2005-06 Basketball Preview: NABC Classic

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Editor’s Note: TSL will not provide roster cards until later in the season. For a printable page with VT’s roster and notes about the teams in the tournament, see the “Related Articles” link below.

Virginia Tech will host the NABC Classic beginning tonight at 7 pm in Cassell Coliseum. The four-team tournament is a round robin event, meaning each team will play every other team once. The Hokies will play all three teams in a span of just four days, and the first team on Tech’s schedule are the Highlanders from Radford. The Hokies and the Highlanders will tip-off tonight at 7 pm, and will be immediately followed by Western Carolina and Bowling Green at 9 pm.

Radford (12-16 last year)

The Highlanders are led by fourth-year head coach Byron Samuels. They have never had a winning record in his tenure and finished last season 12-16. A familiar face will be on the Radford bench next to Samuels, as former Virginia Tech head coach Frankie Allen is now an assistant with the Highlanders.

Radford’s best player is guard Whit Holcomb-Faye. The 6-1 senior from Winston-Salem averaged 15.1 points per game and 3.6 assists per game last season. If Radford wants to have success against the Hokies, they must have a big game from Holcomb-Faye. He was suspended for the last seven games of last season, and the Highlanders only managed a 2-5 record without him. Jamon Gordon is Virginia Tech’s best defender and he should present a big challenge for Holcomb-Faye.

Radford’s best inside player is 6-6 forward Chris Oliver. Oliver averaged 14.9 points per game last season, just behind Holcomb-Faye. He finished second in the Big South in rebounding with seven boards per game. He is a pretty good athlete underneath the basket.

Speaking of rebounding, both of these teams had their struggles in that statistic last season. Radford finished dead last in the Big South in rebounding margin last season, so Virginia Tech will not be at an obvious disadvantage in this category as they generally are.

Radford does not have a very big starting lineup. Starting center Duane Ricks is 6-9, but the second tallest player is the Chris Oliver at 6-6. Small forward Reggie McIntyre is 6-1, while starting point guard Andre Bynum is 6-2.

This will be a whole new experience for Radford. Byron Samuels brought in three new assistant coaches in the offseason, so there will be an adjustment period for the Highlanders. Don’t expect Radford to use a lot of players in tonight’s game. They will utilize several players in different position, such as Holcomb-Faye playing point guard whenever Andre Bynum needs a breather.

The Hokies have the advantage in athleticism and size, and should come away with a relatively easy victory.

Bowling Green (18-11 last year)

Virginia Tech will face Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon at 1 pm. The Falcons have built a very solid program under ninth year head coach Dan Dakich. They are coming off another winning season, going 18-11 a year ago. However the 2005-06 Bowling Green team will look much different than last year’s.

The Falcons brought in seven new players in the offseason, and the majority of the returning players are inexperienced. Bowling Green lost six of their top nine scorers from last season. Of the seven players they are returning this season, four combined to score just 57 points last year. Coach Dakich undoubtedly saw the NABC Classic as an opportunity for his inexperienced group to play a few more games and get more experience before MAC play begins.

Bowling Green’s top two players from last season are gone. Forwards Josh Almanson and John Reimold combined to average 35.7 points per game last season. They will be missed greatly. Guard Steven Wright will have to pickup the slack. He averaged 11.1 points per game last season. Wright can play point guard or shooting guard. He will likely see the majority of his time at shooting guard this season to give him more of an opportunity to score.

One player to watch for Bowling Green is 6-5 wing Mawel Soler. Soler only averaged 4 points per game last season, but he can be an exciting player to watch. He brings a lot of energy to the court and never takes a play off. He broke a backboard in pregame warm-ups last season and forced the start of the game to be delayed.

The Falcons have their most experience and talent in the backcourt, just like the Hokies. Steven Wright is their best player. On the inside, they have no one with much experience, and may have to depend on some freshmen at times. They have a big body in Matt Lefeld, who measures 6-11, 260. But he only averaged 0.8 points per game and 0.5 rebounds per game last season.

One newcomer to watch is JUCO Mark Samarco. He is a threat from three-point range, hitting 46.7% of his shots from downtown last season for Schoolcraft Community College in Michigan.

Bowling Green is well-coached and they have a history of winning, but their inexperience and lack of an inside game will likely catch up with them against the Hokies on Saturday.

Western Carolina (8-22 last year)

Virginia Tech will take on Western Carolina on Sunday afternoon at 3 pm. Larry Hunter will begin his first season as Western Carolina’s head coach. He is very experienced. He has 509 career wins as a head coach, and 23 winning seasons in 25 years as a head coach at Ohio and Division III Wittenberg. He knows how to win games, but he is stepping into a very difficult situation.

The Catamounts have only ten scholarship players on their roster this season. Only one recruit that the previous staff signed ended up enrolling at Western Carolina. The Southern Conference’s all-time leading shot blocker, Rans Brempong, is gone.

Western Carolina does have a very good inside player in 6-10, 230 senior David Berghoefer. He averaged 14.6 points and eight rebounds per game last season. He also shot 50.6% from the field. He must have a big game on Sunday if the Catamounts hope to knock off Virginia Tech.

The Catamounts return some experience in their backcourt. Kyle Greathouse, Trey Hopkins and Antonio Russell combined to average 24.5 points per game last year, but none of them are very good shooters. Virginia Tech should have no trouble stopping the Catamounts on the perimeter.

This is a game the Hokies should dominate and coast to an easy victory. Western Carolina has no player taller than 6-7, besides Berghoefer. They are smaller than the Hokies, going through a coaching transition, and they have little to no depth. Look for a Deron Washington dunk fest on Sunday afternoon.

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