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Should Hokies Seek Big Man?

Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:04pm
  • James Johnson (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
     James Johnson (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
By: Virginia Tech Insider

BLACKSBURG – In early September, it would’ve been fair to wonder exactly which direction Tech men’s basketball coach James Johnson and his staff were headed with their class of 2014 recruiting efforts.

There weren’t many known ’14 class players who seemed to have Tech at or near the top of his list of college choices. Then, in one mid-September flurry, Tech picked up solid commitments from Justin Bibbs, a 6-5 guard from Montverde, Fla., and T.J. Lang, a 6-7 forward from Mobile, Ala., who is the son of former Duke forward Antonio Lang.

Both players are classic upside players – guys who lacked scholarship offers from elite programs but who possess skills and have shown enough promise to possibly project bright futures.

Is there a 2014 big man that could fit into the same category for Tech? At this point, it remains to be seen if one will emerge, but no 2014 power forward or center with significant interest in Tech readily jumps out.

Of course, the lack of a big body on Tech’s recruiting board could be a product of where Tech’s coaching staff has placed most of its attention. With commitments from Bibbs and Lang, it’s clear Johnson and assistant coaches Ramon Williams and Kurt Kanaskie – the trio that forms the core of Tech’s recruiting team – were focused on stocking the Hokies’ at the wings.

With the addition of 6-9 incoming freshman forward Maurice Kirby and 6-11 incoming freshman forward Trevor Thompson, Tech has players it can work with in the low block, but neither player comes to Blacksburg with much of a reputation as an offensive presence. Finding that kind of front-court player is going to be a challenge for Tech, which likes to run the floor and run quick offensive sets under Johnson.

Tech has reached by making offers to 6-10 center Chinanu Onuaku from Upper Marlboro, Md., and 6-11 center Idrissa Diallo from Los Angeles. Both players are considered by most recruiting analysts to be among the nation’s top-130 players in the 2014 class, but neither player has much interest in Tech.

Onuaku has shown interest in offers from Georgetown and Louisville, while Diallo is checking out offers from California, UCLA and Southern California. If Tech hopes to sign a big man in the 2014 class, it’ll have to look more along the lines of a player with more athleticism than true bruising ability.

Ryan Skovranko, a relatively unheralded 6-8 forward from Pittsburgh, Pa., has an offer from Tech. Despite his length, his ball-handling ability makes him a player who projects as a wing at the college level.

Tech has also looked at 6-8 forward Ryan Luther from Allison Park, Pa. Luther also has a twin brother, Collin, but the two aren’t planning on attending the same college. Ryan has offers from Tech, Dayton, Pittsburgh, Iowa, George Washington, Duquesne, Bucknell, Buffalo, William & Mary and New Hampshire.

Bringing in Kirby and Thompson may not make getting a low post player a top priority for Tech - which also has 6-8 sophomore Marshall Wood, 6-10 sophomore Joey van Zegeren, 6-8 junior C.J. Barksdale and 6-9 senior Cadarian Raines - but unforeseen attrition is at epidemic levels in college basketball these days with players transferring at the drop of a hat. Picking up quality front-court players when it can get them would be a good move for Tech’s coaching staff. 

Indoor Football Facility Coming

By the start of the 2015 football season, Virginia Tech will have finally caught up with its rivals in Charlottesville and more than half the ACC.

Those have to be frightening and frustrating words for any self-respecting Hokie fan, but it’s the truth when it comes to the football facilities arms race in the conference. Eight ACC schools have indoor practice facilities designed specifically for football, while three other schools – including Tech – share an indoor facility with other on-campus athletic teams.

Virginia has equipped itself with a $14.7 million indoor football practice facility it opened in March. It’s a particularly irksome development for Tech faithful, considering UVa announced plans to build its facility after Tech originally discussed its own plans in August 2011, but UVa got its facility built and put it to use long before Tech even broke ground on its own.

Now, Tech is getting into the act after finally designating a suitable on-campus site for its $25 million facility that appeases both pigskin junkies and tree huggers alike. Tech hopes to have the facility ready for use by August 2015.

The two-year hold up in construction, which will be closer to three years by the time the hammering and digging actually starts, was due to Tech’s need to find a site for the facility that wouldn’t threaten the lives of several nearly 300-year-old old-growth white oak trees.

“It was a bit of a fight that if you had to do it over again, you wouldn’t want to do it that way, but it happened,” Tech associate athletic director for internal affairs Tom Gabbard said. “We got through it. We struck a compromise that everybody is happy with, and let’s get on with this thing.”

So, now that Tech has its plan in place for the football facility (which still has some serious obstacles to overcome because the chosen site will require reconfiguring of Tech’s outdoor football practice fields and the movement of a major communications line under the practice fields), is Tech done with its significant donor-generated athletic facility construction projects for the foreseeable future?

Tech has its state-of-the-art basketball practice and administrative facility. It has the luxury suites, fancy new press box and academic support facilities for student-athletes in the football stadium.

As part of the indoor football facility construction, it’s getting the Rector Field House indoor track and field facility refurbished. Could a serious facelift to the early 1960’s era Cassell Coliseum be next on the list?

While the basketball gym is certainly outdated, it does have a certain charm on game nights on the rare occasion when the place is packed. A more pressing need would be to upgrade the ancient coaching offices of several of the non-revenue sports contained within Cassell Coliseum.