Reflections on Erick Green’s Great Season on a Terrible TeamPosted by KCarpenter on April 23rd, 2013
Virginia Tech was not very good this past year in the same way that Michael Jordan was kind of competitive. During ACC play, the Hokies went 4-14 in the conference and 13-19 overall. This team once lost at home to Georgia Southern, a team with a putrid 7-11 record in the Southern Conference. They were easily the worst team in the league defensively and could generously be called mediocre on offense. As a team, this season was a disaster. But for its senior captain, Erick Green, 2012-13 was a season of individual brilliance.
Basketball is a team sport, and it’s understandable that some people have a problem praising a player on a team that was, by all accounts, wildly unsuccessful. It’s a reasonable way of thinking, but it overshadows real talent and brilliance. Yes, Green didn’t transform his squad into a championship contender, but if that’s the bar, it’s set impossibly high. The truth is that Green put together one of the most sensational seasons in college basketball.
Let’s talk all-around offensive prowess first. Of players who used more than 28% of their team’s possessions, Green was ranked fifth in offensive efficiency in all of Division I basketball. The national leader was cult hero Nate Wolters of South Dakota State. The three players between Wolters and Green? Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk, Creighton’s Doug McDermott, and Michigan’s Trey Burke. You may have heard of them, as they were all named First Team All-Americans this season. It’s easy to scoff at the idea that Green belongs in this group’s company, but the senior compares very well to these other big-name high-volume and high-efficiency scorers.
It’s important to emphasize the “scorer” part of the equation: Green lead the nation in scoring at 25.0 PPG, which marks only the second time in history that an ACC player has done so. The only other? Grady Wallace of the 1957 South Carolina Gamecocks, who managed to top Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor in that year’s scoring race with 31.3 PPG. Even in recent history, Green’s scoring prowess is hard to match, especially in conference play. In the past 15 years, only one other ACC player managed to surpass the 25.0 PPG barrier: Duke’s J.J. Redick scored 26.8 PPG in his sensational National Player of the Year season in 2005-06. Of course, even then, it’s fun to note that Redick’s 120.2 offensive efficiency for that season is awfully close to Green’s 120.0 mark this year. The only other two ACC players who even come close to Green and Redick during the same time frame are Tyler Hansbrough and Antawn Jamison, who also were awarded National Player of the Year honors in their conference-leading scoring seasons.
It’s a strange thing to fathom, using these legendary names as a point of comparison for Green, but the numbers by themselves speak loudly. It feels easier to compare Green to a player like Terrell Stoglin who was the conference’s scoring leader for an unimpressive Maryland team in 2011-12. In terms of his role (scoring champ on a weak team), maybe that’s fair, but in terms of ability and efficiency, it’s dead wrong. Green was a better scorer than Stoglin by literally every possible measure. On top of that, Green was a talented play-maker whereas Stoglin was simply a scorer. Green wasn’t just a very talented volume-scorer for his Hokies, but an indelible talent who scored like few in the ACC have every scored before, while also playing a hyper-balanced game that made stopping him near-impossible.
It’s hard to think that one of the best offensive seasons in ACC history belongs to a player on a team that finished last in the conference, but I think the numbers (not to mention the game footage) bears this fact out. Green turned in a gem of a season, even if his diamond was squarely in the rough.