Tech Talk Live Notes: Looking Ahead To Syracuse

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Virginia Tech
Mike Young’s Virginia Tech Hokies will play at Syracuse on Tuesday night. (Jon Fleming)

Virginia Tech senior forward Branden Johnson and head coach Mike Young were Sunday’s guests on Tech Talk Live.

Branden Johnson

On his journey to Blacksburg…

It started off with my love of basketball. That took me pretty far, just loving the game. I was in my last year [at Alabama State] and wanted to get closer to home, so Virginia Tech was that fit. It turned out to be a pretty good fit for me.

On being the veteran on the team…

It’s been an experience being the old guy on the team this year. It takes me back to my first year when I’m teaching John [Ojiako] the ropes of doing things and thinking that you’re going to be the greatest when you start, but you still have to come along.

On his academics…

At Alabama State, I had a 3.0 for my first two semesters, so I was doing pretty well. Last semester, I just had a 3.5, which was my best semester yet.

On his love for architecture and engineering…

I just really loved to build things when I was younger and always thought that I wanted to build something like a house or a building when I got older.

On moving from Ohio to Alabama…

When I got there, I was always super early to class because I wasn’t adjusted to the time change yet.

On his family…

I haven’t been able to meet my youngest brother yet because he was just born and there’s been some stuff going on. Growing up with a big family, it teaches you some things and humbles you. You have to learn how to share everything.

On the team’s bowling skills…

I think Tyrece [Radford] and Nahiem [Alleyne] are at the top. Maybe it’s something about the left hand.

On playing at UVA…

It was a beautiful arena; it was actually the first time that I’ve seen an NBA-like arena playing in college.

On going in a submarine in Maui…

We got on the boat to get to the submarine and I was thinking, ‘This is it.’ I can’t swim either. We get in the submarine and we passed some coral reefs and some fish, and it was pretty nice. John Ojiako and Jonathan Kabongo and I were all scrunched up with about 50 other people in there.

On his interests off the court…

I like to play the game a lot. I also like to draw a lot, I used to do that a lot when I was younger.

On Mike Young’s coaching style…

I like the pace that he plays at. He’s coming from a winning program at Wofford. I just feel like it’s a good style for me.

On his dream vacation spot…

I haven’t been a lot of places, but I think I’d like to go to Dubai. I’ve heard it’s pretty nice there.

On his life after basketball…

Down the road, I would like to be an engineer or architect. I’d like to have something that’s still there after I’m gone. I’d like to do some interior design to start so I could get used to the inside of the building before I went big.

On the personalities of the freshmen…

We’ll start with Big John, he’s from a different place and he’s a little soft-spoken. Once you get to know him, he’s a pretty funny guy. Nahiem is just like John, they’re roommates and they’re both pretty funny. Jalen Cone is one of the loudest freshmen ever, he’s pretty funny and he’s a fun roommate. Hunter [Cattoor] is soft-spoken, but on the court, he’s pretty loud.

On the message ahead of the Syracuse game…

Just leave the last game in the past and move on to the next game. Don’t dwell in the past and just try to get the next victory.

Mike Young

On moving on from the UVA game…

I didn’t get a lot out of them today with the physicality of that game and the quick turnaround. You can talk about the contrast in styles between these two teams offensively and defensively. We had a lot more film today. We watched last night’s game and thought we had a lot to learn there. We went on the floor and got some things back in the film room with Syracuse. Tomorrow will be a big day in that preparation, but overall today was a very positive day.

On making adjustments at halftime…

It was a mixture. If you go back and watch it a couple of times, they guarded it exactly the way that we thought they would. We did not shoot the ball. We had to get a couple down. It’s a 7-point game and there’s six to play [in the first half], you’re in great shape. Maybe not great, but you’re fine. Even the basket to end the half, so many new things. We wanted to foul there, we had a foul to give and we typically do. We need to work on that more. John needed to foul the Huff kid and 23 got behind us for a lay-in and we’re down 13. That’s behind the 8-ball.

I’ll be saying it until the end of the year; every game, every segment there’s so much to learn. They’ve done a great job to this point. I’m disappointed in how we played. I thought we competed, but didn’t do enough good things to beat Virginia.

On PJ Horne’s struggles shooting…

I think the worst thing you can do with a basketball player is discourage something that they’ve been proficient at. He shot the cover off it. He’s not shooting well right now, he hasn’t in some time. His numbers over the last couple of games aren’t good as are some of the others. You go with what got you to this point, and that’s guys playing freely and not looking over their shoulder at their coach who is shrugging his shoulders discouragingly after a missed shot.

If he gets some of those down in the first half, it’s a different game. It played out exactly the way we thought it would. Those were going to be some of our best opportunities, but they didn’t go down. With Landers [Nolley], we thought we could get a couple with him with Diakite guarding him. Landers had 15 at the half, but we didn’t get a lot of help from the others.

On the shooting struggles for Nahiem Alleyne…

He’s battling. He’s in a dark place. He’s in that freshman rut, and there may be another one that comes around the bend at some point. You begin to doubt your game. He took a bad shot at about the 15-minute mark, and God bless his heart, he just wants to play so well and help us win in the worst way. By pressing, you do some things that are out of character and are out of nowhere.

Again, that is a part of the process and is as much a part of his process as all of the freshmen. You hang in there, and those guys are going to be right back playing good basketball for us and Nahiem has done that for us this season.

On trying to help the young guys get adjusted… 

I’ve been doing it for 35 years and if I had a quick answer, I would have employed it already. It’s a lot harder with so many people who haven’t been through the meat of it. Once we get into the bulk of our ACC schedule, it’s a time thing. I want to see us fight back. I think the only game we fought back in was Clemson. I thought we showed a lot of resolve and fight in the Michigan State game when they took a stab at us.

Then, I go to a couple games like the UVA game. You can’t withdraw and you can’t go into your shell. That’s the most selfless time when you have to have guys picking up others and helping one another. We will continue to address that.

On the UVA offensive attack…

Kihei Clark is very good. Huff is a threat to step out and shoot it, too. They went to that specifically one time and he missed it. Diakite is obviously really good. We’ll get better at defending that. I fought myself as much as I fought my team. We didn’t handle that part of it, and we’ve really only played one dynamic point guard. Dayton had a really special one, but Cassius Winston is the one point guard that can turn the corner on a ball screen and really create havoc.

I compared it to a quarterback in football who is in the middle of the field without any pressure. He can throw it left or right or drive it without any pressure. That can be a nightmare. You have to stop the thing at the ball screen, and you have to make the ball retreat a bounce. That gives Wabissa Bede a chance to get back in front of the ball. They went to that a lot, more so than any other point in the season. That’s how we have to cover it right now for a couple of reasons. There will be times when we’re more rigid on those ball screens and play it with more length and play it differently, but we’ll get better with that. We have to.

On limiting turnovers…

We had six at the 14-minute mark of the first half. That just grinds on me. Not careless mistakes, that’s a byproduct of their defense. They don’t make mistakes. They’re where they’re supposed to be, and our ballhandling was not what we’ve come to expect. Our numbers are all fouled up with six assists and 13 turnovers for the game. Six assists on however many made baskets we had was unacceptable. Our team understands that.

On Branden Johnson…

He’s got a great attitude. He’s the same guy every day. I think he had a 4.0 GPA in his graduate schoolwork in the fall. He’s very well-liked by our team. He is an energy-giver and is always down there pulling for his teammates. We’re lucky to have him.

On the schedule this week…

It’s hard. I’m accustomed to Thursday to Sunday, Thursday to Saturday, or Saturday to Monday. Those are even more brutal. You factor in the travel, and it’s packed. We’re fortunate that we’re not in class right now, with the exception of a few who are in a class. It’s a lot earlier practice at noon. You’re trying to get to the airport and get to beautiful Syracuse, NY in a timely fashion.

It’s a 9 o’clock game, and we’ll have a discussion about that, we have to be prepared for that. We played Seton Hall last year in the NCAA tournament and Arkansas in 2015 at 9 o’clock, and that’s a brutal day. The worst thing you can have happen because it is such a long day is that the young guys get out there and are so fired up throughout the day and then the ball goes up and you’re flat as a pancake. We’ll manage that and it does give us a better opportunity to look at even more film on gameday heading into our shootaround. It is a cause for concern.

On traveling to Syracuse…

It’s my first trip to upstate New York. It’s the first time I’ve competed against Coach Boeheim and the Orange. Look forward to getting up there.

On playing in a big arena…I’m not a fan of it, but they’re playing the NCAA Tournament in those arenas now. I’m not a big fan, but they don’t ask my opinion. They want to cram as many people in as they can. We’ll get up there tomorrow night and get a chance to shoot. We have a chance on gameday, too. I’ve watched some games, and other teams have shot pretty well. Against the zone, we’ll have to as well.

On preparing for the Syracuse zone…

I admire the way he does it. It would drive me crazy playing that way, but he does it and last time I checked, he’s won a bunch of games. Their coverages are different, and they’re not as long as they have been. Shots come at different angles, too. You have to play through your high post and get guys in there who can handle it. Landers will be in there a lot, and we’ll get Wabissa in there at times. Moving the basketball without it being deflected and getting people in the right spots is big. We spent a lot of time on it today, we’ll spent an inordinate amount of time on it tomorrow. It’s a big deal for us.

On Syracuse…

Buddy Boeheim is very good. He’s one of those 6’8” kids who needs a blink and the ball is in the air. He’s better going to his left than he is his right. He’s one of those guys who you have to be with him at the catch or you’re dead. He’s going to put it in the basket.

I haven’t seen everybody. The Hughes kid strikes me as the most surefire NBA guy on the perimeter that I’ve seen. He gets that thing in his right hand and can get over top of you. We don’t have a great matchup with him. Wabissa is going to guard him a little and try to irritate him with his toughness and quickness. Tyrece Radford will start on him, but a kid that can shoot it from deep and can get over top of you where he’s deadly. They have a few other guards who are capable, but we’ll have our hands full and we’ll defend better than we did last night.

On Coach Beamer making the trip to Charlottesville…

Coach Beamer has a standing invitation. I think he went down last year and sat on the bench and that one didn’t go so well. I told him on the bus, ‘Listen, I’m not taking you down here to do any coaching, I’m taking you down here to spend time with you.’ Obviously, Coach and Mrs. Beamer are wonderful people, and it was great to have them along and share some things. Being with them was a lot of fun for all of us. We all went out the night before for dinner and had great time.

On the culture of the team…

We have great people. I’ve mentioned it to my wife and many friends. That makes it even more special when you can walk into that building and be surrounded by people who represent our team, our school, our community and Southwest Virginia in a classy fashion. That makes you feel good, and I’m happy and proud of the organization we have put together. I’m looking forward to seeing it grow.

On the keys to beating Syracuse…

We have to do a lot of things better. There’s such a contrast in styles. You go from what we saw last night to what we’ll see on Tuesday defensively and offensively; it’s a totally different look. It’s 40 minutes of zone. Nothing in the fullcourt unless they’re behind. You have to work through that and get some good shots. On the defensive end, they’ve got some size.

They have a big guy in the post that doesn’t score very well, but they’ll play through him a little bit. Hughes is an NBA talent. Boeheim needs to get picked up at 28 or 29 feet, he can knock it down from anywhere. We have to clean the slate, and the most important game you’ve got is the next one.

On preparing for the physicality of upcoming opponents…

We’re not going to pack 15 more pounds on them any time soon. That’s going to take some time and it’s a process in terms of weight training and nutrition. They’re holding up well and understand the work that is before them. They have great attitudes. What could be better? We play in the ACC and are heading up to Syracuse, NY to play the Orangemen of Syracuse. We’re excited about it and we’re going to go up there and try to get a big win.

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5 Responses You are logged in as Test

    1. From Wikipedia, “Syracuse University’s sports teams have had “the Orange” nickname since 2004, although the former names of Orangemen and Orangewomen are still used. ”
      Since he’s never played against Syracuse or been to their school, I’m going to give that a pass. I suspect he’ll get that figured out pretty soon.
      Just hope the Hokies don’t wear those Orange uniforms again on Tuesday night!

  1. Beautiful Syracuse N.Y. in Jan. ?
    Todays weather 38/28, light snow 80% there.
    Tomorrow morning in NRV 1-3 in. of snow.
    Hope the team is leaving this afternoon.

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