On a midspring afternoon, Erick Green's last season at Virginia Tech was plunged into doubt.
The school extinguished any certainty of how the Hokies would play in Green's final year in college when it fired Seth Greenberg, whose staff already had scattered to other jobs. No one faced quite the crossroads as Green, the lone scholarship senior-to-be on the roster.
"Honestly, the majority of it was already a done deal," Green recalled a little more than a month later. "I was really thinking about 'This is it for me.' I was going to pack my bags and go somewhere else. To be honest, I didn't want to leave Virginia Tech, but the coaching change, I didn't know who was going to come in."
It turned out to be James Johnson, a veteran Hokies assistant who boomeranged back to Blacksburg a week after Greenberg's dismissal.
That was enough to keep Green around as the primary figure for a short-handed bunch that very much is his team.
"We definitely needed him," junior forward Jarell Eddie emphasized during the preseason. "We needed his leadership. We needed his knowledge of the game. We needed him to stick around. Him deciding to stay helped other guys decide to stay. The best way to put it is we needed Erick Green."
Other players throughout the ACC are better known than Green, a second-team all-conference pick as a junior. Few if any are quite as valuable to their respective teams.
He led the Hokies (16-17 last season) in scoring. And assists. And steals. And minutes. He's a decent bet to do the same this season, too, as Virginia Tech ventures forward under a new coach.
"I don't know if there's a team in this league that wouldn't say they could use Erick Green," Johnson said. "He's definitely valuable to us, not just as a basketball player but as a leader on the floor. We're going to lean on him heavily this year for a lot of things."
He also will have more attention than ever after admittedly being overlooked at nearly every step of his basketball journey.
Green traveled an hour each way from his Winchester, Va., home to Fairfax's Paul VI for his final year of high school. He was not heavily sought after at the high-major level, though the Hokies (with Johnson as Green's lead recruiter) were an exception.
That relationship was a factor in convincing Green, who averaged 15.3 points a year ago, to stick around. But the 6-foot-3, 185-pounder also is adapting to the added scrutiny of being the obvious on-floor focal point of a program that is optimistic about making a surprise push in the ACC.
"People are really noticing a lot of things in my game and knowing who I am and the spotlight," Green said during the preseason. "Honestly, it's kind of cool to have the spotlight. It's not everything I really was expecting. I'm not the type of kid that wants everything to be [on] me. My teammates made me who I am."
While Green's decision to remain with the Hokies solidified the commitment of some players who might have wavered, the program did lose two projected contributors when forward Dorian Finney-Smith transferred to Florida and Montrezl Harrell asked for a release and landed at Louisville.
Just eight eligible scholarship players remain, placing a greater onus on Green. His coach believes the senior is more than capable of following through.
"He's made my transition easier," Johnson said. "He's been a coach out there on the floor.""
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