Back in late August, I examined Virginia Tech men’s basketball’s non-conference schedule for the 2021-22 season and provided some analysis for each opponent.
This is part three, where we’ll dive into Virginia Tech’s roster for the season and break down the Hokies position-by-position. Later, Chris Coleman will have a column (part four) following up on the first three parts of our preview.
The Hokies open up their season on Tuesday, Nov. 9 in Cassell Coliseum vs. Maine. It’s an 8 p.m. ET tip on ACC Network Extra, and it follows the women’s basketball game at 5 p.m. vs. Davidson. Full schedule: link.
Here’s a table with the complete Virginia Tech men’s basketball roster for the 2021-22 season:
We’ll go position-by-position, starting at point guard.
For the first time in five seasons, Wabissa Bede is no longer a point guard at Virginia Tech. He took over the reins from Justin Robinson in 2019-20 and played in the Mike Young system for two years, but he decided to depart to Texas A&M ahead of this season and join Buzz Williams’ staff as a program aide.
With Bede’s departure, Young and his staff hit the transfer portal, and boy, did they hit the jackpot.
The Hokies added Storm Murphy, a 6-0 graduate senior from Wofford. A former First Team All-SoCon performer, Murphy, alongside Tech forward Keve Aluma, helped carry the Terriers to the NCAA Tournament in Young’s final season in Spartanburg.
Now, he’s in Blacksburg, and he averaged 17.8 points, 4.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds this past year. It’s a bit different from what Tech has been used to over the past two seasons with Bede running point in Young’s system. Bede was careful and didn’t turn the ball over, but was a liability offensively.
Murphy has great vision and can find open teammates, but he can also score. With him on the floor, opponents have to defend all five Hokies, which makes Virginia Tech even more dangerous.
“He [Murphy] is 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,” Tech forward Justyn 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.”
The Middleton, WI native is back playing in Mike Young’s system, the scheme he originally played in at Wofford, and he has a plethora of options on the outside.
Behind him is Sean Pedulla, a 6-1 freshman from Edmond, OK. A three-star guard and the No. 2 player in the state of Oklahoma, Young said Pedulla hasn’t exactly sat back and learned the ropes. He’s competed with Murphy and wants to be involved.
“Sean Pedulla is going to play,” Young said back in early October. “He adheres to the things that we value. … He’s a tough kid, he can make a shot, he doesn’t turn the ball over.”
Tech also has the option of Hunter Cattoor at point guard, if needed. He saw some time there last year to give Bede a break, but he’s better fit on the wing. With the experience of Murphy and depth of Pedulla, those two should eat up the majority of minutes at the one.
Hunter Cattoor (6-3, Jr.) and Nahiem Alleyne (6-4, Jr.) were two parts of Mike Young’s first four-man recruiting class at Virginia Tech. John Ojiako is still at Virginia Tech, but has battled through injury, while Jalen Cone transferred to Northern Arizona in the offseason.
Cattoor and Alleyne have vastly improved, though. Both played significant minutes as freshmen back in 2019-20, and both had solid roles on last year’s NCAA Tournament team. Alleyne started 21 of Tech’s 22 games last season, while Cattoor played in all but only started two.
The duo has two years of experience under its belt now, which is scary. Here are their stats from last season:
Alleyne: 11.1 ppg, 204 total points (second on team), 40.8% from three
Cattoor: 8.5 ppg, 187 total points (fifth on team), 43.3% from three
“Alleyne and Cattoor came here at a time where I had no choice but to play them,” Young said. “And now, as third-year guys, those guys have played a lot of ball. … It was painful, at times, going through it, but the experience and reps those guys had as young people, and now to see them as third-year guys, they’re doing really, really well.”
Behind them, there is some depth. Darius Maddox (6-5, So.) has come along really well, while David N’Guessan (6-9, So.) should spend some time at wing, too.
Young told the media that N’Guessan had looked like the best player through Virginia Tech’s first five practices at the beginning of October, and said that he can play both the three and the four. As for Maddox, Young said he’s had a really good summer and will help the Hokies.
“David has really worked on his perimeter game,” Young said. “He’s worked and he’s made himself into a pretty darn good perimeter shooter, and that will be a part of his game. He will have the ability, the opportunity to shoot that shot. Maddox got caught in a numbers crunch a little bit last year but has had a really good summer and I count on him to help us win games.”
Keve Aluma (6-9, r-Sr.) and Justyn Mutts (6-7, Gr.) both return this season, and the Hokies have more depth than ever at the four and five this year.
John Ojiako (6-10, Jr.), Lynn Kidd (6-10, So., Clemson transfer) and Jalen Haynes (6-8, Fr.) give Virginia Tech a lot of size in the frontcourt. Throw in N’Guessan, who is bound to play some four, and that’s a loaded group.
Aluma earned Preseason All-ACC honors and finished second for the Preseason ACC Player of the Year, behind Duke’s Paolo Banchero. He has a serious argument to be the best player in the league, and as Young said, he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in.
“I remember five years ago as slightly overweight, timid, unsure and to see him now, … he looks like a million dollars,” Young said. “He could shoot over 40% from three this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if he made in the vicinity from 40 to 55 from three, he’s shooting it that well. To see, in terms of poise, he’s delightful to coach. He’s awesome, I’m so proud of him and I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to coach him for one more year.”
Justyn Mutts is no slouch, either. He has solid aspirations to make the conference’s All-Defense team at the end of the season, and Young called him a difference-maker. Alongside Aluma, he provides a solid one-two punch. He can shoot it from the outside, too.
Then there is the remaining four. Ojiako’s been in Blacksburg for a few seasons, while Kidd transferred in from Clemson. Haynes is a freshman, and N’Guessan is an experienced sophomore.
“John [Ojiako] is going to play,” Young said. “He’s playing good basketball. He’s as big as a house, he’s strong. He’s been most impressive in our practices and if we were going to play today, he would back up Aluma and I would feel very comfortable with that. He’s running our stuff well. Big body, shot blocking ability has improved, so he is going to play.”
“Jalen Haynes is big, has lost a lot of weight, is really skilled with the ball, left-handed,” Young said. “Lynn Kidd has done it at Clemson in a very good program.”
Tech has plentiful depth. It has experience, too, and will likely start three fifth-year seniors and two third-year players.
The non-conference schedule is challenging, too, likely the most competitive out of conference slate the Hokies have played since joining the ACC.
What’s the ceiling on this team? Chris Coleman will have more in his column later this week.