Wabissa Bede’s decision to stay at Virginia Tech under new head coach Mike Young is part of a long line of acquisitions the team has made since coach Young’s introduction on April 7, yet this move feels different from the rest.
For starters, Bede was a four-star, top 100 recruit who committed to Buzz Williams’ program, not Young’s. He had no obligation to stick around for the new regime that’s trying to piece together a team consisting mostly of raw but talented underclassmen, yet he did.
While Bede has yet to find his stride as a scorer, if he ever does, he has found a role in the starting rotation as arguably the team’s best on-ball defender around the perimeter. Bede’s 98 defensive rating was the fifth highest on the team last season and should improve even more as the team looks for someone to lock in on opposing teams’ primary ball-handler.
There’s a reason Bede’s a fan favorite in Blacksburg, and it’s because of the scrappiness and edge he provides as a defender. Think of NBA players like Tony Allen, the centerpiece of the Memphis Grizzlies’ “grit and grind” philosophy, or Patrick Beverley, the agitating, in-your-face guard from Chicago who has stuck around the NBA for the past seven seasons because of his defensive ability. What these guys all share is high-energy defensive effort that you just can’t teach. While none of those aforementioned players have ever necessarily dominated on the offensive end, it’s hard seeing their respective teams win on a night-to-night basis without them.
Sure Bede only scored in double figures just two times last season in 35 games, but he still remained a reliable presence on the court, especially in the wake of Justin Robinson’s 12-game absence toward the end of the season.
Of all players on the team who played in at least 25 minutes per game last season, Bede was the second lowest average of turnovers per game only to Ty Outlaw, committing just 1.1 turnovers per game on the season. That’ll be big for a team expecting to give out key minutes to freshmen guards Jalen Cone and Hunter Cattoor, who are most likely going to hit some first-year speed bumps along the way.
Maybe it’s a bit rash to consider this the team’s best move of the offseason, especially with Kerry Blackshear’s decision still on the horizon and no one expecting the Hokies to be completely out of contention for his services next season, but as of right now, I can’t think of a bigger offseason victory than Bede’s decision to stick around.
With two years left of eligibility, it’s hard to see Bede being the exact same player we’ve seen since his arrival two seasons ago. Maybe his jumper does improve, maybe he’ll find more success as a playmaker in his natural position at point guard or maybe I’m wrong and he does continue to be the high-effort defender that sees his contributions go beyond the eye-test of gaudy box score point totals. Whatever production we’re going to get next season, expect nothing less than a guy who leaves everything out there on the court for his team and his new head coach.