Young Hokies offer hope for the future

Tech was competitive while relying on a number of young players this season

ATLANTA — As he stood in the locker room at Philips Arena on Friday, minutes after his Virginia Tech career had ended in a 60-56 loss to Duke, senior guard Dorenzo Hudson looked around at all his young teammates and thought about how much college basketball they still had ahead of them

“I hope they take something from this,” Hudson said, his voice dripping with envy.

The Hokies, who beat Clemson in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament Thursday before falling to the Blue Devils, finished the year 16-17. Tech was 6-11 in games decided by five points or less.

It was beaten by 10 or more points only five times, meaning coach Seth Greenberg’s young team was in nearly every game it played.

“I think this was a good freshman year, a good learning experience,” freshman guard Robert Brown said. “We lost some close games, some games that I think an older, veteran team would have won.”

With a losing record, the Hokies aren’t likely to be invited to the NIT. A school spokesman said Tech will not accept an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational or the Collegeinsiders.com Tournament.

That’s unfortunate for the Hokies, who would benefit from getting the extra practice time even non-noteworthy postseason tournaments afford.

Tech got heavy minutes from four freshmen this season.

“When you first come and play college basketball, you don’t know what to expect,” sophomore guard Jarell Eddie said. “It’s a lot. The speed is different. How hard you have to play is different.”

And the youngest Hokies learned that this year in a very public and, at times, frustrating fashion.

“How do you learn to make good decisions? You make some bad ones,” Greenberg said. “And if you learn from those bad decisions, hopefully the future can be exciting. I think we’ve got the nucleus of a very exciting team. Obviously, we have to add some pieces.”

Over the course of this season, Tech saw freshman forward Dorian Finney-Smith emerge as one of the league’s top rebounders. Sophomore forward Cadarian Raines developed into a legitimate low-post scoring option. Freshmen guards Robert Brown and Marquis Rankin and freshman forward C.J. Barksdale showed flashes of ability.

But all season long, Greenberg lamented the team’s lack of a high-energy player, a dominant scorer who could take over games or a difference maker on defense who could get the Hokies going emotionally.

Tech next season will return leading scorer Erick Green, a junior this year. It also returns forward Joey van Zegeren, who sat out most of this season after suffering a concussion.

And the Hokies bring in two promising recruits in forwards Montrezl Harrell and Marshall Wood.

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