A Gym Rat's Notebook #6: Trolling for Additions
by Elijah Kyle, 2/18/04

With February and the meat of the conference schedule upon the Virginia Tech basketball team, it brings everyone closer to March, which hopefully will see an occurrence seldom seen around the program in recent years: post season play and a loud send off to the Big East Conference.

With this season approaching the most critical stage, all thoughts aren�t consumed with the present, but rather on the future, as the basketball staff looks far and wide for additional reinforcements to add to the fall harvested class of 6-3 PG Marquie Cooke, 6-7 SF Deron Washington and 6-7 JUCO F Justin Holt, who will have sophomore eligibility when he becomes eligible at the conclusion of the fall semester next season.

While a great deal of time and energy was earlier focused on 6-9 SR C Davis Nwankwo - and still is - recently the staff has started pursuing some other prospects, both high school and in junior college.

Nwankwo remains a possibility for a spring scholarship, but is far from a lock to be the main target. Stanford, Miami and Arizona remain involved and they have been constants throughout the process. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, is the most recent entrant and is trying to decide how much focus should be bestowed upon Nwankwo, while determining whether his play this season is an aberration brought on by outside circumstances, or rather a decline in his play. There is no question among any of the schools involved with Nwankwo that his play has been less than stellar this season, and disappointing to some. The presumed reason is that he is struggling with the pressure of having the process continually loom over his head, along with the obvious distractions brought about with having his parents not sign off on his earlier selection of Arizona.

Another possibility is that Nwankwo might not be the prospect that he was presumed to be as a junior. He has not been as active on the floor as some have hoped, and it will be a leap of faith for many to automatically assume that the family issues will disappear once Nwankwo decides on a college, and his play will be elevated to its previous level. He would certainly not be the first prospect to see his play level off as a senior and have colleges actually prefer his play as a junior, compared to where he appears to be as a senior.

It was mentioned earlier that Virginia Tech was involved with 6-10 SR F Chris Johnson and that remains the case. Johnson indicates that he is interested in Virginia Tech, along with St Bonaventure, George Washington, Florida St, Marshall, Clemson and Vermont. Johnson has not achieved freshman eligibility yet, and that will remain his focus. While Johnson packs only 180 pounds on a 6-10 frame, and appears far from the type front court prospect needed, he is a skilled and productive player who handles the ball like a wing forward, impacts the game inside defensively with his shot blocking and has legitimate three point range. He doesn�t appear ready to step in and be an immediate player to help at the ACC level, but Virginia Tech might be looking at him as a down the road player. Perhaps a year in prep school, followed by a redshirt year, would allow Johnson to get bigger and stronger.

One thing that I am sure the current staff is being deliberate on is the fact that Johnson is a skilled 6-10 kid, and those don�t come along often. What they don�t want to happen is have to answer three years down the road to people asking how you let a 6-10, skilled in-state kid get away from you, at a time when you were looking for front court prospects and the kid had a desire to attend your university.

Another prospect that is starting to attract some attention is Alan Metcalfe, a 6-10, 231-pound SR C/F from Notre Dame Academy in Middleburg, VA. Metcalfe arrived in the U.S. in September from his native England and is still becoming acclimated to the American style of basketball. Metcalfe is a straight A student who has already scored 1080 on his lone SAT attempt. Metcalfe is being recruited by Penn St, George Washington, Southern Illinois, Central Florida, William & Mary, South Alabama, American and Northwestern, in addition to the Hokies.

Metcalfe is an outstanding shooter, with legitimate range out to about 23 feet. He has excellent hands, is a very good defensive rebounder and has the frame that can easily become bigger and stronger and add weight. A number of programs are closely monitoring Metcalfe and are just waiting for him to make the adjustment to the physical style of play that he has found in the States. That can often take as long as up to a year before foreign kids make the full adjustment, and some never do. That is the sole remaining question with Metcalfe, waiting to see if he becomes a more physical and intense player inside, who finishes and plays strongly in the paint.

The newest name that has been added to the Tech recruiting list is probably the best on the list and that is 6-10 SR C Andray Blatche of Syracuse NY. Assistant coach Eric Skeeters evaluated Blatche last week, prior to the Tech-Syracuse basketball game at the Carrier Dome. Blatche did not sign during the fall and is a better prospect than Nwankwo at this time. Syracuse, West Virginia, Kansas, Georgetown and Florida are involved with Blatche, who is averaging 26 points, 20 rebounds and 9 blocks this season. Blatche has a tremendous upside and can be an impact player on both the offensive and defensive end of the court. He is long, runs well, catches the ball, is an outstanding passer and a fine shot-blocker with inside post moves and free throw line shooting range. Blatche has given strong indications in the last month or so that he intends to pursue a prep year to get bigger and stronger, although he is capable of stepping in and helping many programs next year. It is more likely that a prep year is needed because he has some work left to do in the academic arena.

Finally, 6-8 junior F Eric Whitehurst of Oak Tree Academy in Virginia and 6-8, 240-pound monster athlete Rodney Hanna are also in the cross hairs of the staff. Whitehurst unofficially visited last week for the UConn game and has expressed a strong preference for the ACC or Big East. He is a talented 200-pounder who likes Virginia Tech, Old Dominion, Penn St and Syracuse and is a little known national prospect because he attends Oak Tree, which is a home schooled environment. Whitehurst will play this summer for the Boo Williams AAU program.

Hanna, on the other hand, attends Yuba (CA) JC and is a freaky athlete averaging 12.5 points and 8 rebounds a game for a deep and talented Yuba team that has lost just two games. Utah was presumed to be in the lead for Hanna over Bradley, New Mexico, St Bonny, Long Beach St and Cal-Fullerton. The recent announcement by head coach Rick Majerus that he would not return to the Utah bench next year has provided an opening in the recruitment of Hanna, with Virginia Tech becoming interested.

Editor's Note: To view info on VT basketball prospects, please see our basketball recruiting database. Please note that the database is not complete and may not be fully up to date on prospects' level of interest, offers, etc., but it does contain info about most recruits VT is looking at. The database is not yet linked into the main areas of the site, so please bookmark it!

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