Hokie Hoops: The Hierarchy

Every single basketball team has a hierarchy of players and personnel that rank in matter of importance to their team. It's something that has been a part of basketball longer than any other facet of the game (yes, it's even been around longer than Billy Packer). There are players that impact the course of a season (think Michael Jordan), players that have the potential to impact a few games here and there (think Toni Kukoc) and players that have no bearing on the season whatsoever (think Jud Buechler).

It's the reason that the talented kids in youth basketball are considered "ball hogs", many college and NBA superstars are considered "prima donnas" and why guys like Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari or Gregg Popovich can command high multi-million dollar salaries. They're incredibly important to their team, and they know it.

This goes for literally every basketball team or organization on the planet. From your local high school team, to the Lakers, to the random Chinese team that Stephon Marbury currently plays for (the Beijing Ducks), everyone has a hierarchy.

I'm sure you all can see where this is going. Because I'm a sucker for gimmicky columns, I'm going to power rank the hierarchy of the Virginia Tech men's basketball team.

14. The Person That Gives This Team Flu Shots: Okay, maybe this person is actually important, but are they doing their job? I feel like this team has had more players go down with the flu than New York City residents in I Am Legend.

13. The Caucasian Persuasion: I know a bunch of you love the Johnston/Beyer combo and think that they provide the "grit and grind" that everyone seems to be searching for. In all actuality they provide five fouls, fresh legs during those short breaks before TV timeouts and very average towel waving on the bench. I would definitely want more from them in the towel waving department.

12. Maurice Kirby: I honestly have no idea how important Kirby is, but at least he makes Tech look impressive in the airport. The power of intimidation knows no bounds, well, that is until they realize that he's not getting off the bench.

11. Trevor Thompson: I like Thompson, I think I've made that much clear. But he's often the second or third big off the bench, which limits his minutes. When he does play, however, I feel that he is timid offensively, and I hope that this doesn't stem from some sub-par shooting games (2-7 against VMI, 1-5 against VCU). Maybe he needs a confidence booster off the floor. You know what? I'll volunteer to be his wingman. Just something to get him off the schnide.

(You laugh, but I've heard multiple stories about one former player who had such a crazy girlfriend that it legitimately impacted his play on the court, getting worse and worse as the season progressed.)

10. Malik Mueller: By all accounts, Mueller would have been the starting point guard on this team, and instead he's relegated to wearing suits on the bench. Obviously we don't know how he'd play this year, but with point guard being the shallowest position on the squad he could only have helped. Now we can only wonder what this team would be with him, and whether or not he's slowly teaching Kirby and Johnston how to speak German on the bench.

9. Marshall Wood: We're getting to the point where a lot of these guys are really close on this list. I put Wood here, however, because he's the worst of the players in a weirdly deep positional group (jump shooting forwards). I'm pleased that he's kept up his rebounding rate, an inconsistent part of his game last year, but I can't help but think that he's going to cool off from 3 soon (he's currently shooting 41.7%). Not only that, but he doesn't have the flat top anymore, which lowered him about three spots on the list.

8. Adam Smith: You thought he would be higher, didn't you? Forgive me for not being enamored with a 3-point shooting specialist who is barely taller than me and is shooting 30 percent from the field since the Miami game. The worst part, is that I'm not really sure how to fix it. He's too small to play consistently good defense and will struggle to get good shots against better, read: ACC, competition.

7. Cadarian Raines: Yes, Cadarian Raines is seventh on this list. Also, yes, he hasn't played much over the last eight games. This is why I think that Raines' stretch in the doghouse is really hurting this team. Big C is not only the best back to the basket big on this team, but he's also the best on-ball post defender. Many times when I see Joey van Zegeren muscled out of position or has a rebound taken away I think about Raines leaping up and throwing one of those patented "I didn't do it" elbows into a defender. I don't know what he did, and frankly I don't really care. This whole situation seems toxic, and hurts the squad both on and off the court.

6. Joey van Zegeren: JVZ's development as a shot blocker has been really fun to watch. Last year I thought that his ability to move his feet while simultaneously timing a block was poor, and that he may not become the shot blocker that he thought he was. I think that it's safe to say that van Zegeren is one of the most improved players on this team, and he's vital to a team that lets so many opposing players get to the hoop. Now, he's not the most polished offensive player, and I'd rather be stuck reading a blog solely written by Jose Canseco for 24 hours straight than watch another offensive set with JVZ in the high post, but hey, at least he's consistently good on defense. Progress!

5. Devin Wilson: In my season preview, I said that the Hokie offense would go as far as Wilson would allow it. Now while that's not entirely true, we've seen much more of Jarell Eddie acting as a primary ball handler than I ever thought we would, Wilson is still vital to the Tech offense (particularly in the open floor). His turnovers are starting to come down a little bit, and it will be interesting to see how his assist numbers follow. I really wonder how much being forced into action will impact his development as a player. Some guys who play before they're ready mature quickly into their role (think Malcolm Delaney). Others develop bad habits in their game that they can never quite break (think reckless Jeff Allen one-on-ones).

4. Ben Emelogu: To think that many thought Emelogu could have been on top of this list by now. Let me see if I can clearly articulate why it seems that everyone's favorite freshman is hitting a wall: HE. SHOOTS. TOO. MANY. F-ING. THREES. Seriously, it's starting to get annoying. He is explosive and can take guys off the bounce, yet fifty percent of the shots he's taken over the last two months have been from behind the arc, including a 2-8 performance against Syracuse. That all being said, he's starting to morph into Tech's most dangerous ball handler in the half court and is therefore vital to offensive success. All-in-all, he's an upgrade over Robert Brown, but Bobby burned me with early promise during his freshman season too. I've been hurt before, and don't know when I'll be able to trust a freshman shooting guard again.

3. C.J. Barksdale: While watching the Syracuse game the other night, I came to a very odd conclusion. Considering both offense and defense, is Barksdale the team's best player? After several minutes of thought, I decided that he probably was. I then immediately stood up, walked over to my bourbon and poured enough of a glass to make me feel better about what I just realized. (It didn't make me feel better).

I feel that if I had to write an obituary for this 2013-2014 basketball season, I would simply copy and paste the above paragraph.

2. Jarell Eddie: This team has already come to a weird crossroads in which it's most important player is also not its best. Eddie takes so many of his team's shots that he doesn't really have any other option than to be its most important player. The thing about Jarell, though, is that he's not a guy that goes on hot and cold streaks. After nearly two whole seasons of watching him struggle against longer, quicker defenders, I think that there will be teams that just play him well. That being said, I think that the guy sitting on top of this list needs to get him into positions to succeed, because the team has little other choice (again, see the bourbon paragraph).

1. James Johnson: I'm going to write a piece on JJ that I'll publish soon, but let's just say I am very mixed about the job that he's done thus far, yet do not think he deserves much of the criticism that he receives. That being said, the head coach will always be the most important position in college basketball. A good one can make an average team good, a good team great and so on. I think it's still too early to decide what kind of head coach JJ is, and while he's definitely had his moments of struggle, he's not the lame duck coach some people are pegging him to be.


I laughed at the Flu shot inclusion as its pretty true.

I think I would have Cadarian Raines much higher on this list based on your assertion of the list being based on impact. I think he would either be #1 or #1A because if you look at the games we should have won but lost (USC Upstate, UNCG, Seton Hall, ..... their was one defining thing missing and that was dominating the paint consistently against smaller less talented big men. JJ either failed to drive the ball to Raines when he was in or Raines was on the bench when he really was needed most. Raines time in the doghouse has had the effect to possibly cost this team as many as five wins looking back with 20-20 goggles. I don't know what the issue is between him and JJ but it needs to get fixed or get over with so the gray space stops. The other effect that the Raines drama has had is much more time for JVZ and Barksdale on the court for good and bad.

I would also argue that Emelogu's bad habits in regards shooting behind the arc has a bigger impact than Jarell Eddie's inconsistent play. With Eddie and Emelogu though you know what you are going to get unfortunately, which is why I agree with you regarding JJ being a hire impact guy than both of these two, because a freshmen with bad habits should be getting the S*** coached out of him to fix these problems.

The thing that weirds me out is C Raines seems like such a mellow guy, I can't figure out what he did to piss off JJ so much. Unless it's the mellowness that did it...

I just saw this in a Richmond TD article about Raines sitting the bench:
Senior wing Jarell Eddie has been stifled the past two weeks, scoring 12 points or fewer in four of Techs past five games. The Hokies lost all four.

Hes just got to come out of it now, Johnson said. Hes a senior and halfway through his senor year right now. Hes got to figure a way to get out of it. I know that hes a focal point, teams are kind of concentrating on him a little more. Hes just got to shoot his way out of it.
I realize that JJ is talking to the press, but I hope that isn't all JJ is doing about this.
I've said before that I felt Eddie doesn't have "IT" in tough game situations. I still feel that, but perhaps this is a multi-dimensional issue created by the present situation. You'd have to do a DoE investigation to understand the inter-dependencies, but I think you can get my drift below.
In Brian's article here he talks about Eddie bringing the ball up more to help Wilson. I think that is part of the reason Eddie is having more defense on him more of the time on our offensive sets. Perhaps that is creating poor looks for Eddie (i.e., allowing more tight coverage on him at key situations where if he was the shooting guard or a 2-3 combo guy he is working downcourt to get open at that time).
He's a bit slower too so if he brings it down then our transition game is slower.

Pain is Temporary, Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever, Let's Go Hokies!!

Freshman guards in the ACC. Never a good situation. Someone gonna have to step it up and help bring the ball down. Often times it will be matchup dependent. So if Eddie has a poor defender on him he might have to assist if the freshman guards are getting blown up or totally harrassed.

You can try but for the most part you can't fix dribbling mid season... kids have to bust their humps summer time to get an ACC level PG handle. Once you have the PG handle you can start to work on running and leading an offense.

Feel bad for all involved. Maybe they can set aside practice time for the PGs to work on getting better handles and maybe they can stay after for a couple of hours. But that detracts from learning a motion offense, working on team defense, etc.

Hoops court for 4+ hours a day in summer working on fundamentals of dribbling / running an offense.

The drama only gets better. Obviously there is nothing official out yet, but the word is that Wood is out the door next year so hopefully JJ retracts his stance on getting a big man in this class otherwise it will be another short bench next year. He really does need to win at least 3 or 4 more games this season otherwise I think the new AD puts his stamp on the program and they go get someone new outside the program. JJ has a great personality and was an excellent assistant so it is tough to see him with the situation that was given to him. His current staff is pretty subpar so getting a new coach with a new staff could help this program move forward.

Any word on where Wood plans on going? Did that place just hire his AAU coach? Was JJ actually a big part of the problem before SG was fired and we just didn't realize it because the players chalked it all up to SG since he was at the helm?

No, nothing is official or anything, it is just the grumblings of the department. As much as I don't like his attitude, there is no denying he can shoot so I hope he stays, but it seems he just doesn't mesh with the coaches. If he does leave, he is from VA, so I would expect him to stay in the area since his family attends a lot of games.

JJ was actually a guy that all the players loved when he was an assistant. Right now, I don't know who the players dislike more, JJ or KK. Neither of them take the prima donna attitude well from players so I think that is a big part of the reason that Marshall would leave if in fact he does. He does not respond well to the coaching he gets from JJ or Kurt. You can tell Kurt coached at Navy the way he just expects his players to take the heat and not respond negatively.
If SG was fired a year earlier I think Dennis Wolfe* would have actually landed the job instead of taking over for the Women's program. Right now, I think it will be up to new AD to go outside the Hokie connections to find someone to bring life to this program.
*He had actually inquired if they were going to fire Seth and they ended up waiting a year and fired Beth that year.

While obviously more players transferring is never a good thing, I don't think Marshall Wood would be a big loss. He still hasn't really found a position, as he doesn't have good enough ballhandling to be a true 3 and certainly doesn't have the strength or inside presence to be a 4. He does fit the mold of a "stretch 4", but he had a bad shooting year as a freshman. Shooting 41% from the field and 23% from the 3-point line just doesn't cut it as a stretch 4. He has shot somewhat better this year, but it's been a very small sample size with his injuries/other issues with JJ. One person somewhat close to the program described Wood to me as a "lost cause" and I don't disagree.
If the rumors are true, I think it might be better for both parties to move on.

where are you hearing that?

I've never really seen Wood as a 4. We're already bringing in a couple guys that could play the 3, so I don't know that this will necessarily affect recruiting. I would be happy if it did and they went out and got a 4, though.

You really think JJ's staff is subpar? It was pretty well thought of when they were hired...

Judging by the coaching this year, I would say his staff is subpar. Judging solely on experience, I would definitely say it's a below average ACC staff.