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Have you noticed what’s going on at Texas A&M these days?
Before we go any further, this is not a story to bash former Hokie Coach Buzz Williams. It’s also not a story to suggest any of these players mentioned are coming to Blacksburg.
But a few things have happened that seem interesting. At least to me they are.
One is Jamie McNeilly reportedly leaving the Texas A&M staff to take a similar position under new head coach Ben Johnson at Minnesota. McNeilly was with the Hokies as an assistant under Williams for five years in Blacksburg, and was the backbone of Williams’ Canada connection. He was the key assistant in getting future NBA player Nickeil Alexander-Walker to come to Virginia Tech.
McNeilly then went with Williams to Texas A&M and has continued that connection to top Canadian players. All told, McNeilly was with Buzz for 13 years including his time on Williams’ staff at Marquette. But now after all that time together, he’s making a lateral move to Minnesota.
I’d have thought when they broke up the band between them, McNeilly would be leaving for a head coaching job.
At roughly the same time, the two players on the Aggies’ roster who are from Canada – Emmanuel Miller and Cashius McNeilly – both entered the transfer portal. Both have slight ties to Virginia Tech as Miller – who was Texas A&M’s leading scorer last season – signed with Virginia Tech while Williams was still the coach in Blacksburg. He asked for and was granted his release, then he followed Williams to the Lone Star State.
Cashius McNeilly is Jamie McNeilly’s nephew. His Dad is a highly successful coach in Canada, and Dad and Uncle have had a huge influence on his basketball career. Undoubtedly during his Uncle’s 5 years at Virginia Tech, Cashius saw a game or two in Cassell Coliseum.
The timing sure makes it look like a package deal, so don’t be shocked if all three end up in Minnesota.
What is curious to me is why McNeilly would go there as an assistant. The Minnesota HC has never been a head coach, and was just named to the position on March 22. McNeilly is bringing a wealth of experience, and it looks like a boatload of talent with him, so why settle for being an assistant when he’d be a great fit as a head coach in so many other venues?
Texas A&M also got a commitment in late January from UConn’s Javonte Brown to transfer to A&M. He’s a 7-foot-1, former 5-star from Toronto who only averaged 2 points a game in very limited playing time. He said in announcing his transfer decision that he was looking for more playing time.
I’d have to think McNeilly was involved in this too.
So here’s the riddle: Why would an assistant coach, after 13 years with the same HC, who is responsible for three very good players from Canada – an area he specializes in – leave a program for a lateral move to a school with 4 losing seasons in the last six years, to work under a person who has never been a head coach before and been on the job for less than a month?
That riddle gets better, too, if all three of these Canadian players end up in Minnesota by fall. Why would McNeilly do all this to help Minnesota? He’s from Canada and he played collegiately at the University of New Orleans.
I don’t know the answer. But it feels like something's going on…
Kinda like Steve Roccafort(?) Leaving VT for ECU. I think Buzz also gave Jamie credit for a lot of the great inbounds plays they ran. Jeff Reynolds leaves VT for Texas A&M then Buzz gets rid of him I think. Isaac Chew left VT for A&M also if I remember correctly. Is he still there? As intense as Buzz is it might be hard to work for him I dunno. Lot of moving around anyways.
In Steve Roccaforte's situation, I believe there was a difference of opinion on talent evaluation and Buzz invited Steve to check out real estate opportunities in Greenville. It seemed like Isaac Chew left for A&M and ended up being sort of an advanced scout for Buzz when he eventually took the A&M job a year or two later. That's my curiousity. Did Jamie and Buzz have a falling out? Or is he an advanced scout and in two years Buzz goes to Minnesota if things don't work out in College Station? Or is this all needless conspiracy theory conjecture?
Meant to leave this trivia answer here. Where was Jeff Reynold's 1st head coaching job? Right here in Hillsville at Carroll County High School where he was an assistant to Dave Bentley who left for Clinch Valley, now UVA-Wise, and Jeff was promoted.