It’s been quite awhile since the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team had a freshman class quite like this one.
Back in 2007, the Hokies brought in Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell, Malcolm Delaney and Dorenzo Hudson. Each player would go on to successful careers in Blacksburg — and Hudson is still here after a foot injury forced him to stay an extra year.
Fast forward four years to the class of 2011, and the talent has again found its way to Blacksburg.
C.J. Barksdale, Robert Brown, Marquis Rankin and Dorian Finney-Smith represent new life for a program that missed out on the NCAA Tournament each year that 2007 class was on campus.
“I really like this group,” said Seth Greenberg, the Hokies head coach. “They’re invigorating to be around without a doubt.”
Greenberg, who likely won’t start any of his true freshmen, is expecting big things from everybody. In seasons past, the Hokies have relied on one or two main scorers, but that should change in 2011-12.
Leading the freshman charge is the 6-foot, 8-inch Finney-Smith, affectionately nicknamed “Dodo.”
Finney-Smith is regarded in the scouting world as one of the most athletic forwards in his recruiting class. He was recruited as more of a wing than a post player as his build and style of play suggests a small forward in the mold of Terrell Bell, but with much more skill on the offensive end.
The similarities with Bell come with Finney-Smith’s abilities on the defensive end and in transition. Finney-Smith’s 6-foot, 11-inch wingspan allows him to be an impact shot-blocker and offensive rebounder against the shooting guards and small forwards he will likely be guarding.
“He’s a guy who makes other players better,” Greenberg said. “He gets deflections and he comes back and rebounds. He can initiate a fast break and get in the lane and get the ball to other people. He’s a poor man’s Magic Johnson in that he can enhance other people’s games.”
Barksdale, Rankin and Brown — who were teammates last year at Hargrave Military Academy — have a built-in chemistry on campus. Barksdale and Brown were four-star players out of high school, and injuries his junior year held Rankin to a three-star.
Not to be forgotten is 6-foot, 10-inch Joey van Zegeren, a late addition to the Hokies this summer. While he may be raw, he gives the Hokies something they have been lacking in recent years — height.
“(Joey) can really run, and he’s an active offensive rebounder,” Greenberg said. “He’s valuable because he’s a seven-footer — he’s going to challenge every shot going to the basket.”
If the Hokies want to contend for an NCAA Tournament appearance this season, a lot will need to go right. They will need shots to fall and to avoid further injuries, but most of all, the young players to give them something.
Even if 2011-12 isn’t the year it all comes together, the future is shining bright on the hardwood in Cassell Coliseum.