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Summer shootaround: Virginia Tech

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Today’s dead-tree edition includes a feature on Virginia Tech basketball coach James Johnson, who took over this spring for Seth Greenberg.

While the coaching change is easily the biggest subplot of the Hokies’ offseason, here are 10 more items to ponder heading into Johnson’s first season as a head coach.

1. Junior forward Cadarian Raines is a prime candidate to blossom – unless his solid finish to last season counts as his emergence. Raines averaged 11 points and 4.4 rebounds over the final seven games while starting in place of the injured Victor Davila; before then, he averaged 4.5 points and 3.8 rebounds.

“I think he’s going to be a monster,” guard Erick Green said.

2. There might not be a player in the ACC who will be asked to do more for his team than Green, one of eight scholarship players available this season.

Green is the third-leading returning scorer in the conference, behind only C.J. Harris and Travis McKie from Wake Forest. The combination of being an established option and the limited numbers ensure the senior will be on the spot to produce.

“It’s my last year,” Green said. “I want to play as many minutes as I can, take care of my body. I just want to lead these guys. I’m looking forward to playing a lot. I’m going to do whatever I can do to get these guys to win.”

3. Green doesn’t expect a shift in demeanor from Johnson, who spent the previous five years as a Virginia Tech assistant.

“I think it’s going to be pretty similar,” Green said. “I don’t think JJ is going to change at all. I think he’s going to be more demanding because he’s the head coach, and that’s understandable. But I don’t think his demeanor is going to change. He’s going to have rules? Yeah. But I don’t think anything’s going to change.”

4. Look for junior Jarell Eddie to spend more time on the wing and work less in the paint.

“He’s got to be more of a three for us,” Johnson said. “He has to get out and run in transition and we’re going to need him to shoot the basketball as well.”

Eddie averaged 9.1 points and 4.8 rebounds and shot a team-best 44.3 percent from 3-point range last season.

5. Should the short-handed Hokies successfully implement a faster pace in Johnson’s first season, expect sophomore guard Marquis Rankin to benefit.

“He’s probably one of our best on-ball defenders in the program and fast with the basketball,” Johnson said. “He should thrive in a little more up-tempo game.”

Rankin averaged 2.5 points and 13.5 minutes in 24 games (six starts) last year.

6. Sophomore guard Robert Brown will miss the rest of the Hokies’ summer workouts after breaking a bone in his left foot earlier this month.

Brown averaged 6.8 points and 1.9 assists last season, starting four games and playing in all 33.

7. With the transfer of Dorian Finney-Smith (Florida) and Montrezl Harrell’s decision to seek a release (he landed at Louisville), freshman forward Marshall Wood will need to help immediately.

“Here’s a guy who has got length, is athletic and can really shoot the ball,” Johnson said. “He’s going to have to give us a lot of minutes. We’ll probably play him at the four and the three right now.”

8. Johnson on recruiting:

“We want to get the best players in the state,” he said. “We want to try to recruit and get the best players and we want to stay in our geographic footprint, from Maryland, D.C., and we’ve kind of dipped down into Florida now and then we try to fit our needs from there and try to get the best players we can from there and then being that we’re in the ACC conference and Virginia Tech is an excellent academic school, we’re able to recruit nationally. I thinking being in the ACC has expanded us nationally, and our football is so well known that people know Virginia Tech everywhere.”

9. The Hokies will face East Tennessee State on the season’s opening weekend (Nov. 10) for the second straight year.

Other notable nonconference games include a trip to West Virginia, home dates against Iowa (Nov. 27) and Oklahoma State (Dec. 1) and two games at the Las Vegas Classic (Dec. 22-23) in a bracket that includes Bradley, Colorado State and Portland.

10. Johnson said “things are in a decent spot” as a program but acknowledged he would do some things differently than his predecessor had.

“We’ve had some success in the past and a couple years, we thought we maybe should have made the tournament,” Johnson said. “I want to move the program forward. Of course, when you have change, there’s going to be change. There’s going to be change in the locker room.  There’s going to be change in practice. There’s going to be change in everything, in the way people carry themselves. There’s just going to be change in general. A lot of it is going to be for the betterment. Everything’s going to be geared toward the program and the team and the university. That’s where we’re going.”

Patrick Stevens

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