2000 Men's Basketball Preview
by Rev. Zeke, 11/15/00
After approximately 3 weeks of the preseason, a few factors have become apparent with this year's team. This team will be a quicker, faster, more versatile and much more athletic team than teams of the recent past. In addition, and even more importantly, this team will be a significantly better perimeter shooting team and a much better ball handling team.
The latter factor can not be overestimated. To employ a fast paced and uptempo style of play, you MUST have multiple players who can handle the ball and pass the ball in the open court. Recent Tech teams have been very limited in that respect. Also, it might be added that in order to increase the pressure defensively like the staff wants to, it requires speed, quickness and athleticism, which also are ingredients on this team. We saw a brief glimpse of the kind of full court pressure that the staff wants to employ in the exhibition game against Latvia Select.
This will be a very young and inexperienced team that lacks a little bit of upper class leadership. In addition, the team obviously also is lacking in brawn and strength. Hopefully, with the renewed emphasis in the college game on cleaning up post play and the mugging and mauling that goes on defensively off the ball, these factors, if enforced by the referees will definitely work in the Hokies' favor.
We should look for a faster paced, quick, defensively aggressive team that will play defense over the entire court. This team should also be a more entertaining and exciting team to watch than in recent years. There are more players who can not only shoot the ball, but also score on this team, and this will help to avoid the prolonged scoring droughts that we saw frequently last year and in recent seasons.
The Big East suffered significant graduation losses as well as early NBA entry losses, so that will help a bit in Tech's initial year in the conference. Wins will be tough to come by, but I think this team will improve as the year progresses and will be helped shortly with the addition of Brian Chase when he returns from injury. Chase adds perimeter shooting, scoring, and most importantly, LEADERSHIP to this team, and it is badly needed with all the youth and new players.
When March rolls around, I think fans should ask 2 questions when trying to ascertain the success of this team:
If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then I feel we can say the season is a success. It can arguably be said that this team is already as good as last years team was at the end of the season.
The record might not end up as good as last year because of the increased competition, but the team will be better. I feel we should look at this year as year 2 of a 4 year project and make sure that all our new players can play at this level. So far, the evidence looks promising on that aspect.
F/C Carlton Carter (Jr.): Carlton is a 6-10 forward/center who will have junior eligibility when he becomes eligible at the end of the fall semester. His first game will be the ETSU game on Dec 18.
Carlton is a transfer student from the University of Colorado who was named to the All-Freshman team of the Big 12 there his freshman year. Look for Carlton to get significant minutes along the front line at both positions when he becomes eligible. He is a fairly good shooter, with range out to the 3-point line.
He is probably at his best along the baseline. Carlton has no real glaring weaknesses to his game, other than needing a bit more strength. He can do a little bit of everything. He is probably the best all-around player that Tech will have in the front court.
Carlton is an intelligent player who is sound in most aspects of the game. He will help the team when he becomes eligible and will add much-needed rebounding help and another interior post defender.
F/C Jon Smith (Soph.): Jon has added strength and weight since the conclusion of last year, especially through the shoulders. He is 6-9 and is best served by operating from the forward position, although he can play a bit of center in a pinch.
Jon needs experience and playing time. He is a very good athlete who runs the court well and is a good and under-rated shooter, with range out to the 3-point line. He still needs additional strength but is a quick leaper and a solid shot blocker inside.
Jon has good basketball skills and simply needs game experience and a bit more confidence. He needs to stay confident and not get down on himself during the course of a game. He can be a very effective player when Tech is operating from its full court pressure.
C Mibindo Dongo (Jr.): "Do" is a junior college transfer from Alleghany Community College in Maryland. He has been playing basketball for only 2 years, hence he is still a developing and raw prospect. He is strictly a Center at this time. He has not yet developed enough perimeter or facing the basket skills to operate from a forward position yet.
Do is a 6-9 player who has a nice jump hook inside and needs a bit more range on his jumper. He has decent hands and his shot, while still needing work, is getting better. Do is a very good athlete who gets up and down the floor extremely well. He is, without question, the strongest player inside for Tech and will play a vital role in defending post players inside during BIG EAST play.
Dongo is a better player than he showed during the exhibition game. At this time, he will not be a huge scorer and will get most of his points on hustle, stick-backs, and lay-ups, but he has enormous room for improvement. It would not surprise me at all to see him playing professionally overseas when he concludes his career here at Tech. He is a strong and quick leaper inside and should be a strong rebounder as well, an area that needs to be fortified. He needs to stay focused and not lose concentration for brief spells.
C Dennis Mims (Jr.): Dennis is a 6-9 forward/center who is a junior and probably the best returning player on the team. Dennis has by far the most game experience of any of the players on the Tech roster.
The key for Dennis is added maturity and keeping control of his emotions throughout the season and during an entire game. Dennis is a tough, hard-nosed player who is a good athlete. He too needs to find consistent focus and stay calm, and avoid being rattled as we have seen him at times in the past.
Mims is unquestionably the best inside scorer on the team and the best shot blocker as well. He is a strong rebounder who will again be counted on to be the leading rebounder for the team. He needs to avoid the foul problems which have plagued him at times in the past. With the added scoring punch provided by the incoming players, Dennis should find operating room a bit easier perhaps to come by in the paint, and perhaps there will not quite be the large amount of pressure on him to score in big numbers as there has been the last 2 seasons, although he still is likely to be the leading scorer on the team. It can probably be argued that IF Dennis stays focused and has a good season, then the team will also find success.
F/G Bryant Mathews (Fr.): "Opie" is a 6-7 freshman forward from South Carolina who can also play a little guard. Bryant is an energetic player who really loves the game. Of the 3 freshmen making their debuts this year, Opie is probably the greenest of the 3. He is very thin and slender, but has excellent quickness and is a good ballhandler.
Bryant badly needs strength at this time, but has good range on his jumper, easily to the 3-point line and beyond. While he is still a bit of a streaky shooter, he will add a perimeter shooting dimension to the team. Bryant needs to be stronger with the ball and value each possession a bit more. This should come with experience and playing time and added strength. He can shoot with both hands and is a hard nosed player, not afraid to mix it up, regardless of his slim build. He has outstanding hands, some of the best you will see and jumps well.
Bryant has to adjust, as most of Tech's new players do, to the increased intensity level of major college basketball. Although Bryant is still young and badly needs game experience, and is still learning how to be effective at this level, he nevertheless has probably the highest ceiling of any of the 3 incoming freshmen. He also might be the most talented player on this team. I look for him to have a very good and productive career here at Tech before he is finished. Opie is definitely a big time talent who just needs time and patience on the part of the fans.
F/G Carlos Dixon (Fr.): Carlos is a 6-6 forward/guard who will probably see the bulk of his playing time this year at the guard position. Carlos prepped for a year at Fork Union Military Academy, and originally signed out of high school with UNC-Greensboro, where current Tech assistant Randy Peele was Head Coach.
Carlos is probably the most polished and prepared to play of the three freshmen. His prep school year helped him tremendously. He, like Mathews, has a slender build and can use some additional strength. Carlos handles the ball well and sees the floor well. He can even play the point if needed, though that shouldn't be the case this year.
Carlos has a natural ease and "feel" for the game that can't be taught. He is smooth and effortless and glides around the court. He has very fluid actions on the court. He can slash to the basket and can finish plays off with the pass or the shot. With added strength, he will able to do this better in the future.
First and foremost, Carlos is a big-time shooter. He can fill it up and has outstanding range, well beyond the 3-point line. He is the best shooter on the team and if left open, can put points on the board quickly. He adds much-needed perimeter shooting to the team and will help extend defenses, thus giving Mims more operating room inside. Carlos is a very important member on this year's team and should have an excellent, consistent and productive career here at Tech before he is finished.
G Drew Smith (Soph.): Drew is a walk-on from Beckley, WV who is starting his second year on the team. He can play both guard positions and might even swing a bit to the small forward position at times, especially early in the year. Drew is 6-4 and is a very smart and heady player.
Drew brings a calming affect to the team when he is on the court. He is not flashy, but consistent. An example of how the team regards him is found in the exhibition game, when he was appointed captain for the pre-game meeting with the officials. This is unusual in the sense of him being both an underclassman and a walk- on.
While Drew is not blessed with outstanding physical skills, he nonetheless will and can be an effective player for this team. He makes sound decisions on the court, stays and plays under control, and knows the offense. He is a lefthander who is shooting the ball very well and with much more confidence than last year. He is good at feeding the post and a good ballhandler, lacking only in quickness. He will log significant and valuable minutes this year off the bench, due to his consistent and steady play.
G Chris Exilus (Fr.): Chris is a freshman point guard from West Virginia by way of Toronto, Canada. He is 6-2 and a "gym rat". Chris is constantly working on his game and has a strong desire and will to succeed and improve. He is still learning the nuances of playing the point guard position, and should steadily improve. He runs the court well and has very good quickness.
In addition, Chris has an extremely quick set of hands, which should make him a ballhawk defensively. He is tenacious defensively and in time should be an outstanding defensive player. He moves well laterally and has good strength.
Chris can break down defenses and penetrate well and is a very good passer, especially off penetration. He is still learning when and how to make the correct pass. He seems most comfortable in a fast paced, open floor style of play. At this time, his shot is erratic. He has a flat shot with an unusual release. He is a streaky shooter, though, who plays and shoots the ball with confidence.
He will be able to play together with Brian Chase in the back court and should be a central figure in the Tech pressing defense. Chris has a bright future and has a chance to be one of the best defensive guards to have played here at Tech.
G Brian Chase (Soph.): Brian is currently re-habbing an injury sustained earlier. He was re-evaluated in mid-November, and the results were encouraging, so encouraging that he may start the season on schedule.
If and when that does occur, Brian will instantly make this team better. He has outstanding leadership qualities, which are needed on the court. It is no coincidence that the fortunes of the team last year changed dramatically once Brian became eligible shortly before Christmas.
Brian will add perimeter shooting to the team and is Tech's best returning shooter. There was great pressure on Brian last year to constantly deliver from the perimeter, and some of that should be alleviated this year with the additions of the new players who add scoring punch and outside shooting.
Look for Brian to increase his assist totals from last year, because he won't always have to always be looking for his shot first. Chase, like Dixon, also has an outstanding "feel" for the game, which more than makes up for his lack of size (he is listed as 5-10 and might even be shorter than that).
When Brian gets on a roll from the perimeter, he can be very difficult to shut down. He is savvy and hard nosed and well respected by his teammates. We also saw Brian take the ball to the glass more as the season went on. Brian should have an excellent season and is a very integral and valuable part of this team. While not necessarily a "pure" point guard, Brian brings too many qualities and intangibles to the floor to not be on it regularly.
F Alex Martin (Fr.): Alex is a 6-5 forward from North Carolina who comes with a reputation of being a scorer. I have only seen Alex in action once before, at Midnight Madness. He has been sidelined with a back injury for an extended period of time, only returning to practice recently. He appears to have a decent shot and we should watch and see if he will be able to consistently get it off against quality competition.
G Odelia Toe (Jr.): Odelia is a 6-2 walk-on guard from Virginia who was a member on last year's junior varsity, or club, team. He is primarily an off the ball guard and that is where he should see his playing time this year. Odelia is a very strong guard physically with a solid build and broad shoulders. He might be looked upon as a situational player who can come in and defend taller, stronger guards that Tech might face. He is a decent athlete who is not a bad shooter.
G Rico Murray (Jr.): Rico is a 6-1 guard who transferred here from Louisburg JC in North Carolina. He is a smart player who has a nice floor game and can knock down an open jumper. He was an effective player last year at Louisburg and will contest for playing time at Tech. Rico does lack strength at this time and has average quickness. He is a nice passer and can do several things fairly well, but he will need to increase his intensity level and adjust to the level of competition to have an impact here. Look for him to get an early shot at situational playing time.
In this final installment, we will look at 2 players who are currently NOT enrolled in school, but might or may not be additions at the end of the first semester. First, let me cover one final walk- on member of this team.
F Fritz Heib (Fr.): Fritz is a left-handed shooting 6-6 forward who hails from Indiana. He is a freshman and was a late addition to the team. Look for him to see his minutes strictly at the forward position. He shoots the ball well and is not afraid to look for his shot. He has average quickness and simply needs some additional strength and toughness and a period of adjustment to this level of basketball.
Now for the 2 possible second semester additions to the team:
F/G Joe Hamilton (Jr.): Joe is currently taking a math course at New River Community College in hopes of attaining eligibility for the second semester. If successful, his first game would be the ETSU game on December 18th, the same game that Carlton Carter becomes eligible.
Joe, of course, is not currently allowed to practice with the team, making his mid- season entrance more difficult (Carter, on the other hand, is currently allowed to practice with the team).
When and if Joe becomes eligible, we can look for him to have an immediate impact. He is a 6-6 slashing forward/guard who can do many things on the court. He takes the ball to the basket well, shoots well from the perimeter and is a nice rebounder as well. He would probably be the recruit who would have the largest impact, should he become available. He adds scoring punch and is a good competitor who will thrive in this playing style. Joe is an excellent all-around player and will be a most welcome addition to the team if he gets in school.
F Danny Gathings (Fr.): Danny is currently not enrolled in school. He is attempting to become eligible by increasing his SAT score. He is slightly shy of the necessary test score. He recently re-took it again and should know the outcome soon (there is still an additional opportunity to retest in early December, if I am correct).
If Danny comes in for the second semester, he too would become eligible with the ETSU game. This is of course predicated on his achieving the necessary SAT score.
Danny is a 6-4 small forward, who while undersized, is a very effective player inside and along the baseline. He is a deadly operator along the baseline. He goes to the basket very well and is a physically strong player for his size. He is an outstanding leaper and would probably be the best on the team. He is a good rebounder who can get tough rebounds and can rebound in traffic, belying his size.
Danny is relentless around the glass. He handles well and slashes to the basket and finishes his forays very well. He is a tough, hard nosed competitor with a nasty streak. The only part of his game that is lagging a bit is his shooting. He is not a poor shooter, but that is an aspect that needs improvement. He is a highly motivated, strong willed competitor who will bring much needed toughness to this team.
That was a lot to absorb, so here's a recap of what you just read:
This concludes the season preview on the Tech team. Tech will be young, inexperienced and lacking in strength. They will show their youth at times and might even be frustrating to watch at others. But, I think we will be a MUCH more enjoyable team to watch and should be a more athletic team that can score better than last year. Rebounding looks to be our Achilles heel along with inexperience at this time. However, should the Hokies get all components in place after the first semester, Tech fans should see a very interesting team by season's end.
Rev. Zeke posts on the TSL basketball message board as "Rev. Zeke Vodka" and knows more about the Tech men's basketball program than most people alive on the planet Earth.