BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) Virginia Tech’s second season with coach Buzz Williams is already off to a smoother start than his first, but that doesn’t mean the Hokies don’t have their share of challenges.
Transfer Tyrone Outlaw, one of the top scorers in junior college last season, will sit out this year with an undisclosed medical condition, Williams said, and that status of shooting guard Ahmed Hill is up in the air.
Hill, who started a team-high 30 games last season and averaged 8.7 points, suffered a partial tear of the patella tendon in his left knee this summer and had surgery. His status for the season is unclear.
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The Hokies, who finished 11-22 last season, lost guards Adam Smith, who transferred, and Malik Muller, who turned professional. Virginia Tech will have a couple of transfers on its roster as well: Seth Allen and Zach LeDay, who both sat out last season, and three junior college players.
Allen averaged 13.4 points as a sophomore at Maryland, and the 6-foot-7 LeDay played in 63 games over two seasons at South Florida.
The Hokies have also added three freshman that Williams said will one day be looked upon as the foundation of the future, but on a roster full of underclassmen, the additions of the juniors is most welcome.
”It was a big bite to go through last year knowing you’ve got two empty scholarships for that season, but we hope that the investment in our program’s future was the right play specific to those two,” Williams said of Allen, a shooting guard, and LeDay, a forward. ”But it is much more comforting knowing that they’re both eligible.”
More comforting for the players has been knowing what to expect heading into their second season with Williams, whether during his infamous preseason boot camp workouts, in practice or in games.
”It was way smoother,” said sophomore Justin Bibbs, the Hokies’ top returning scorer at 11.4 ppg.
Here are some other things to watch with the Hokies in year two under Williams:
ALLEN: Allen has scored as many as 32 points in an ACC game and is also an adept passer, and the Hokies will need his outside scoring to stretch defenses as they look to fill the void left by the departures of Smith and Muller, who combined for 122 3-pointers last season. He and Bibbs should give them a solid 1-2 scoring punch.
BIBBS: The freshman dazzled at times last season, even after missing some time with injuries, and his 45 3-pointers were second on the team. He also earned a confidence boost after an invitation to play for the USA Basketball Under-19 team this summer, and is being pushed by Williams to add a leadership element to his presence. Continued improvement by Bibbs bodes well for this season, and for two to follow.
DEPTH: The Hokies weren’t deep enough to play as fast as Williams would have liked last season, and they also were small by any standard. The additions of freshman Kerry Blackshear (6-10) and junior college transfer Johnny Hamilton (7-0) give them some size up front to go along with rising sophomore 7-footer Satchel Pierce.
FREE THROW SHOOTING: Williams tried to put a big emphasis on free throw shooting last season, figuring the more points the undermanned Hokies could score with the clock stopped, the better. The strategy backfired when Virginia Tech was able to convert just 64 percent from the line, a number that has to rise to allow for more success.
SCHEDULE: Williams called this year’s slate a year three schedule in year two, but the bulk of the really difficult games will come in conference play, where the Hokies were 2-16 last season. Using the non-conference portion to build chemistry and confidence on the court and get the young players acclimated will be critical.
Corrects that Malik Muller did not transfer, but turned professional.
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