Buzzketball Gives No Bailout to Detroit (Mercy) in 111-79 Win

Season four of the Buzz Williams era starts off with a bang, as Nickeil Alexander-Walker scores 24 in his freshman debut.

[Mark Umansky]

There are only a few times I distinctly remember a Hokie freshman's debut. When Tyrod Taylor jogged onto the field at Death Valley in 2007, I held my breath. When Ryan Williams scored twice against Alabama, I knew the guy I was watching was special. When Dorian Finney-Smith grabbed 16 rebounds against East Tennessee State, I knew he was a program changing player.

I never said I was always right.

But Nickeil Alexander-Walker scored his first basket 38 seconds into his first game as a Virginia Tech basketball player. Over the next four minutes, the five-star freshman ran point on a fast break, had a block, and hit another layup.

By the under 16 of the Hokies' 111-79 win over Detroit Mercy, Alexander-Walker established his destiny as the greatest NBA prospect in school history.

Despite missing the final 11 minutes of the first half with two fouls, Alexander-Walker lead the team with 24 points on 9-14 shooting. He got to the basket comfortably, looked to push the tempo with every rebound, and looked just as sharp from behind the arc as he did inside it.

Yes, this was the first game of Buzz Williams' fourth season in Blacksburg. It was also an introduction to the next generation of Hokie basketball.

After a year off, Kerry Blackshear Jr. scored a wildly efficient 23. Tech's starting center ran the floor with ease, drained a three, and consistently went to the line. After finally being cleared to play, Tyrie Jackson was all over the place. He grabbed eight rebounds (as a guard), hit a couple of nice shots, and sent one opposing attempt into the stratosphere. And in their first career games, freshmen Wabissa Bede and P.J. Horne also showed well.

And those are only the new (and reintroduced) faces.

Ahmed Hill had an incredibly quiet 19 and nine. Fresh off knee surgery, Chris Clarke had an even quieter nine point, five rebound, four assist night. 45-year-old Devin Wilson started, had 10 points, and looked comfortable in his role as a guard who defends big guys.

Yes, it's only game one. And yes, there are still major things to correct. Former blue chip recruit and Michigan transfer Kameron Chatman had 23 points for the Titans. The tempo that Tech wants to play will create more possessions for their opponents, and could be exploited by better teams. And of course, Detroit Mercy had 12 offensive rebounds and 22 free throws, which speak to the lack of size the Hokies have.

But there are so many more positives to see that it's hard to even think about what went wrong. Tech got out and ran at every chance they could, which lead to prolific dunks and 27 fast break points. They also attacked the rim with vigor, and got into the lane on nearly every possession. That lead to 70 points in the paint (70!!!), and shooting 57% from the field. Offensively, they were potent.

And those positives need to stay, because the Hokies don't have a ton of time before their first big opponent. After Sunday's battle against the Citadel in Blacksburg, Tech goes up to New York to take part in the 2K Classic. A two-game series against St. Louis and either Providence or Washington will test the team early.

But if we learned anything in game one, the Hokies (at least offensively) will be ready.

A few quick notes

Clarke's nine month return from the ACL injury gives this team an extra layer that I wasn't expecting so soon. The junior's ability to play forward, grab a rebound on defense, and immediately put in on the floor in transition is devastating (particularly if he remains on the bench).

Does the quick return make you hold your breath every time he makes a cut? Of course. His herky-jerky style seems predestined for physical ailments. But should he stay healthy, Clarke's ability on the break (especially when running it with Alexander-Walker) is deadly.

There were so many open threes in transition that weren't capitalized on, especially in the first half. I won't use this space to presume that we know why Justin Bibbs isn't playing (though if you look deep enough through Buzzketball comments you'll see a theory about a certain "10% of the season" suspension). But when he comes back, the senior will have so many open chances. Dude might shoot 60% from behind the arc in non-conference play.

One thing that's so cool about Williams is the way he empowers his young players. They may not always capitalize on their opportunities, but his freshmen are rarely scared of, or overwhelmed by, the moment. Alexander-Walker was ready to go from the jump. Jackson was shooting the moment he got into the game. Bede checked in for the first time with 5:52 to go in the first half. He scored his first career basket at 5:34.

It often flirts with disaster, how many out of control drives have we seen from Hill and Clarke early in their careers? And though it doesn't always produce great results —cough, P.J. Horne's 2-6 first half performance, cough— it's a great selling point on the recruiting trail. If you're a youngster, you know that Buzz has your back.

And finally? I can't wait for the Citadel. Bring on game two.

Comments

More positives than negatives with this team so far. Go Hokies.

BUZZKETBALL GIVES NO BAILOUT MERCY TO DETROIT IN 111-79 WIN

Ftfy

Please. Everyone's making that pun. We're better than that. That's why we use 2008 political jokes on this website.

You have apparently missed the past 6 years of Ford puns.

Jk, loved the article btw

Are you saying Kerry Blackshear is too big to fail?

___

-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Certainly can't sell him short.

I can't believe I got sucked into this. On Friday night no less.

Leonard. Duh.

I personally think our court and edging looks disgusting compared to previous years. But I'm no longer an undergrad transcendental student representing the T for technology and V for.... I don't even know anymore nevermind

Caught the tail end of the game, NAW showed a little alpha after a drive down the lane. Not saying I trust him after one game to do the "Leday dirty work" when we need a quick 7-10 points, but he looked good tonight, I'm intrigued, looking forward to the first four games.

"...I'm getting a little tired of hearing how good everybody else is..." -Coach Fu [This week: 1-0]

Tyrie has that "Dirty Work" mentality on display

I certainly think NAW looks awesome, but I don't understand the chatter of him being a one and done.

The kid can play. Can be a borderline lottery pick. One and done chatter is deserved, but most likely a two and through.

Always choose joy.

'Awesome' is good enough to get drafted

The kid is special, no doubt about that. 6'5 with a 6'9 wingspan. Can play both ways. Hell of a passer. Damn good in the pick and roll. He's the prototype of a present-day NBA combo guard. I think the biggest knock on him would be his size, but at 19 yrs old thats not really a big deal.

We all really need to accept it as a possibility (I guess I'll be the guy saying this all year long) and just enjoy this season. I can already see the meltdown and all that dam truth waiting to come out at season's end

He's an extremely talented prospect and that's his ceiling for this season. Obviously it's way too early to know whether or not that will materialize or not. Honestly, I think it's a longterm win for the program if he has a sensational season that culminates with him being a lottery pick.

45-year-old Devin Wilson started

1-0 every week

I watched the game while watching my Single Winging Spartans tak care of them Fort Chiswell Pioneers

Hello all you boys and girls I'd like to take you to the inside world It's quite an irregular place to be But never fear you're safe with me. Well maybe

Felt good to see a stable of guys on the floor with minimal drop off between "starters" and the rest of the lot. If KJ can keep his production up and continue to find the free throw line, the floor is going to open up for everybody else

Was so excited to see this team play I got home from my 100 hour work week and watched the replay at midnight. Man the freshman looked good. And NAW my god, that boy is gonna be special.

@vtscottyb

Skip to 37 seconds for Awesomeness.

Honestly I'm thinking in a few years when we're at the statue unveiling for all the nattys NAW won us in his time in Blacksburg this is the play I'll think of as the place it all started what freshman makes that slick of a backhanded pass?!?!?

Directions from Blacksburg to whoville, go north till you smell it then go east until you step in it

Anybody see the shade Buzz threw Berman in the post game presser?

Man, Buzz has dumped on Berman for a while but that's a new level of directness.

The Orange and Maroon you see, that's fighting on to victory.

Oh yeah, I'm here for this. Buzz and I share the same feelings.

Another white bronco? The first one didn't go too far.