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Virginia Tech's Aluma Testing The Waters With The NBA

Last night, Keve Aluma, Virginia Tech’s leading scorer this past season, tweeted he was putting his name in the NBA hat to see what interest pro teams may have in him.

“I feel blessed to have the opportunity to explore my options and enter my name for the 2021 NBA draft while still maintaining my eligibility as a Hokie,” Aluma tweeted. “Can’t wait to see what God has in store for me and go Hokies.”

I think it’s a good move, as he can see what the response is from the NBA and still return to college with no penalty. Plus I don’t think you have to worry about Keve not wearing orange and maroon next season either.

What Aluma is doing is no different than interviewing for a job you have a slim chance at. If you get it, fantastic. But more than likely in those situations, they tell you why you won’t be considered, tell you the skills and experience the eventual winner will have that you don’t have at the time, and allows you to go back home, develop a game plan, and put yourself in a situation to be ready to take that job a year or two later.

I like Keve doing this because he appears to be a goal-oriented hard worker. The player he was at Wofford – where he played in 68 games and averaged seven points and seven rebounds a game – is not the same player he was at Virginia Tech that averaged 15.2 points per game and 7.9 rebounds. It is clear he spent his red-shirt year working hard on his game, spent a lot of time in the weight room, and had a goal in mind of the player he and Mike Young wanted him to be.

It’s why he reminded me of an old saying about “I worked hard for years to become an overnight sensation” when announcers seemed to wonder where he came from. And I believe he knows he still has work to do if he wants to play in the league that pays you millions.

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Hokies Add The 7-Footer They've Both Wanted And Needed

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.

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Where's The Beef? Maybe Finally Returning To VT DLine...

I'm here to talk about Virginia Tech's 2018 football season.

Yes, I'm aware that season brings back a lot of anger and despair for Hokies fans, but humor me for a moment.

The 2018 season happened to be Ricky Walker's final season in a Virginia Tech uniform. It also happened to be Vinny Mihota's final season in a Tech uniform. Both graduated and moved on after the season.

Mihota had an odd career — he started it at defensive end opposite Ken Ekanem and served his purpose as an edge-setting end that allowed Ekanem to rush the passer on the other side. Mihota would later move inside to defensive tackle out of necessity, forcing the injury-prone 270-pounder into the slog that is the interior.

Unsurprisingly, Mihota struggled. He played in just six games, registered 11 tackles and zero sacks.

Defensive tackle has been a sore spot for the Hokies for the last several seasons. Woody Baron was the last uber-productive tackle to play in a Hokies uniform, though Walker was more than respectable during his tenure. 

But Woody Baron doesn't come around often. You don't find 260-pound defensive linemen who can dominate the interior very often. You need bigger bodies in there and you need a lot of them

For the first time in what feels like forever, Virginia Tech might have the beef.

Among those returning are DaShawn Crawford, Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks, all of whom have flashed at various points. Josh Fuga is also back, as well as Jaden Cunningham and Maxx Philpott. Oh, and Clemson transfer Jordan Williams is in town too.

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Rest In Peace, Coach Schnellenberger

If you follow sports for a long enough time, you end up with 4 or 5 moments that seem to stay permanently etched in your memory. Some are due to last-second heroics, while others are just the confluence of several interesting people at a particular point in time.

The passing this morning of legendary football coach Howard Schnellenberger brought back one of those for me. At the time, Schnellenberger was at the University of Miami before it was “The U”, and he was in the process of creating that transition for the Hurricanes.

He took over Miami in 1979, and in year 2 got his team to a bowl game, beating this group of upstarts from Virginia Tech in the Peach Bowl to finish 9-3. Three years later, “The U” was born, as Miami and Schnellenberger went 11-1 and won a national title by beating Nebraska.

The year before winning the national title, Miami faced Virginia Tech for the second time in three years in Blacksburg. It was a warm September afternoon, and Miami was favored due to a high-powered offense led by quarterback Jim Kelly. The Hokies were a typical Bill Dooley team, with a strong running attack led by players like Tony Paige and Cyrus Lawrence, and a stout defense with the likes of Bruce Smith and Padro Phillips.

Miami did win that day, 14-8. But some things also happened I doubt anyone expected.

The moment I remember took place shortly after the game. Back then, there were no formal press conferences or restrictions on who you could talk with after a game. If you wanted to ask a question of a player, you went in the locker room and asked.

For Miami, the visitor’s locker room was just under the East stands down near the corner of the South end zone. The question of the day regarded an injury to Kelly, who was sacked midway through the game by the Virginia Tech defense and had to leave the game. Since he didn’t return, we all wanted to know how bad the injury was.

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J.C. Price Quickly Having An Impact At Virginia Tech

That didn't take very long.

Just a few weeks after accepting a position at his alma mater, J.C. Price is already impacting Virginia Tech's roster decisions.

C.J .McCray is an intriguing addition. The 6-foot-4 linebacker enrolled at Marshall as a 2020 recruit with academic issues that kept him ineligible last season. McCray took care of those issues, and now is following Price to Blacksburg.

Time will tell if McCray impacts Virginia Tech's program. Any time you can add a linebacker at that height, you're adding someone who could realistically grow into a solid outside backer. He wasn't a highly sought after prospect, but his eligibility issues could have affected that.

More importantly, McCray's decision to transfer shows that Price is being taken seriously inside those coaches' meetings. And that's encouraging.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they take over a management role is hiring only people that they're familiar with and people that think like them. It creates an echo chamber of thinking with almost no dissent or creativity to be found.

Justin Fuente has done this throughout his tenure. His offensive coordinator has followed him around for years. His defensive coordinator coached under him for two seasons. Most, if not all, of his assistants have some prior connection to Fuente's past stops.

Familiarity is helpful, but so is a diversity of thought. That's what Price offers.

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50 Years After Meeting, She's Still A Big Fan Of Bruce Arians

Geraldine Barber had no problem rooting for Tampa Bay to win the Super Bowl and not just because one of her twin sons had played 16 seasons for the Buccaneers.

Her connection with the Bucs' head coach, Bruce Arians, goes back to their college days at Virginia Tech in the early 1970's.

"This whole week is about Bruce," she said in a phone interview from her Maryland home. "I don't want to do anything to take anything from the focus on him because he is so deserving."

Arians' wife, Christine, is another Tech alumna.

"Chris reminded me last year, when we were together at a game, that it has been 50 years since we met each other," said Geraldine, who now goes by Barber-Hale.  

"Bruce was already [at Tech]. I believe this was right after Chris and Bruce had gotten married because they were long-time sweethearts. Before they had gotten married, Bruce and Tiki and Ronde's daddy, [J.B. Barber] were roommates and the first inter-racial teammates to be football roommates there.

"They got to be real good friends and then, when J.B. and I got married, I was taken into that friendship. Bruce and Chris were always there for me. When Tiki and Ronde were infants and were having problems with seizures, I could always count on Chris."

Geraldine later divorced from J.B.  Barber and moved to Roanoke, where she raised her sons as a single mom. 

"I didn't see them for years," Geraldine said of Bruce and Chris Arians. "We kept in touch but I didn't spend any time with them until I was at a [New York] Giants game and I think, at the time, Bruce was coaching with the Indianapolis Colts and they came to Giants Stadium.

"I was coming down to the back of the stadium with parents and guests and Bruce was headed to the visitors' dressing room and I heard somebody say 'G-e-r-a-l-d-i-n-e,' and I turned around and it was him. It was like seeing your long-lost brother.

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Jalen Cone Latest Player To Enter The Transfer Portal

When I heard the news Monday that Joe Bamisile had entered the transfer portal, my first thought was “I’m surprised it wasn’t Jalen Cone.”

Today, it was.

Cone tweeted that he was leaving, saying “I don’t even know where to begin…Virginia Tech has become my second home. I have built relationships that will last a lifetime and learned so many things here. I’ve gained new family and made memories that will never fade. There is no place like Blacksburg and nothing can replace it.

“I want to thank the staff for giving me tremendous opportunities and helping me through this journey. I want to thank my teammates for always pushing me, the great memories, and becoming my brothers for life. To the basketball program as a whole, y’all can never be replaced. To the students and people of Blacksburg, thank you for believing in me and being the best fans ever.

“After prayer, giving it long thought and conversation with my loved ones, I’ve decided to reopen my recruitment and enter the transfer portal.”

It would appear Cone looked at the same stats Bamisile did when looking at potential minutes he might get next season. A week ago, Virginia Tech had 9 guards on its roster when including transfers and signees, and assuming Wabissa Bede doesn’t come back and Bamisile leaving, the number was still 7. Cone’s departure moves it down to 6, assuming the Hokies don’t acquire anybody else from the transfer portal.

Cone played in 15 games this season and started four before missing the final four games of the season due to an ankle injury. The handwriting was on the wall for him, however, in watching the NCAA Tournament game against Florida, just as it was for Bamisile. In that overtime game, 95 percent of the minutes played went to just six players for Virginia Tech, and four of them were guards:  Bede, Hunter Cattoor, Tyrece Radford and Nahiem Alleyne.

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If Fans Could Choose, They'd Sign 50 Players From Portal

At some point, the whole deal with the transfer portal in college athletics is about to turn comical.

Originally created as a clearinghouse to help graduate transfers with a single year of eligibility left find another school to team up with, the effects of COVID have now given college sports true free agency. Everybody got an extra year of eligibility, and everybody got the opportunity to go somewhere else without having to sit out a year.

It has created a combination of Sam’s Club, Costco and Amazon for college football and basketball programs: A one-stop shopping place for everything a coach could possibly want.

Which could be both good and bad.

I have no issue with everyone moving about. My first year at Virginia Tech, I majored in engineering, and while it was a fine endeavor that taught me how to drink so much coffee I could study until 3 AM, I decided after that year it wasn’t for me. I tried business for a quarter (this is why fellow Hokies call engineering “pre-business”) and then found what I enjoyed and was good at: Communications.

Back then, the program was in its infancy, so had I possessed the money or wherewithal, I could have chosen a school like Syracuse or Northwestern to further learn my craft, and no one would have cared. I wouldn’t have had to sit out anything, or be lectured on commitment, etc. I’d have just gone on and lived my life.

Being a relatively poor guy from an Italian family who was told “you can go anywhere you want, but if it costs more than $3,000 for all four years, that’s all we’ve got and the rest is on you,” I stayed in Blacksburg. I’m glad I did, but I had that option, and I think everyone should have it.

Athletes now do. That’s the good news. They have options.

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VT's Brooks Finally Accomplishes Two Long-Term Goals

It took five long seasons, but Kenny Brooks finally accomplished two of his long-term goals that he set when taking the Virginia Tech women's basketball head coaching position.

One was to get the Hokies to an NCAA Tournament. The other was to win a game in the tournament.

Check and check.

A lot has happened in these last five seasons. Brooks inherited a program that had grown accustomed to losing — Tech didn't finish a season with a winning record from 2007-08 through 2014-15 — and accustomed to an early end to the basketball season. Tech broke into the WNIT in 2015-16 under Dennis Wolff, but his contract wasn't renewed after the season.

Brooks' arrival instantly changed the program. He moved longtime point guard Vanessa Panousis to an off-ball role to take advantage of her shooting prowess. He unleashed Sami Hill and enabled her to be the scoring wing player she was capable of being. And he developed Regan Magarity into one of the best players in program history.

Tech won 20 games in Brooks' first season, and the Hokies proceeded to eclipse the 20-win mark for the next three seasons. Last year, they came awfully close to clinching an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2006, but the cancellation of the Big Dance evaporated those hopes.

This year, they came back for more.

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Hokies Won't Get To See What Bamisile Could Have Become

This isn't my idea of what college athletics was supposed to be.

The original purpose of college athletics was a simple one — athletes can attend accredited four-year institutions at no cost to themselves (sort of). In return for them playing a sport and assisting with the marketing efforts of a university, those athletes can earn a college degree, usually a bachelor's and sometimes a master's.

But that's not reality.

College athletics is now a multi-billion dollar industry that will resume its consistent track record of growth as soon as the country returns to normal and exits the lockdown stage. Coaches are often the highest-paid employees by their respective state government, and players are worth their weight in gold.

I don't have an issue with college athletics being big business, but if it's going to be big business, players have to have rights. Pursuing opportunities at other programs has to be one of those.

That's what Virginia Tech's Joe Bamisile did Monday.

The freshman guard announced that he's entered the transfer portal in search of playing time. His decision had nothing to do with the coaching staff in Blacksburg; he just wants a bigger opportunity.

Who could blame the Richmond native? Certainly not me.

Bamisile has every right to look elsewhere to better himself and his professional prospects. And given that he's been class personified since committing to the Hokies in July 2019, he should be given the benefit of the doubt. I wish him nothing but the best.

That doesn't mean I'm happy about this.

Bamisile would have found himself in a crowded backcourt next season with the return of Tyrece Radford, Nahiem Alleyne, Darius Maddox, Jalen Cone and Hunter Cattoor. Oh, and don't forget the additions of Wofford transfer Storm Murphy and incoming freshman Sean Pedulla.

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Bamisile Becomes First Offseason Transfer For Hokies

It wasn’t 24 hours after Virginia Tech lost to Florida Friday that I found myself thinking about what next year’s Hokie team would look like, and immediately thought the team sure had a lot of guards coming back next season.

Too many, in fact.

But rather than write something about who would probably be leaving, I thought “it’s too soon. Let me wait a few days.”

Turns out it wasn’t too soon after all.

Today freshman guard Joe Bamisile announced he is entering the transfer portal, and I seriously doubt it has anything to do with any other factor than Joe doing the same math I did Saturday. There’s a lot of players on the bench fighting for minutes, and there are some who just aren’t going to see as many minutes as they'd hoped to.

The Tech roster right now lists at guard Hunter Cattoor, Bamisile, Wabissa Bede, Nahiem Alleyne, Jalen Cone, Darrius Maddox and Tyrece Radford, which is 7 guards. Storm Murphy will be transferring from Wofford, and the Hokies have signed Sean Pedulla from Edmond, OK. That makes 9.

Bede is probably not coming back, but he can still play another year under the COVID eligibility rules if he wants to. But with him gone, that’s still 8 guards, and Coach Mike Young tends to play a tight rotation where he plays the same 6 players, then works in 2 or 3 more who get 5 minutes or less. Against Florida, 8 players saw action, but two players combined for 11 minutes in an overtime game. The other six saw all the action.

Of those six, four were Bede, Alleyne, Cattoor and Radford. Three of the four are definitely back, and Bede’s minutes will probably be assumed in large part by Murphy, who knows Young’s system and is a much more dynamic scorer. That would leave Bamisile, Cone, Maddox and Pedulla to all fight for whatever minutes remain.

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