Virginia Tech Turns Leadership Reins Over To Freshman

Posted by Lathan Wells on October 21st, 2013

On October 17, Virginia Tech head coach James Johnson did something he’d never done in 22 years as either a head or assistant coach: He named a freshman his team captain. And this wasn’t one of those once-in-a-generation, program-altering freshman talents that was tapped to be the leader of a Hokies team in transition. This isn’t Carmelo Anthony at Syracuse, Kevin Durant at Texas, or even Andrew Wiggins at Kansas. “Hokies fans, we present to you 6’5” combo guard Ben Emelogu, a player who went largely unnoticed by the major programs at the national level!” While Johnson says he’s a player who can “flat out put the ball in the hole,” his senior year average of 13.5 points per game in high school in Grand Prairie, Texas, doesn’t lend much credence to that assessment. There are three key points to be highlighted with this decision: Johnson’s seemingly long leash as head coach; the extreme youth movement going on in Blacksburg; and the lack of leadership now that last year’s star Erick Green has departed.

Ben Emelogu Will Start the Season as Virginia Tech's Captain

Ben Emelogu Will Start the Season as Virginia Tech’s Captain

Johnson is in his second year at Virginia Tech after replacing Seth Greenberg.  His Hokies, despite having the ACC Player of the Year in Green on the roster last year, won a mere four league games and finished 13-19 overall on the season. Johnson’s contract, signed prior to last season, is for five years. The Virginia Tech administration is known to like Johnson, and he is definitely well-liked by his team, all of whom went to bat for him to assume the mantle of head coach when Greenberg was dismissed. Thus, naming a freshman as captain should not prove divisive to his locker room, at least on the surface.  It also shouldn’t shake the confidence the athletic department has in him, since it’s widely known that the administration understands the rebuilding effort Johnson faces and trusts his reputation as a solid recruiter to make the team relevant in the coming seasons.

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Pac-12 SYT: 11.17.11

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 17th, 2011


See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

There have been a handful of interesting games so far this week, but today begins a stellar weekend (yes, as Buffalo Wild Wings says, “weekends start on Thursdays”) of Pac-12 action. Today we get the two appetizers, which include St. John’s-Arizona and USC-San Diego State.

St. John’s vs #16 Arizona – 6:30 PM PST on ESPN2 (****)

Freshman guard/forward Maurice Harkless leads the Johnnies into Madison Square Garden tonight.

  • I find it hard to believe that the Wildcats are ranked 16th after they have struggled against teams like Seattle Pacific, Humboldt State, and Duquesne. But they are, and that means the Red Storm and the pro-St. John’s crowd at Madison Square Garden will make it even tougher on the young and restless Wildcats. For Arizona to advance to the championship of the 2K Sports Classic Friday night, step one will be defending the SJU big men. God’s Gift Achiuwa and Maurice Harkless have been unstoppable so far this season, averaging 17.7 and 16.7 PPG, respectively. Guarding the pair will be Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill, both of whom have had solid campaigns in their own right this season. The key to an Arizona victory will be on the shoulders of those two, both on the defensive side of the ball but also on the glass.
  • It’s tough to see this game going one way or the other. Both teams have been so inconsistent, looking great one minute but terrible the next. While this game will definitely come down to the play inside, a tight matchup like this one is usually decided on a late three-pointer or some clutch free throw shooting. And while (once again) both teams have been inconsistent with their shooting, the Cats have the edge in this category. Read the rest of this entry »
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 11.08.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on November 8th, 2011

  1. We begin in Tucson, where Arizona got the regular season started with a 73-64 win over Valparaiso. After a mediocre exhibition season, this was a fine win to open up the year for the Wildcats. Kyle Fogg broke out of his shooting slump with 16 points, but the surprise of the night was freshman Nick Johnson. Johnson continued to outperform freshman teammate Josiah Turner with 14 points and six assists, while Turner had a lackluster seven points and one assist. Turner got the start,but it is becoming more evident from head coach Sean Miller that Johnson will be the second guard in the lineup in crunch time. Matching Johnson’s 14 points was senior forward Jesse Perry, but even more impressive was the ten rebounds he collected. Up next for Arizona is a visit from Duquesne on Wednesday night.
  2. There is a serious lack of power in the Pac-12 this year after many stars left last season. As Patrick Finley points out, the top seven scorers in the league last year are now gone, not to mention eight out of the nine best rebounders. But while you may see less highlights on SportsCenter because of it, the lack of star players and exceptional talent could make for one of the best Pac-12 championship races in recent history. “I don’t know if there’s a team to beat,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar told reporters. When you look at it, five teams (California, Arizona, Washington, UCLA, and Oregon) could all make a serious push for the conference crown. There will surely be upsets along the way as well, considering that the next tier of teams (Oregon State, Stanford, and Colorado) have enough talent to also compete night in and night out.
  3. If you were ever wondering how to build a basketball dynasty, Greg Hansen has laid out the steps that former Arizona coach Lute Olson used to take the Wildcats from conference cellar-dweller to national powerhouse. Included is everything from “playing nonconference road games,” to “acknowledging the fans,” to ”running an up-tempo offense.” This is truly a great read for all Pac-12 fans, whether you want to take the trip back to memory lane or look to the future and see if your team is navigating the right steps on the road to a future dynasty.
  4. CBSSports has compiled its annual list of the Top 100 Best Players, and the Pac-12 is represented with a total of nine players at #’s 23, 24, 42, 46, 47, 49, 77, 85, and 88. Topping the Pac-12 portion of the list is Washington guard Terrence Ross. With the departure of Isaiah Thomas from Seattle, Ross is going to play a huge role in both the Husky offense and defense this year. Directly behind him is UCLA forward Reeves Nelson, who had a ridiculous 14 double-doubles last season. Nelson is both a threat from the perimeter and low post, making him a nightmare for opposing defenses. At #42 is a surprise pick, Bruin center Joshua Smith. Smith can certainly score, but constant foul trouble does not make him a Top 50 player in my mind. Josiah Turner, Jorge Gutierrez, Jabari Brown, Allen Crabbe, Jared Cunningham, and Trent Lockett round out the Pac-12′s representation on the list.
  5. Arizona State will be looking to change the attitude around the program when they take the court on Friday to open up the regular season. The Sun Devils have not won a postseason game of any kind since 2009, which was also the last time they went to the NCAA Tournament. While 2009-10 was supposed to be a rebuilding year, expectations were higher going into last season. Instead the Devils finished 12-19, last in the Pac-10, reviving old doubts about the program and the direction in which it was headed. We live in a world of “what have you done for me lately,” so the lack of NCAA Tournament appearances has coach Herb Sendek on the hot seat. “That’s definitely not what I expected, to be a junior (without) having played in an NCAA Tournament,” guard Trent Lockett said, reiterating the point. The Sun Devils will begin their quest back to relevancy when they take on Montana State at Wells Fargo Arena Friday afternoon.
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Pac-12 Morning Five: 10.31.11 Edition

Posted by Connor Pelton on October 31st, 2011

  1. Washington point guard Abdul Gaddy was one of the top recruits in the country when he came aboard in 2009, but after a disappointing freshman season and a torn ACL midway through his sophomore year, Gaddy has since fallen off the radar. But while the preseason focus is on guards Tony Wroten, Jr., and Terrence Ross, Gaddy will also be looked at to lead this team because of his experience. Percy Allen has a great feature on Gaddy, which includes some background and an interview with the point guard. The best part of the interview is when Gaddy talks about his summer shootarounds with former Husky Isaiah Thomas where the junior guard says he shot 18,000 jumpers in 22 days.
  2. Hopes are high in Corvallis this season, as coach Craig Robinson says he finally has the talent to “compete in every game this season.” However, no one seems to be asking the question, “Craig, you do realize that you don’t have any new talent in this year’s starting lineup?”, but I guess that’s besides the point. This team does have talent, but the top two newcomers (Challe Barton and C.J. Mitchell) will be lucky if they see any meaningful minutes. The fact of the matter is, Robinson needs to do a better job coaching the players he has if the Beavers are to have a good year.
  3. Fresh and new talent is the name of the game at Oregon this year, as the Ducks welcome in nine new players. Some of them are high school standouts, some of them are transfers, but all of them have Pac-12 talent. From freshman Jabari Brown to Devoe Joseph, the transfer from Minnesota, Oregon has the talent to pull an NCAA Tournament bid if things go well. There are also freshmen Brett Kingma and and Bruce Barron joining Brown and Jospeh as newcomers in the backcourt, both of which were highly-touted recruits in their own right. Barron did miss miss Oregon’s summer exhibition tour, but he is expected to be game-ready by Oregon’s Nov. 11 opener against Vanderbilt. “Bruce is probably just coming into his own” coach Dana Altman said about Barron after his arthroscopic knee surgery. Joseph D’Hippolito breaks down all of the new players here.
  4. California head coach Mike Montgomery is cancer-free after his Oct. 19 surgery. Montgomery was diagnosed a month ago with “high-grade bladder cancer,” he told members of the Pac-12 media on Friday. He said that he will have no physical limitations while coaching, and senior guard Jorge Gutierrez added that the player-coach relationship between them has grown more personal since he learned of the situation. “We didn’t really have much of a connection outside of basketball, but he opened up a little bit more, so I think that helped us to relate with him more,” Gutierrez said.
  5. USC guard Maurice Jones was thought of by many as the nation’s most underrated freshman in the nation last season. Jones averaged 9.9 PPG along with 3.2 APG and is being looked at to lead a USC team that is lacking in the talent department. Seth Rubinroit has a nice feature story on the sophomore standout, the only one in his class to represent a team at Pac-12 Media Day. Jones, the only returning starter from last year’s team, will be asked to carry the load at guard all year long after the season-injury to Jio Fontan. Coach Kevin O’Neill went as far as to tell fans, “Don’t come to the games, it’ll be ugly. Don’t show up. If we don’t have this guy, it’ll be very difficult for us to be competitive in major college games.”
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