When ACC men’s basketball media members gather in October to go about the folly of predicting an order of finish in the conference for the 2013-14 season, Virginia Tech coach James Johnson has no delusions of grandeur regarding where his team will fall in the predictions.
With Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse set to join the ACC, and with Tech coming off a dreadful season in which it went 13-19 overall and 4-14 in the ACC while finishing last in the conference, Johnson knows his program will be listed 15th out of 15 teams.
He really can’t blame voters for feeling that way.
“With six new guys coming in, where else are you going to pick us?” Johnson said.
At the very least, Johnson is confident he’ll be able to continue the rebuilding process without any further defections. Starting guard Robert Brown has decided to transfer, according to a statement released Wednesday by Tech. Johnson told the Daily Press on Thursday that Brown will be the only loss this offseason in terms of scholarship players transferring.
There had been speculation since at least last weekend starting forward C.J. Barksdale may also be considering transferring. Johnson said those rumors aren’t true.
“He’s coming back,” Johnson said. “We had his individual meeting, and he’s coming back. He looks as confident and as good as I’ve seen him in a long time. He’s looking like the Barksdale I know – very confident young man…He said, ‘Coach, I’m looking forward to next year.’ He’s working hard and I think he’s ready to go.”
Johnson said walk-on guard Marcus Patrick, who played just 43 minutes this season, may be considering transferring. He could be looking at a few Division III options.
Brown’s departure means Tech will have to rely more on several newcomers in the backcourt. Rising junior Marquis Rankin has the inside track on the point guard role, and transfer Adam Smith will play a lot of minutes at scoring guard, but incoming freshmen Ben Emelogu, Donte Clark and Malik Muller will also be expected to provide more minutes than they would’ve had Brown stayed in Blacksburg.
Then again, Johnson makes it sound as if he expected at least Emelogu and Clark to get their fair share of playing time.
Emelogu averaged only 14 points per game as a senior at South Grand Prairie High in Grand Prairie, Texas, but he’s 6-foot-5, 205 pounds and has about “two percent body fat,” according to Johnson. Clark comes to Tech considered by most recruiting analysts to be among the nation’s top 100 guard prospects in the class of 2013.
“I was anticipating those guys having to play anyway,” Johnson said. “Ben is a guy who can either wing position – he’s a true guard, but he can swing over to a wing guard or wing forward.”
Johnson is like a lot of Division I college coaches these days when it comes to transfers. They hope it doesn’t happen to their program, but they’re not naïve enough to think it won’t happen. Johnson believes elite players are conditioned to think about moving around based on various factors while they’re playing in high school.
“It’s us, it’s any university,” Johnson said. “I think it was over 300 transfers last year in college basketball. That’s outrageous. I think it’s just the time. I think it’s just how we are with these kids today. You just look at AAU programs…just take (high school grades) nine through 12, a kid might play on three or four different AAU teams. So, at the end of the (college basketball) year, if you don’t have any transfers out of your program, you kind of chalk it up like, ‘Man, we’re very fortunate.’ I think you look at it as you go in (to the season) as we hope we don’t lose any of these guys, but it is the lay of the land these days. I think that’s just how it is.”
Actually, there were over 440 transfers last year in Division I college basketball – an average of more than one per program. Tech lost starting forward Dorian-Finney Smith, who decided to transfer to Florida after his freshman year in Blacksburg, and reserve forward J.T. Thompson.
The astronomical number of transfers last year marked the continuation of a trend in Division I college basketball. There were 439 transfers in the 2008-09 season, 421 in the ’09-10 season and 445 in the ’10-11 season.
Johnson said Brown, a native of Clermont, Fla. who slumped during his sophomore season at Tech and averaged 8.3 points per game, wanted to get closer to home.
“After two years of being away for college, he was thinking, ‘Well, I want to try to get back (home) a little bit’” Johnson said. “I can understand that.”
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