Consider this a Call to Arms. I no longer live in Blacksburg, haven’t for quite a few years. I visit frequently, make it to as many home games as possible; I married a “townie” – I can’t recall if we ever actually used this term at Tech, but I suppose it fits in the literal sense – and my in-laws still live there. As a result, my ability to objectively comment on the Men’s Basketball team’s game-to-game performance is limited to those that are televised. So maybe this post is focused on spirit rather than analysis – I’ll leave that to mikey4vt and his compatriots.
We’re 1-0. One game into a new regime, a new era of Hokie Basketball, a program that has little history and a handful of notable alums. I’m not going to try and compare the sentiment today versus what it was one game into the Seth Greenberg era, or even the Ricky Stokes era. To be honest, I really don’t even remember. It doesn’t even matter. Say what you will about the man, but what Seth Greenberg did for the program cannot be understated; he led us into the ACC, elevated our program to a new echelon and helped create a strong connection between the program and the student body. But this year we begin a new journey and try and forge a new, up-tempo path under Coach Johnson.
Gone are the days of a motion offense that continuously passes and dribbles the ball around the 3-point line until there are 8 seconds left on the shot clock. Gone are the 54-48 “slugfests”, which were really coachspeak for an unimaginative dead ball offense that attempted to protect the shortcomings on the roster rather than highlight the strengths. We’ve never had a collection of near-seven footers. We’ve had tall guys, none of whom – with the exception of Coleman Collins – could truly battle with the frontcourts featured by the conference’s top flight squads. You could potentially toss in Terry “The White Rhino” Taylor, a throwback 6’-8” 292-pound center from the Ricky Stokes days, a dude who banged guys around on the block and always seemed to be around the ball. This year we are once again on the shorter side and facing the typical challenge of keeping up on the boards. But rather than trot out an undersized team masked as a squad with prototypical size at each position, Coach Johnson is altering the identity of the team and is going to utilize the existing athleticism of the squad. We’re going to beat you up and down the court, and your bigs better keep up otherwise they’re going to be spending more time between the free-throw lines than at the rim.
Lets not confuse the James Johnson Hokies with the Mike D’Antoni Suns. This isn’t “Seven Seconds or Less”. Erick Green isn’t Steve Nash; Jarrell Eddie isn’t Joe Johnson; and CJ Barksdale isn’t Amare. What this offense gives us is energy, something our program has severely lacked over the last decade…maybe eternity. You’re going to see guys screaming up and down the court, moving off the ball, driving to the hoop to try and make things happen. This year, we’re the aggressor; we’re the ones making our opponents D-up and stop the ball. My high school program ran the same system and it was a blast to play in. You were never standing still, always had blood flowing and always felt like a part of the play. Rather than waiting for something to happen or your turn to come up in the set, you were constantly setting screens, making cuts and working to either get the ball or draw defenders. The attitude is going to change, not just because of the love the players have for the man at the helm but because everyone is going to feel like they are contributing every second they are on the floor. As a fan, it is going to be a wild ride. The team may not put up flattering numbers, but as long as they bring the intensity they’re going to be in every game.
And this is where we all come in. Last season was abysmal. Yes, Cassell is notorious for having sporadic attendance during mid-week games (chalk it up to the NOVA Season Ticket holders or general disinterest in unsexy matchups), but that does not excuse the anyone from checking out when things aren’t going right. If there is one thing that needs to happen this year is the fans – both students and alumni – need to show up en masse game after game. You want better recruits? You want to see us in a made-for-television early season tournament against top-flight competition year-after-year? You want to ENJOY Selection Sunday? Show up. Stand behind this team. Set the precedent that no matter what happens this year, whether we shit the bed or surprise everyone and finish near the top of the ACC (it’s happened before), you’re going to be there and pass out from all the screaming and jumping. This year is going to be a stepping stone, don’t delude yourself. But do your part in the process and let everyone on that squad know you’re with them no matter what.