Monday, April 10, 2000
by Will Stewart, HokieCentral.com

Stokes Clears the Bench

Last week, those who follow Hokie menís basketball were surprised by what seemed like a flood of player defections, with three athletes notifying the press that they would be transferring away from Tech: freshman guard Tony Dobbins, sophomore forward Rodrigo Viegas, and redshirt junior forward David Whaley:

List of Tech defections increases Ė The Roanoke Times, 4/7/2000

There was a lot of concern expressed on the message board about the transfers, as posters wondered just who in the world was going to actually suit up for Tech next year, or if the defections were some sort of indication that the team was unhappy with Coach Stokes.

Indeed, with Dobbins, Viegas, and Whaley all leaving, the Hokies are suddenly thin on numbers. A look at the team roster from HokieSports.com reveals that it has been all but gutted by graduations and transfers. The following table shows the status of the 12 players on the team at the end of the year, with players lost appearing in italics

Player

Returning?

Comments

Brian Chase

Yes

 

Tony Dobbins

No

Transferring

Brendan Dunlop

No

Eligibility expired

Jermaine Kimbrough

No

Eligibility expired

Dennis Mims

Yes

 

Andrť Ray

No

Eligibility expired

Rolan Roberts

Yes

 

Drew Smith

Yes

 

Jon Smith

Yes

 

Rodrigo Viegas

No

Transferring

David Whaley

No

Transferring

Russ Wheeler

No

Eligibility expired

Note that the list doesnít include freshman Brian Felts and redshirt sophomore Clint McPherson, both of whom left the team shortly after practice started this past fall. It also doesnít include Keith Willis, who played sparingly before quitting the team to concentrate on football.

Thatís over 50% (7 of 12) players gone from this yearís roster, and if you include Felts and McPherson, itís 9 of 14 since the beginning of last season (9 of 13, really, because Drew Smith wouldnít be on the team if Tech had a full complement of 13 players).

And thatís all we know at this point. Itís only early April, and anything could happen between now and next year, but at this point, it looks like Chase, Mims, Roberts, and Jon and Drew Smith will be the only five players back next year.

I donít think thereís anything sinister or particularly remarkable going on here. I think youíre just seeing the natural housecleaning that a new coach does. Itís just that in Stokesís case, he had to wait a year before he could clear the bench of some of the players Bobby Hussey had recruited that Stokes didnít want to keep around.

I think most people thought that when Felts and McPherson left, that was the extent of Stokesís actions with regards to the players he had inherited, but it turns out that it wasnít. It was only just the beginning. When he was hired, Stokes didnít have much time to work with and couldnít recruit his own players for his first year, so he probably kept around the ones he felt fit the best and that could help in his first season.

But now itís "out with the old, in with the new," and with a full year of recruiting under his belt, Coach Stokes is quickly moving to fashion a team of his own players. And to be honest, Whaley and Viegas, who barely played against A-10 competition, would have been little more than practice players from here on out, after Tech enters the Big East starting next year.

The loss of Dobbins raises a few more eyebrows. Dobbins started 16 games and scored in double figures 5 times. At times, he impressed me with his aggressiveness down low when rebounding, but offensively, he looked like he still needed one or two more seasons of major college ball before he would even begin to be effective. And listed at 6-4, 180 pounds, he looked awfully skinny, although Iím not sure that matters a lot at the guard spot.

In any event, Dobbins didnít feel like Tech was the right situation for him, and thatís that. He may have developed into a good player here at Tech, but weíll never know.

Next year, the Hokies will add at least five more players:

Player Position From

Chris Exilus

6-2 guard

North Marion WV

Carlos Dixon

6-6 wing-forward

Salisbury NC via FUMA

Danny Gathings

6-5 wing-forward

Winston-Salem NC via Hargrave

Bryant Matthews

6-7 wing-forward

Columbia SC

Carlton Carter*

6-10 center

Trenton NJ via transfer from Colorado

*not eligible to play for Tech until December 2000

The late signing period opens Wednesday, and Tech may sign 1 or 2 more players, bringing the total to 6 or 7 coming in next yer. The Hokies almost need to sign more players, to give them more than 10 bodies to practice with.

And oh-by-the-way, Tech received a verbal commitment from 6-7 Anthony Ighodaro, who still has one more year of high school basketball and wonít enroll at Tech until the fall of 2001.

So help is on the way to fill out the roster, and I donít think last weekís transfer announcements are any cause to ring the alarm. But they do point out that the Hokies are a few years away from being competitive in the Big East, probably more years than anyone around here wants to admit. I know one thing: my own personal opinion is that the end of the tunnel is not in sight.

I thought that Tech basketball had hit its low point with Bobby Husseyís last season, in which the team logged a losing record and only put 4000 fans in the seats per game (a generous number, given that attendance at Tech is based on tickets purchased, not fans in the seats, which often leads to inflated attendance figures, as Techís season ticket base of roughly 2000 fans mostly stays at home).

But then came Ricky Stokesís first year as head coach, and it was eerily similar to Husseyís last, with the only difference being that Stokesís first team eked out a winning record as lame-duck Atlantic 10 Conference members. The attendance figures were almost exactly the same in Cassell Coliseum, but it seemed as if there was even less interest in the program, something I didnít think was possible.

So weíre all looking for some sign of hope and improvement, but that will be a long time coming. Tech is getting ready to enter the Big East with a roster packed with freshmen and sophomores, a single senior (Roberts) and one player of impact caliber (Mims).

Itís possible that the Hokies hit rock bottom the past two seasons, and that things will only improve from here. But itís also possible that Tech has one or two more downward dips to take before things start picking up in the Cassell again.

Tech Bytes

  • There was no football scrimmage this past weekend. The Spring prospectus released by the athletic department shows a scrimmage scheduled for April 8th, but Tech only had a regular practice.
  • There will be a rally at Greg Roberts Sports Club/Boomerís Deli in Roanoke the night before the Spring game. For full details, click here.
  • We have been quietly making a lot of updates to HokieCentralís pages over the last few weeks, and we have more planned for the spring and summer. For example, new links have been added near the top of the Football Page for Recruiting Info, Spring Game/Tailgate Info, and BB/BS Tickets, and here are some things you may have missed on the left-hand border of the Football Page:
    • In the "Schedules" links: archived game reports for 1996 and 1997 have been added, and thereís a Composite Schedule link that shows a schedule for Tech and all of the 2000 opponents in a grid format.
    • In the "Lane Stadium" links: thereís a Ticket Allocation link that shows the seating and number of tickets for various groups at the Tech football games: students, season ticket holders, etc.
    • In the "Television Info" links: thereís a new Revenue Figures link that tells you how much money is paid for each type of football TV appearance. Weíll track how much money Tech will make off of TV appearances as the season progresses, so keep an eye on this page.
    • the Strength and Conditioning link has been relocated from the bottom of the Football Page to the "Player Info" links in the left-hand border.

          

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