The Virginia Tech men’s basketball team finished its second week of practice Friday afternoon with an open session followed by a scrimmage.
The Hokies looked solid in the 75 minutes of practice, splitting time fairly evenly between offensive and defensive drills. There were some injuries to note, a key freshman making plays and a significant change in leadership.
After two weeks, the Hokies are already a little banged up, but have avoided major injuries through the first couple of weeks. The most notable injuries were to junior forward C.J. Barksdale and junior guard Marquis Rankin. Barksdale was wearing a walking boot and did not participate in any drills with the team.
“Little bit of Achilles tendinitis,” head coach James Johnson said of Barksdale’s injury. “If we had to play a real game situation he could probably go tonight but (for) precautionary (reasons) we’re holding him out.”
Rankin’s injury was the more recent and severe of the two. He suffered a heavy bruise on his shin in practice and was unable to participate Friday.
“He bumped his shin the other day diving for a loose ball,” Johnson said on Friday. “He probably wouldn’t (play Friday) because it happened on Wednesday, so if he we had to play Friday he probably couldn’t play.”
Additionally, freshman Ben Emelogu had ice wrapped on his left knee after practice ended. There is nothing significant about the injury according to Johnson, but the Hokies want to take precautionary measures to ensure Emelogu recovers quickly.
Freshman point guard Devin Wilson of McKee’s Rock, Pa. has made an immediate impact in the first two weeks. After Johnson clearly indicated that there was going to be an open competition for the job of starting point guard, Wilson took note.
“Coach Johnson on my official visit said he’s going to give me a chance to compete whether there’s four point guards or one point guard, so I came in with the mindset of I just wanted to compete for a spot that I thought I could get,” Wilson said.
Through two weeks of practice, Wilson said he feels pretty comfortable after his tenth collegiate practice.
“I think they’re going great. Team wise, I think we’re moving along pretty smooth with all the freshmen that came in. For myself, I believe I’m transitioning well to the college game and that’s all I could really ask for as of now,” he said.
And with the injury to Rankin and freshman Malik Mueller being ruled ineligible for the season, Wilson has to be ready.
“Devin would be the primary ball handler (if we played today),” Johnson said.
The Hokies have named one team captain for the upcoming season, and it’s not who most would have expected.
The team captain is not an upperclassman; in fact, he’s the youngest player on the roster, Ben Emelogu. Though he may be young, he’s made a lasting impact on the team since the beginning of team activities.
“I think from day one when he walked in and we started our workouts on July 6, I saw the respect that the other teammates had for him and I saw how he was vocal and very confident about himself out on the floor right away as a freshman,” Johnson said about his freshman captain.
“He’s been a leader and he can flat out put the ball in the hole, and he can score it off the dribble, shooting, creating his own shot. He’s been a leader, he’s talkative, the guys respect him — he’s doing everything well.”
And it wasn’t just Johnson that was impressed by Emelogu; his teammates noticed too.
“For sure he’s deserving of it,” Wilson said. “Through summer workouts he was easily one of the most competitive people we’ve had on the team. Me and him were pushing each other every drill, all the freshmen were pushing each other but he was always that kind of person who was always talking a little bit more, doing that extra rep so he definitely deserved what he got.”
But Emelogu feels he didn’t do anything extraordinary to earn the role.
“I was just being myself,” Emelogu said. “Coach told me to come in with confidence and just play my game and all the pieces fell in where they were supposed to go.”