Chris Hatcher, aka chicagomaroon, of SBNation's Virginia Tech site Gobbler Country dropped in to share his thoughts on James Johnson, Seth Greenberg and the Hokies' upcoming basketball season. Let's see what he had to say:
Streaking the Lawn: James Johnson hasn't coached a game yet, but what's your take on how he's built his team and readied them for the season?
Gobbler Country: Exactly right, Johnson hasn't coached a game as the head coach yet at any level, whether it be college, high school or pro (obviously). It's therefore hard to evaluate him to date except for the his recruiting acumen and his personality. I like his personality. He is a high energy guy, and by all accounts a hard worker. I think players will identify more with him on that basis. Well that and because he's younger. Players typically are able to share experiences more closely with coaches who played within their lifetime. As for his recruiting ability, Johnson has done more than I thought he would be able to do to date. When Seth Greenberg was fired, Montrezl Harrell and Marshall Wood, Tech's only two signees at the time both de-committed. Starting small forward Dorian Finney-Smith, the highest-ranked commitment in program history, also decided to transfer. Furthermore, many of the remaining 2013 targets (with scholarship(s) still remaining) as well as 2014 targets immediately eliminated the program from contention for their services on that basis, leaving the program in a deep hole numbers-wise. Johnson was able to salvage Wood (the lesser recruit in recruitnik's minds), convince senior starting point guard Erick Green not to transfer, as well as the rest of the roster, and has picked up four verbal commitments already for the class of 2013. He also assembled a very underrated staff with not much time to do it in, which resulted in the transfer of a promising young guard that will be eligible for the 2013 season in Adam Smith. So from that standpoint, he has done a more than adequate job in helping the Hokies field A TEAM both this year and going forward. Other than that, there's not much to go off of.
STL: What was your biggest loss from last season's team?
GC: Well that depends. Are we counting head coaches? Assistants? If so, all of those guys. If not, I'd have to go with Dorian Finney-Smith. DFS as he was known by Tech supporters was not a superstar player by any means as a freshman, and probably didn't project as one in the future. What he was however, was a jack of all trades. He was solid at almost every aspect of his game. He was the team's leading-rebounder (7.0 rpg) as a freshman, among the best ball-handlers on the team (a positive assist-to-turnover ratio), a willing passer (62 assists or 1.9 per game), one of the best athletes the Hokies have ever brought in and consequently, a good defender. However, he was forced to play out of position much of the year, often at the 4 (or power forward) despite his slight frame at 6'8" 192 lbs. Even with that, he still managed to be the team's fifth-leading scorer with 209 points at 6.3 ppg.
STL: Who is the newcomer that you think will make the biggest impact this year?
GC: Well, the options are pretty limited here. The Hokies only took one recruit in 2012 due to the firing of Greenberg, so I would have to go with Marshall Wood. Technically you could argue that Joey van Zegeren is a newcomer, after the Dutch freshman played only 10 minutes a year ago before redshirting. Although I expect him to play a larger role, I expect Wood to have the biggest impact.
STL: The Hokies were picked to finish 10th in the league this year, tied with Wake Forest. Fair? Not Fair?
GC: Absolutely fair. This team's starting five should be competitive with most of the league, but beyond that who knows? The backups as of now are a pass-first point guard who had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio last year, the two freshman players mentioned above and a few walk-ons. That's it. In fact, if the Hokies manage to finish 10th or better I think it's fair to say the season was a success based on realistic expectations.
STL: Who does Virginia need to watch out for most this year?
GC: Erick Green, obviously. But beyond that, I would have to say Jarell Eddie, Robert Brown and Cadarian Raines. Eddie is a spot-up 3-point shooter with deadly accuracy, but has been a lot like former Hokie A.D. Vassallo in his development to date. He needs to continue developing his drives to the basket, mid-range game and defense. Brown is an athletic 2-guard who projects as a good defender and likes to get up and down the court. He also loves the 3-ball. Too much. Over half his shots in 2011-12 were 3's, and despite only playing 22 minutes a game, he was only off the team lead in 3-point attempts by nine. Raines is a bulky 4/5 who benefitted a year ago from extended playing time and for the first time in his Virginia Tech career, a clean bill of health. He still has to work on his finishing and post moves, but defensively, he's there.
STL: Which of Virginia's players gives you the most concern?
GC: How about the Mike Scott character? Is he still there? He's not!? Seriously, how long was he there!? Definitely Joe Harris. He's a pretty solid all-around player with scoring ability. Malcolm Brogdon and Akil Mitchell also concern me. They both had pretty good seasons a year ago and with expanded roles they could be key cogs in the Cavs' offense. I want to make it clear though that I am not afraid of Jontel Evans. All the guy seems to do against the Hokies is put up BS 3's. If he's hitting those shots, fine, there's nothing anyone can do about that.