Erick Green looks to salve Virginia Tech’s tumultuous offseason.
by Ed Isaacson / @nbadraftblog
Dealing with a coaching change is rarely easy for a college player, and when a player has been with a coach for three seasons, it can be that much tougher. Through the situation, the burden falls on these veteran players to transcend the situation and take an even greater leadership role. At Virginia Tech this season, that role will fall on Erick Green.
This past April, the Hokies’ administration let go of long-time coach Seth Greenberg after another season where Virginia Tech did not make the NCAA Tournament. He was replaced by former associate head coach James Johnson, who just weeks earlier, left to become an assistant at ACC rival Clemson. Green, the team’s point guard and leading scorer, now faces the biggest challenge of his college career.
The dismissal of Greenberg also led to the transfer of heralded freshman Dorian Finney-Smith and the de-commitment of the Hokies’ top recruit, Montrezl Harrell, who is now headed to Louisville. “We are only going to have eight [scholarship] players this season,” explained Green. “It is going to be really important that we stay healthy.”
Green also expects other changes with Johnson taking over the program. “We will play a lot faster,” Green said. “It is going to be a much more up-tempo style.”
While the style of play may be a bit different, Johnson will be a familiar face to Green and the other returning Hokies. He has been with the Virginia Tech program since 2007, and was the main recruiter for most of the current roster.
Green, one of the leading scorers in the ACC, has been working hard at his game to help take on an even-larger role this season. “I’ve been working on reading the court better, reading the floor,” Green said. “Making reads coming off the pick-and-roll will be a bigger part of my game.” With only three of the top six leading scorers returning, and Green the only one to average double-digits in points, he will certainly have his work cut out for him.
Making these adjustments would be hard under most circumstances, and Green will need to do it one of the toughest conferences in the country. “Playing in the ACC makes me bring my A-game every night,” Green said. “Every night you are facing the best players and you have to work twice as hard to come out on top.”
As Green enters his final year, despite the challenges, he has some lofty goals for a successful season. “Most important is everybody staying healthy,” Green said. “If that happens, the goal is to finally get to the NCAA Tournament. If we can finish in the top-three or four of the conference, we will be there.”
Getting Virginia Tech to the NCAA Tournament is certainly a lofty goal, even with a full team of scholarship players. They have received a bid only twice in the last 25 years, the last time coming in 2007. Though they have averaged over 20 wins a year over the last five years, the Hokies found themselves on the outside looking in, and this turned out to be Greenberg’s downfall.
If Green can lead the team to the NCAA Tournament, then his other goals could easily come to fruition. “I want to be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft,” explained Green. “I want to be one of the top guards coming out of school next year.”
Green looks to two former ACC guards who became first-round picks as players he wants to pattern his game after. “I really learned from Nolan Smith and how smooth and in-control his game is,” Green said. “I want to combine that with the athleticism of Reggie Jackson.”
Providing leadership during this transition season will be the first step in Green’s road to the NBA, and he can look to his former coach for everything he needs. “Coach Greenberg taught me to be a leader and to be vocal,” Green said. “I am ready to show everyone what I am capable of. I have a game that a lot of people like, and I can be one of the best guards in the country.”