Virginia Tech Men’s Basketball: Mike Jones, Experience, And Good Shooters

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Mike Young has an experienced and unselfish bunch entering his third season at the helm of the Hokies. (Jon Fleming)

Virginia Tech men’s basketball had media day on Monday and head coach Mike Young, along with three players – Keve Aluma, Justyn Mutts and Storm Murphy – spoke to the media.

In the offseason, Young added an assistant to his coaching staff, which has impacted recruiting. He and his players discussed how having a veteran-laden team with tons of experience in Blacksburg is so crucial, and Young notes that this might be the best shooting group he’s ever coached.

Mike Jones and Recruiting

Mike Young might say he’s been lucky, but he knows how to pick out his assistants. When he hired Mike Jones away from DeMatha back in May, he added a coach with experience with USA Basketball and great ties to high schools.

Jones had been at DeMatha Catholic High School for 19 years. A former player at Old Dominion under coach Oliver Purnell, who Young worked for at Radford in 1988, Jones had zero college coaching experience. So far, he’s been a great addition to Virginia Tech’s coaching staff, which includes assistants Christian Webster and Kevin Giltner.

Mike Jones, who has so much experience in the high school ranks and with Team USA, has fit really well on Mike Young’s staff in Blacksburg. (Team USA)

“He has been nothing short of exceptional, and I had a gut feeling,” Young said. “I think everything that I had hoped to have from Mike, I’ve gotten that and more. … I know he’s not going to be around here very long. He’ll be a head coach because he’s that good, and I am delighted to have him in Blacksburg.”

“He’s definitely added a lot,” Keve Aluma said. “He’s a great guy and he knows the game super well, so to be able to learn some things from him and talk with him has helped me a lot.”

Jones has added a lot on the recruiting trail, too. On Sunday, the Hokies earned a commitment from Rodney Rice, a 4-star, 6-4 wing in the Class of 2022 from DeMatha. Jones’ relationships with high school prospects have clearly benefited Virginia Tech, which is on the rise in the recruiting world.

“This is an easy sell,” Young said. “This is a piece of cake. Recruiting is hard, I don’t care where you are. But you’re recruiting to a world class university, an unbelievable college community, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the opportunity to play… I think our staff has done a great job, from Chester [Frazier], Antwon [Jackson], now with Christian [Webster], Kevin [Giltner] and Mike [Jones].

“I feel really good about the people that we’ve brought here and what they’ve contributed to our program. We’ve got three committed now [in the 2022 class]. I’d like to have another one or two, but I think that part of it has been pretty damn good to this point.”

An Experienced Group

This season, Virginia Tech’s starting five will likely consist of three fifth-year seniors and two juniors.

The Hokies were somewhat experienced last year – a senior, two redshirt juniors, a redshirt sophomore and a true sophomore. In Young’s first season, it was two juniors, a sophomore, a redshirt freshman and a true freshman.

Keve Aluma, Justyn Mutts and Storm Murphy are all veterans, while it’s crazy to think Nahiem Alleyne and Hunter Cattoor are entering their third season in Blacksburg. Young has a starting squad that has a lot of minutes under its belt – 10,602 to be exact.

How much will the experience help the Hokies this season?

“Tremendously,” Mike Young said. “I don’t know that this is how it’s going to play out, but if we started tomorrow, we would start three fifth-year seniors: Storm Murphy, Justyn Mutts, Keve Aluma, and two juniors: [Hunter] Cattoor and [Nahiem] Alleyne. Those guys have seen a lot of plays and have been a part of a lot of winning, and it beats the alternative. I can tell you that those young ones can turn your hair white.”

In Young’s first season, the oldest players on the team that got consistent minutes were Wabissa Bede and P.J. Horne, two juniors. Multiple freshmen and sophomores came off the bench. In 2021-22, it’s a completely different story.

David N’Guessan received a lot of praise from Young on Monday – “he has arguably been our best person through our first five practices” – and he’s a sophomore. Darius Maddox and Clemson transfer Lynn Kidd have come along nicely and are also in their second season.

Even John Ojiako, who Young said is “healthy and is as fit as he’s been,” is a junior. Sean Pedulla and Jalen Haynes are freshmen, but the majority of the team is older. That’s going to pay off down the road.

Below is a table of Virginia Tech’s 2021-22 roster, color-coded by class, with the staff, a state breakdown and a class breakdown included, as well as a key on the right.

“It was painful at times going through it, but the experience and the reps that those guys had as young people and now to see them as his third-year guys,” Young said, “and boy, they’re doing really, really well.”

“I feel as though having that experience on our team is a really important thing,” Justyn Mutts said. “I don’t know who it was that said, ‘Get old and stay old in college basketball,’ but I definitely see the strength in that. You have years of experience with certain guys who know what college basketball is demanding of you, whereas, a lot of younger guys don’t necessarily recognize that high school basketball and college basketball really are kind of like two different games, and kind of having the opportunity to see that through for the full year [is a benefit].”

Unselfish Teammates And A Plethora Of Shooters

One of the other things that Mutts mentioned was how much his teammates want each other to succeed.

“We have so many guys that are so unselfish and so skilled at the same time,” Mutts said. “Those guys are drawing attention, but they’re not just looking to score all the time. We’ve got guys that are anxious to get other guys involved, to make other people better.”

It also helps when you have a point guard in Storm Murphy that lives for making the extra pass. A First Team All-SoCon nominee in 2020-21, Murphy averaged 4.3 assists per game. He really enjoys finding his teammates, which Mutts said he does a tremendous job of.

“He’s a great scorer, but at the same time, he’ll see things no one else on the court is seeing and he’ll get it there,” Mutts said. “Playing with a guy like that, it makes everyone else work so much harder, it makes everyone else want to go so much harder because you know opportunities are going to be coming.”

That’s important when you have a team that can shoot.

The Hokies shot 42% from the floor (12th in ACC) and 35.2% from behind the arc (3rd in ACC) in 2019-20, Young’s first season. Last year, the field goal number jumped up to 45% (7th in ACC) while the Hokies stayed consistent at 35.4% (5th in ACC) from deep.

Tech has steadily improved shooting the ball. And now, entering 2021-22, Young said he thinks that collectively, this might be the best shooting team he’s ever had in his 36 years as a basketball coach. That’s scary.

Mike Young said this might be the best shooting team he’s ever had as a head coach. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

“I don’t recall ever having a team where I was completely comfortable with all five guys shooting it,” Young explained. “I have a lot of things bouncing through my head on how best to utilize that. That’s very uncomfortable, nobody wants to guard a team that can do that. I typically have three, maybe four on the floor at the same time, but to have five…

“I saw Mutts make 82 of 100 before practice last week. Aluma’s shooting it at a high clip. That will certainly be a strong suit of this team. I’m really excited about the different things that we can do with them to exploit that.”

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19 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Coach Young – just the coach VT needed. This is so refreshing after Buzz left us high and dry. At this point I’ve forgotten about Buzz and think bb at Tech is going to new levels under Coach Young! GO HOKIES!!!!!

  2. i don’t know what we’re paying Mike Jones, but you know he’s gonna want a raise soon if he keeps grabbing these high profile recruits and we’re going to retain him. Pay the man!

    1. One high profile recruit. That is great and I hope it continues, but it is also only one recruit, not a pattern “yet”.

    2. Guessing Mike’s here for 2-3 years? So that’s the game to be played, I mean, give him what’s he’s worth but VT’s not in the “pay the man” game, we will lose him regardless in three years. He benefits being around someone he likes and trusts and learns what it’s like in the college ranks so I think that’s the deal. So “use him wisely” any player we snag that third year will be gone when Mike leaves.

  3. This is exciting. Seems like we’ve waited a long time to have a generally full list of schollie players let alone a full compliment of Jr-Sr guys, this really is an historic moment. Buzz’s final team only had three of which Chris Clarke wasn’t playing.

    Mike Jones seems like an amazing pick-up, people have their reasons of course, and DeMatha is certainly the crème of high school jobs but wondering why he hasn’t moved up until now? 56 it’s now or never. Anyway, can we expect 2-3 years for him now at his discretion bringing a few players along? That’s fine, probably how a VT needs to play the game.

    Was hoping/thinking last year would be the year of Ojiako now I’m kinda wondering where he is in VT’s plans, gotta be this year. “He’s healthy” is a pretty neutral comment. Should be a fun season, will try to see the team in Annapolis and make it down sometime this year.

      1. Mea culpa, I tried, looked up his age out of curiosity, just the wrong Mike Jones. So he’s late 40’s (47-48?) even makes more sense, getting your college act together at 56 seemed pretty late in the game, ie, move on to an HC at age 60, hmmmmm. so doing the same late 40s sounds like a guy who’s on schedule 2-3 years makes him 50, plenty young for an extended college head coaching career.

      1. Well OK, but Buzz had a funny habit of not using up all the schollies he could and at one time I think they were down to 7 schollie players, and oh yeah, boom, he leaves and there really isn’t a next class of guys to re-load. same with Greenberg although he seemed to have an attrition problem. So no, using up most/all of your schollies doesn’t guarantee wins but I’m happy to see it, I would think it would be a fundamental 101 step to having more versatility, looking forward to next year etc. VT hasn’t seen that in a long time. And more succinctly 5 (playing) jr-sr versus 3 even counting NAW.

    1. That sounds unreal, but unguarded high level bb players can knock down shots non stop. I know he isn’t Kevin Durant, but Durant had a workout session filmed where his trainer said, “We are done when you make 100 straight 3’s.” He accomplished it. Not saying 82 isn’t good, but I would guess most Senior shooters on p5 teams could do pretty close to the same..

      1. Ever watch NBA 3 point contest ? Larry Bird, Steph Curry, never made 100% of their uncontested shots. 83 % is pretty good for some all time greats.

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