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   Welcome to TSLMail #174 - Friday, May 6, 2005    
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   Tech Sports News

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Hokies Hope Munson's Commitment Start of Something Good
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com

In 2004, Seth Greenberg put together a strong but admittedly patchwork recruiting  class of highly-rated point guard Marquie Cooke, small forwards Deron Washington and Wynton Witherspoon, international player Robert Krabbendam, and JUCO transfer Justin Holt. It was a class that some ranked in the middle of the ACC, a pretty impressive effort for Greenberg's first time out of the gate at Virginia Tech.

A year later, the class has yielded mixed results. Cooke and Holt both had checkered pasts, with Cooke being tagged with the nebulous title "attitude problem," and Holt being a player with a tough personal background who had been to a couple different places and seemed to have trouble sticking anywhere. Both are gone from the program now, Holt dismissed before playing a single minute, and Cooke cut loose at the end of an up-and-down (mostly down) freshman season.

Witherspoon had a very quiet freshman year, so the book is still out on him, and Krabbendam is a physically skilled player who will need to bulk up and develop an attitude to realize his potential. Washington has been the biggest catch of all so far, showing great athletic ability and improving quickly as an overall player.

In all, the class was a take-a-chance group of kids, both skill-wise and personality-wise, with mixed results, as you might expect.

The three-member class of 2005 that has been signed -- Hyman Taylor, Terrance Vinson, and Cheick Diakate -- as a group is less of a risk from a personality standpoint. None are rumored to be attitude problems (Diakate in particular is reportedly the exact opposite, a hard worker with a great attitude), and none of them are transfers or JUCOs who have bounced from place to place or had academic issues.

But they are all projects offensively and will need time to develop their games. They'll bring size and rebounding and shot-blocking ability, but don't count on much scoring early in their careers. As a group, they're a step up personality-wise, but skill-wise, they're a step down or sideways from the 2004 class.

The class of 2006, which received its first commitment from DeMatha point guard Nigel Munson this past week, appears to be the next step in the evolution of Hokie basketball recruiting. The recruits in the 2005 class were less of a risk than the players in the 2004 class, and the class of 2006 promises to continue that improvement by being better basketball players, ready to contribute earlier at the college level.

Nothing about Munson says "project." His scoring average from his junior year at DeMatha (12.8 ppg) is modest, but his assists average (7.7 apg) is strong. And he shot 47% from the three-point line, and an eyebrow-raising 90% from the foul line. And if that's not enough, he led storied DeMatha in scoring as a sophomore before choosing to distribute the ball more this past season.

Munson is a true point guard, the likes of which the Hokies don't have in the program, and his timing is perfect: he'll get to play one season behind Jamon Gordon and Zabian Dowdell before having clear shot at the starting PG job as a sophomore.

Whereas Taylor, Vinson, and Diakate were all players barely on the radar screen of basketball recruiting, Munson is a Top 200 guy who is poised to move into the Top 125 when the next round of junior rankings are released. TSL has in hand an early national Top 125 ranking from Hoop Alliance (we ran one last year and will again this year), and it lists Munson as the #108 player in the nation. At that ranking, Munson won't strike fear into the hearts of the rosters of UNC and Duke, stock with McDonald's All-Americans as they are, but with hard work, he should in time be a solid-to-good ACC point guard, able to hold his own against even the best in the conference.

The good news doesn't stop with Munson. As we have detailed in several articles, the quality of player that is interested in VT for the 2006 recruiting class (current high school juniors, like Munson) is higher quality both on and off the court than what VT has been able to snare in the recent past. A perusal of the Hoop Alliance Top 125 in our email inbox reveals a handful of players that VT has a good shot at signing:

  • SF Jeff Allen (DeMatha, Hyattsville, MD), #74
  • PG Marcus Lawrence (Las Vegas, NV), #111
  • WG Doneal Mack (Statesville, NC), #87
  • PF Shamari Spears (Blairstown, NJ), #103
  • PF Lewis Witcher (Rocky Mount, VA), #123

And that list doesn't include big Lithuanian Karolis Petrukonis, who at 6-11, 260 would be a great pickup for VT. The Hokies have two more scholarships left to give, and to be able to hand them out to kids from that list of a half-dozen players would represent a very good class for VT at this point in the program's evolution.

Again, those kids as a group won't cause knees to quiver among the elite programs in the ACC, but for Virginia Tech, getting Top 125-caliber kids into the program, and keeping them there, and having them develop and play together for four years, will lead to many ACC wins, especially in front of Cassell Coliseum's raucous crowds.

If the Hokies are able to fill all three 2006 scholarships with Top 125-type players, the class can be called a success, given where the program is at this time.

Just as important as signing highly-rated players is locking up those players early. If VT can get two more commitments by July -- a possibility, we're told -- that allows the staff to turn their full attention to recruiting players who are currently finishing up their sophomore years in high school. The best programs in the nation are all over kids from their freshman or sophomore years in high school on. They build their lists early, target the kids early, get commitments early, and move on to the next class.

VT basketball recruiting appears to be evolving (there's that word again) rapidly and progressing at a nice pace. The fan base is energized. If the coaching staff can stay in place, and the recruits can matriculate, stay in school and develop, then the combination of quality, consistency, and experience that is being cooked up at Virginia Tech will create a solid base for the men's basketball program for years to come.

That would be a far cry from the last two decades of VT basketball, marked by shifting conference membership, coaching instability, and alarming player attrition. So keep a close eye on hoops recruiting in the next two months, because two more commitments means that the program is rocking and rolling and headed right where it's supposed to be.

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-- Will Stewart

   TechSideline.com Updates From the Past Week


Gator Bowl to Drop Big East
by Will Stewart, TechSideline.com, 5/6/05, 11:55 am
The Jacksonville Financial News and Daily Record reported Thursday that the Gator Bowl is going to drop the Big East Conference from its lineup and replace them with the Big Ten or the Big 12. The ACC will continue its affiliation with the bowl, which currently selects the ACC's #2 team after the BCS selects the league champion. The new matchup of Big Ten/Big 12 versus ACC would begin with the Gator Bowl that follows the 2006 season, meaning that the current Big East/ACC matchup has just one more year.
in News and Notes

Inside the Numbers: Rating the 1996 Recruiting Class
by Chris James, TechSideline.com, 5/4/05, 4:15 pm
In recent years, Virginia Tech has been known for their focus on in-state recruiting. Frank Beamerís philosophy has been to establish close relationships with high school coaches throughout the state, and his long tenure in Blacksburg Ė and the longevity of his coaching staff Ė has allowed him to do just that. Beamer prefers to recruit through high school coaches that he trusts to give him accurate evaluations of talent, instead of recruiting in another region through coaches that he is not familiar with. Despite this preference, Beamer and staff went out of state to sign a total of 19 players in 1996, while only 9 members of the 28 player class hailed from Virginia.
in TSL Pass

Mini-Camp Reports: Praise for Former Hokies
by Chris James, TechSideline.com, 5/3/05, 10:15 am
Just a week after the NFL Draft, teams held their mini-camps in anticipation of the 2005 season. These were four-day camps over last weekend, and already there is some word floating out about a former Hokies who signed free agent contracts. Bryan Randall decided to head where many of Virginia Tech's NFL players end up: Atlanta. Randall joined the Falcons on Thursday to participate in mini-camp, and while there were mixed reviews, the general consensus is that Randall played well as he began his quest to make the Falcons' roster.
in News and Notes

A Gym Rat's Notebook: A Look Ahead to 2005-06: The Backcourt
by Elijah Kyle, 5/1/05, 11:55 pm
When looking at the overall prospects for the Virginia Tech 2005-06 basketball season, as I complete our look ahead by scrutinizing the returnees in the backcourt for next season, I would be remiss if I didnít mention one fact that looms large over the program. It is a fact that many people are aware of, but nevertheless it still causes concern, even coming off the fine season that the program was able to generate in year one of the ACC.
in TSL Pass

 
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