A Gym Rat's Notebook #1: Hey, Brother, Can You Spare a Big Man?
by Elijah Kyle, 1/6/04

TechSideline.com is pleased to announce the addition of Elijah Kyle to our staff of writers. Elijah will be covering basketball and basketball recruiting for us, and he brings great knowledge and an insider's perspective to the site. For his first "Gym Rat's Notebook," Elijah talks about Tech's hunt for a big man for the spring signing period. Welcome, Elijah!

It's becoming increasingly clear that the Virginia Tech basketball team is in dire need of some brawn and size for next year, and the staff is earnestly hitting the road trying to uncover an inside prospect who can step in and garner early significant minutes next year.

Unfortunately, a significant number of post prospects have committed or signed during the early period, leaving a scant few remaining who might be able to play at the ACC level, which will be the new residence of Virginia Tech next year.

Once you get past the names of 6-10 C Davis Nwankwo of Maryland, 7-0 C Robert Rothbart of California, 6-9 F Hatila DeSouza from North Carolina, 6-9 F/C Jerome Habel of Maryland, 6-8 F Tyrus Thomas of Louisiana, 6-8 Texas F/C Kevin Langford, 6-7 Tennessee C Frank Holmes, 6-8 F/C Jerome Johnson of Florida, and 6-9 F/C Walter Sharpe of Alabama, there is really very little left to choose from among front court players who look like they are ACC caliber players, and there is even some question concerning whether all of the above-mentioned names can play at the ACC level. In short, so few players available to divvy up among so many schools looking to fill inside needs next year.

Virginia Tech continues to recruit and remain involved with Davis Nwankwo. Staff members from Virginia Tech have been seen at several of Nwankwo's games during December, but his play has been inconsistent thus far this year, and there remains the concern about whether his family situation will hover again over his possible selection.

Tyrus Thomas was an early target of Tech, but he remained uncommitted after a fall official visit to Blacksburg, and now appears to be a spring signee, with Tech not being actively involved.

Tech did have a staff member on hand at the City of Palms Classic in Ft. Myers FL just prior to Christmas to watch 6-8 Jerome Johnson play, and he is a possible target. Johnson was being recruited earlier by Tech after his summer play, and Tech has again started evaluating Johnson, who attended school in Maryland last year and is now at Bradenton (FL) IMG Academy.

Rothbart, Langford and Holmes are players that Tech has not been involved with in the past at all, and getting involved at this stage would seem to be a long shot, thus leaving DeSouza, Habel and Sharpe as more likely possibilities.

Jerome Habel is a name that has been on the target list of Tech since early summer, when Habel impressed during the Peach Jam in Augusta SC in July. He is an athletic running forward who might not possess the bulk that the team craves, but nevertheless is someone who will be carefully scrutinized. At a tournament in Delaware after Christmas, first assistant coach Eric Skeeters and then head coach Seth Greenberg were seen watching Habel play. He currently favors Florida St and Cincinnati, but his coach has sent out signals that Tech would be a program of interest for Habel.

DeSouza is a scoring forward who has good size at 6-9 and 225 pounds. Virginia Tech has been recruiting DeSouza for quite some time but has not been able to get on his short list yet. Mississippi St might be the slight leader at this time for DeSouza, who plays at Laurinburg (NC) Institute.

The final name and the newest on the list for Virginia Tech, is that of skilled F/C Walter Sharpe, a 6-9, 215-pounder from Birmingham (AL) Parker HS. Sharpe was thought to have narrowed his list of schools down to Auburn, Alabama and UAB prior to the fall signing period, and it was generally expected that he would sign with one of those three. Surprisingly, he did not sign at all, and while he still mentions those three schools, the fact that he didn't ink his name with any of the three might indicate that he isn't pleased with his choices. Tech, along with many others, is trying to become involved with Sharpe, and 3 separate staff members have watched him play in the last two weeks. Assistant coach Ryan Odom was seen in Ft. Myers watching Sharpe prior to Christmas, then assistant coach Eric Skeeters was seen in Delaware watching Sharpe on the 27th, followed by head coach Seth Greenberg watching Sharpe on the 28th, when he became the first head coach in attendance in Delaware.

There could be more names that will unveil themselves as we continue to kick off the new year, but any new names that are added are more likely to be either junior college names, or mid-year foreign kid enrollees. Obtaining an interior prospect to add to the three prospects added in the fall appears to be a significant priority for Greenberg and his staff, with Greenberg himself getting out on the road as much as any head coach in December.

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