Yesterday Virginia Tech basketball picked up a commitment via the transfer portal from Robbie Beran, a 6-9 forward-center from Northwestern, and I’ve got to say, I’m probably more impressed than most are about this.
The Hokies definitely got some good players out of the transfer portal in 6-7 ODU transfer Mekhi Long, 6-7 UNC transfer Ty Nickel (who the Hokies really wanted last year) and Beran. But it is the roster strategy that Coach Mike Young is employing that makes this latest commitment pretty special.
If you were at a bar doing a sports trivia contest, I’m willing to bet one question that would stump most would be “when was the last time Virginia Tech had a really good big man?” It would be an equally tough question for a lot of other programs too because to have a good big man, you have to be patient.
Rare are the big men who come out of high school ready to play, and they almost exclusively go to the blue chip programs, stay for a cup of coffee, then go on to the pros. You can find big people to recruit, but then you have to build them into the player you want them to be, which usually takes 2 or 3 years.
All big people when young have a growth spurt. I can tell you from the one time I started the school year at 5-8 and finished the seventh grade at 6-4, the coordination needed to just walk down the street is a bit challenging. To then learn how to play the game, develop the strength to play at a high level, yet still maintain the footwork and quickness it takes to not just be a monument under the basket takes not only time, but a lot of work.
So if you want consistently good big men, you have to develop a pipeline. Too many schools get a big man, throw him out on the court to sink or swim, then when they don’t perform immediately, sit him down to watch. The player gets frustrated and with the transfer portal these days, it makes for a lot of movement by big men.
On top of that, big men get injured. I can only say from that year I grew that much, my knees were on fire all the time and when you play sports against bigger more experienced players, those knees are going to take even that much more of a pounding. All the time and teaching in the world won’t matter if you aren’t healthy enough to actually play in live game action.
Beran gives Young that pipeline for the first time since he’s been in Blacksburg. He’s a legitimate 5 who can shoot, rebound and defend other teams’ big man. In the past, good shooting 4s like Keve Alumna and Grant Basile have ended up having to play center because the Hokies didn’t have anybody ready.
Now they do.
But as the ShamWow guy used to say, WAIT! There’s more.
If you’ve followed the progress of Lynn Kidd, he’s gotten better and better since coming to the Hokies and he’s close. He started at Clemson, only played 10 games his first season, but got in all 34 games last year and he improved every month. There is now the option to play Kidd at the 4 and Beran at the 5 (or vice versa) where they both get minutes, Kidd learns from Beran, and in his final year he should definitely be ready for the middle to take Beran’s place, if not sooner
Then there’s Patrick Wessler, a 7-footer who was red-shirted last year, and will probably get the same 10-game parcel of action Kidd did in 2021-2022. Hopefully he improves to play alongside Kidd next year, then HE is ready to be the big man in the middle.
Injury and life in general can derail any plan, but Young has one and it’s a good one with the addition of Beran.
Then maybe one day that sports trivia question will be a lot easier to answer.