistant coach, and many other so-called experts, were wrong.

Whether they underestimated Greenberg's coaching abilities, the talent of the players on the team, the incredible potential at Tech, or all three, many observers and coaches in the ACC spent the past couple of years explaining to their constituents that 'those guys are pretty good,' while pointing at Greenberg's troops.

While in Blacksburg to serve as analyst on ABC's telecast of the Tech-North Carolina game back in January, former UCLA coach Steve Lavin told me, "This isn't what I thought it would be. This team, this campus, this school, this job. It's much better than probably anyone would realize without having come here."

Credit Greenberg for that. His initial theme for his team was "let's not just be an opponent in the ACC." He wanted Tech to be a "tough out" on the ACC circuit for even the big boys, and he pulled off that coup in just three years. Tech has beaten every ACC team at least once, finished in the top four of the league twice in three seasons, and finished this past season 7-0 against the five teams that have combined to win the past 19 ACC Tournaments (North Carolina, Duke, Maryland, Wake Forest, and Georgia Tech.)

But what happens next?

The Hokies lose a trio of 1,000-point scorers (Zabian Dowdell, Coleman Collins, Jamon Gordon) who played a zillion minutes (or so it seems) over the past four years. Dowdell was a first-team All-ACC guard and Gordon was the defensive player of the year. Gordon finished his career second all time in steals (to Dell Curry) and second in assists (to Bimbo Coles).

Tech loses a lot, but "we're not going to be one-hit wonders," Greenberg said of his program. His contention that his program is not the 2007 version of Dexys Midnight Runners is based on the fact that Greenberg has a nice core of players returning for next year, and arguably the best recruiting class in school history.

In forwards Deron Washington (12 points per game) and A.D. Vassallo (11.1 ppg), the Hokies return two double-figure scorers. While Cheick Diakite and Lewis Witcher both played limited minutes this season, both showed real signs of promise. Nigel Munson takes over at point guard with a tremendous ability to push the ball and make plays in transition.

But it's the recruiting class, ranked in the top 20 by all the national services, that has Greenberg really excited. The Hokies, in essence, signed one player at each position although the players are somewhat versatile and will be able to man different spots.

Rugged forward Jeff Allen, who is prepping this year at Hargrave Military Academy, is a thick skilled 4-man with a variety of skills. In Hargrave's game against North Carolina's JV team in February, Allen showed the ability to dunk with either hand and off either foot. He's very skilled, and very strong. He also played with Munson at DeMatha several years ago.

Guard Dorenzo Hudson played in the same game for Hargrave and showed a strong body, good passing skills, and a nice shot. He drilled 3's effortlessly and got to the rim with ease. Both Allen and Hudson are ranked in the top 100.

Rivals rated wiry Malcolm Delaney from Baltimore the No. 82 prospect nationally this year. The lanky guard, who was named The Baltimore Sun's Metro player of the year, was in town for Tech's game with Clemson three weeks ago, accompanied by former Tech football star Keion Carpenter, who is also from Baltimore. "Malcolm is going to fit in great here," Keion told me. "He's got the personality to be a great Hokie." Tech loses a kid with a magnetic personality in Dowdell, but may be picking up another in Delaney. He's got that vibe about him that fans will like.

Terrell Bell of Stone Mountain, Ga., is a versatile guy who will be able to play the 3 or 4 in Tech's system. He's ranked among the top 150 players in the country and was offered by many SEC teams. He's rangy and quick.

And finally, perhaps the most intriguing signee, 6-8 (and growing) power forward Gus Gilchrist from Clinton, Md. Gilchrist is ranked 101st in the country by Rivals. At first, Gilchrist was considered just a long, shot blocker, but his offensive skills are blooming and he's getting bigger. Along with Allen and Diakite, Gilchrist gives the Hokies another thick body inside. Tech should be a better rebounding team next year.

Freshmen will struggle with consistency and on the defensive end, but this class has to be the best ever at Tech. Not only are all ranked in the top 150, but all were recruited by other ACC, SEC, and Big East schools. You don't see any 'sleepers' here, per se. All five should be good players. When you include Munson and Witcher from last year, you can see that Greenberg and his staff have signed seven players over the past two years who would've all been at ACC or SEC schools had they not signed with Tech. I'm not sure that's ever happened before in Hokie hoops history.

One-hit wonders have their place. Here in Hokieland, we always dug Starland Vocal Band (Afternoon Delight, which was my personal highlight in Will Ferrell's movie, Anchorman), but Greenberg doesn't want to play that tune. He insists Tech basketball won't disappear again, like some hibernating cicada, which appears only once every 17 years.

Judging by the returning players and the infusion of talent this upcoming season, Greenberg's program will have some serious staying power.

The Voice's Mailbag
Knowing how much our graduating class has contributed to the basketball program over the past years, whom in the incoming freshmen class do you predict will step up and play a role in the team's success next winter? Kevin, Baltimore.

All five freshmen have the look of contributors. Jeff Allen and Malcolm Delaney might be two who help the most right away, but you never know what might happen between now and October. Kids grow and improve. I'm excited to see all five.

Hi Bill,
I just want to give a shout out to Zabe, Jamon, and Coleman. I was at Cameron Indoor Stadium for their first ACC game against Duke, and they got stomped. Then I was there a year later and saw them get one stolen away by a half-court shot. Then I saw them this year finally get one in front of the Cameron Crazies.

I think it tells the story of their careers at Va. Tech. They started out in the basement of the Big East and ended up near the top of the ACC. It sure is going to be different watching the Hokies play and not seeing those three on the court. I certainly want to wish them the best as they pursue their careers after college.

My question, Bill, has to do with recruiting. As I watched college basketball this year, I noticed that there are a lot of talented young men leaving the state of Virginia. Here are just a few examples; Marcus Ginyard of UNC, Tyrese Rice of BC, Bambale Osby of Maryland, Vernon Hamilton of Clemson. Who can forget J.J. Redick, formerly of Duke? There also seems to be a lot of homegrown talent in mid-major programs.

Last of all, I must add Stephen Curry (even though he is not from Va.), who lit up Maryland's guards for 30. Those guys are some of the best defenders in the ACC, by the way. Do you think we will see the basketball program follow the trends of the football program when it comes to recruiting in state? Paul, Dunn, N.C.

I think that's exactly what the Hokies have done. Lewis Witcher was the top in-state recruit last year from Franklin County. Allen (DeMatha, Oak Hill Academy and Hargrave), Delaney (Baltimore), Munson (DeMatha), Gilchrist (Maryland), and Hudson (Hargrave) are all local kids. And I'm glad you were at Cameron for those three games. Those games show the evolution of Tech's program since 2004.

First, congrats to Seth and the team for an outstanding season. Despite the disappointing loss in the NCAAs, this team paved the way for a great future of Hokie basketball, and provided some wildly memorable moments (wins over Duke, Carolina, the Boston College dunkfest, the first ever ACC tourney victory, and an exciting NCAA tourney win against Illinois). Watching Hokie basketball next year won't be the same without Jamon, Zabe, and Coleman. Still, with such a great recruiting class, and with a class act like Greenberg steering the ship, I know great things are in store.

I'd also like to say how much we appreciated your tourney blog throughout the past several days. I wasn't able to make it to Columbus because of affordability issues, but your commentary kept us wonderfully aware of what was happening. I'd like to suggest that you use blogs for future events, such as bowl games, high-profile road trips, ACC tourneys, and hopefully NCAA tourneys for years to come. For those of us who can't be there in person, it allows us to somehow be there in spirit.

Again, thanks for another season of great Hokie basketball coverage. See you in the fall. Jimmy, Richmond.

Thanks for your note. The NCAA Tournament blog was well received. Thanks for everyone who wrote in last week. We're thinking of ways to use that again in the future, and make it even better.

When I went to Tech from 1978-83, basketball was big and football was, well, also big. Well since then, football is huge and basketball has been that spring sport that some football players keep active with until the fall. I believe Seth has turned the basketball program around the corner to a serious ACC and NCAA contender year in and year out. I think no team in the nation can look past VT on its schedule. To completely bring the program to the top, are there any discussions about a basketball stadium upgrade or even a new stadium that would further entice top recruits to the program? Jim, Bristow, Va.

The next major facilities project here at Tech will be a new basketball practice facility, which will house offices, weight rooms, meeting rooms, and sports medicine rooms for both Tech men's and women's basketball teams. No plans for a new basketball arena are on the table, but Cassell has been upgraded over the past few years and is in great shape. The biggest need now is a 'wow' factor for recruits. Hopefully, Tech's Board of Visitor's will approve the plans for the new practice facility that will help Seth and women's coach Beth Dunkenberger tremendously.

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