At first, the story of Virginia Tech’s off-season was more about the players leaving the basketball team via the transfer portal.
Now, Hokie fans are starting to see who is going to take their place.
Not soon after the season ended, Jalen Cone and Joe Bamisile entered the portal, with Cone landing at Northern Arizona University and Bamisile going to George Washington. Today, the portal went the other way as the Hokies got a commitment from the big man they’ve both wanted and sorely needed, 7-foot, 250-pound Michael Durr.
Durr is a transfer from the University of South Florida, the same place the Hokies acquired Zach LeDay back when Buzz Williams was coaching. He was a 3-star out of high school, and in three seasons with USF, averaged 5.7 points and 6.2 rebounds his freshman year, 6.7 points and 6.1 rebounds as a sophomore, and last season had 8.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game.
He is a true center, which Virginia Tech hasn’t had in a long time. Keve Aluma has played the center position, but his style of play is more suited for the 4 position, which this commitment frees Aluma to move to. Both Aluma and Justyn Mutts have been very effective scoring under the basket, but the Hokies haven’t had a true rim protector who mixes it up underneath. This fills that need.
After Virginia Tech lost in the first round of the NCAA’s, many – including me – have pointed out that the team seriously needed two things: a point guard who could score and a true big man. The Hokies have gotten a commitment from Storm Murphy to address the guard situation, as the 6-foot 180-pound guard who averaged 17.8 points per game last season for Wofford now joins proven scorers Hunter Cattoor, Naheim Alleyne and Tyrece Radford to give Virginia Tech quite a backcourt punch.
With Durr, the front court will now be 7-foot Durr, 6-9 Aluma and 6-7 Mutts, giving the Hokies one of the biggest and most potent front lines I can remember. A starting lineup of those 3, plus Murphy and Radford gives you a lineup of not only good shooters, but players who can drive the lane and make matchups difficult for opponents. The days of leaving Wabissa Bede alone and playing a 5 on 4 defense, it would appear, are gone.
This, I must confess, is a remarkable turnaround from just two years ago at this time. Young had just gotten the job, there were four players on the roster, and now there’s a powerhouse lineup (assuming everyone stays healthy) for year 3 of the Young regime while the Hokies still have two more scholarships to give.
Some publications have put out their “way too early” polls for next year and ESPN has the Hokies in the top 10. Others merely have the Hokies somewhere in the top 25, but it shows a sign of respect and anticipation for what the Hokies have done the last two years. By adding Murphy and now Durr, the future looks even brighter.
I’m now at a loss for what more the Hokies need. They have plenty of depth in the backcourt, they have 6-10 John Ojiako, 6-9 David N’Guessan and if he comes back, 6-9 Cordell Pemsl for depth in the front court, and this could be the biggest, deepest team Virginia Tech has ever had. Plus they still have two scholarships left.
It’s simply amazing. And all in only two years.