On Thursday night, Virginia Tech basketball head coach Mike Young and sophomore guard Sean Pedulla joined Zach Mackey and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live at McClain’s at First & Main. They discussed the win against Pitt, the loss at Miami and previewed Saturday’s contest against Duke.
What was your overall impression of last week?
I thought it was a real step in the right direction against Pittsburgh, we’ve been struggling with defending the three-point line. They shoot as good as anyone else in the ACC. I think we held them to three threes all game, which is really good. It was kind of the same scout going forward to Miami, they shoot it really well as well. I thought we did a good job with that. But as always, there’s more things to fix.
That Pitt game was physical, wasn’t it?
It was indeed, yeah. They have some very athletic, big guys. Very physical game.
Do you find yourself having to adjust how you play or how tough you guard based on how the game is being called?
Yeah, it was kind of polar opposites. I think Pitt, there were so many foul calls and it was kind of like everything you did, as physical as a game it was, it felt like you can only be so physical because there was going to be a foul call. It was actually one of the few games I haven’t been in foul trouble this year. So yeah, in a way, it was very physical, but then against Miami, it was like they were letting everything go. You definitely have to adjust just based on how they’re calling the game and the opponent. It was definitely kind of a polar opposite.
Earlier in the season, you were playing 40 minutes. Now, due to the rotation, you’re playing 36-38 minutes. Does that make you feel fresher when playing?
Yeah, it does and it doesn’t. Obviously, I want to play as much as possible. But there’s times in the game where I do feel like really, really gassed and really tired and getting that like one minute, two minutes, just to where you can rest, get your feet under you, get a drink of water. You don’t take it for granted after you play 40 minutes in a game. [Mike Young] has been trying to fix that. It’s hard to do that with the injuries we’ve had, the limited availability of some of our guys, so you can’t really blame him for that.
Last year, you didn’t start a single game. This year, you’ve started 28/28. How exhausting has that been?
I don’t feel like an Ironman. It is pretty exhausting. I will say it’s gotten me in probably the best shape I’ve ever been in, so that’s one positive way to look at it. It is definitely tiring. I think it’s more and more exhausting when you go against teams like NC State and Miami where you can tell they’re telling their players, “Make him tired” and “pick him up fullcourt the whole game.”
So you’re trying to beat the pressure into the halfcourt and then by the time you get in the halfcourt, you’re super tired. You have to run the plays with a certain pace. It adds up. It can get under you a little bit. I’ve gotten better and better with it as the seasons gone on.
You averaged five points per game last year, now averaging fifteen. No one in college basketball has made that much of a change. Is it confidence?
Yeah, I’d say out of the first 10 games of the season, the change was just the confidence that the coaches had in me, and then also the confidence that the other teammates that I was playing with had to me. After that, it was a realization of, “I belong, and I’m supposed to be doing this stuff.” So yeah, I’d say confidence was the biggest change going into this year.
What was the biggest thing you took away from the way Storm Murphy played?
He was definitely a great role model last year, just because he came from Wofford with Coach Young, so he could tell me what exactly Coach Young looks for. “In a certain situation, he wants this,” or “Don’t do this.” So as far as that aspect, he was a great role model and person to be behind. I’d say just something I took away from his game was never get too low, never get too high.
There were games last year where he didn’t play as well as he wanted to, and he knew that. You can’t hang your hat on [it] and be hung up on the last game. You just have to move forward. That’s probably the biggest thing I took away from Storm’s game, just to move on.
Do you feel like you’ve grown in the defensive element of your game too?
Yeah, I’d say I’ve definitely grown on ball defense, and that kind of goes back to the minutes. It’s really exhausting guarding guys like Nijel Pack, he’s a great player, and he’s really fast. The last game, I was guarding Nelly Cummings, just another guy where you have to be aware of where he’s at all the time because he can shoot it and get to the rim. They’re all so fast.
Putting in all those minutes and then guarding those guys for 30-second possessions, it’s very exhausting. I’d say I’ve gotten better on ball. What I’m trying to work on now is not losing my defender when he’s off the ball. I think, and the coaches have been telling me, like whenever my guy is done making his moves or whatever, he gives up, I take a deep breath because I can rest now. Then he’s like running off of the screen [while I’m resting]. It’s a constant track meet out there.
How about rebounding?
Some games, the ball doesn’t really come off towards my direction. In some games, it does. I just like box out. I don’t really change anything in that category.
What has Grant Basile meant coming into this team and what he has been able to do?
Yeah, he’s been a real plus. He’s a great guy to have around. He can obviously score the ball really well, these last couple of months. He’s really come on that end. He just very enjoyable guy to be around. He’s definitely one of the guys that came in that I was most excited about, and he just proved me right the rest of the year. I’m glad he’s here.
How was it playing against Oklahoma State, coming from Oklahoma?
It was definitely a cool experience, especially because my college decision came down to Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State. A lot of those coaches at Oklahoma State had recruited me and I obviously grew up in Oklahoma. I’ve been to Oklahoma State games all throughout my childhood. Brooks Manzer was one of my best friends in high school, he walked on there.
It was a really cool experience playing against coaches that I grew up talking to, literally my best friend, playing against him. There were times where I’d make a shot or something and I’d look at him and just wink at him or something. He would just smile back. So that was one experience that I’ve never really had so far.
How do things look for the Hokies on Saturday?
Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. [Duke] obviously has a really good team, really good rebounding team, so this time will be pretty similar, I assume, focusing on keeping them off the glass and getting to their shooters and scorers. All in all, I think it’ll be pretty good. I’m looking forward to playing them.
In that Florida State game last season, you made six or seven threes, went off for around 20 points. What was that feeling?
It was a good feeling for a bunch of reasons, but especially because it was the first game that whole season where I felt like I was in control of the game. I was very confident. As far as that aspect, it was definitely cool because it was a road game. I came in just playing confident, and I told Darius Maddox in warmups, I was like, “I’m just going to launch it today.” He was like, “Alright.” I just went in there super confident and it ended up playing out. That was a really, really good game to play.
In the NCAA Tournament, you had 19 points against Texas:
It was in Milwaukee, and it was kind of funny because I don’t think the majority of the crowd was there to see our game. It was all red Wisconsin fans. Playing in March Madness has always a dream of everyone who plays basketball. To play in March Madness in front of that crowd, and my family got to see that game. That was a really fun game. Wish it ended differently.
What made you pick Virginia Tech over Oklahoma State?
It was a very tough decision just for that reason. Everyone I knew wanted me to go there because they would get to see me play more if I went there, and all my friends in high school that I was closest with would go there. But for me, and this is what I told everyone when I was making a decision, it was less about who was going to which school and who I’d see the most.
It was more about my future of basketball and what fit was better for me. I didn’t want to go to a school simply because it was right down the road from my house. I thought that’d be a silly decision. It really just came down to basketball and where I thought it would help my future with basketball the most.
How about Hunter Cattoor hitting 1,000 career points the other night?
It was super exciting. Grant [Basile] and I, before the game we were betting on who was going to have the assist. I told him “Oh, it’s going to come from me. I promise you that.” It was cool. Congrats to him. He’s obviously a super hard worker and I am proud of him. It’s a big accomplishment.
You’re a Sports Media and Analytics major. How has that been going?
It’s going well, I’ve enjoyed it. Once you get the classes [everyone has to take] out of the way, you get into more defined stuff. So I’ve enjoyed it. I liked it. I just find it all interesting. I’m enjoying it. I really like it.
What’s been your favorite venue to play in the ACC?
That’s a tough one. Besides Cassell, I’d say… the Duke game last year was the loudest. It was also the most shocking because it’s a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Playing in Duke, it’s one of those places that you grew up wanting to play at. That’s another reason why I’m excited for this next game because I guess I’ll appreciate it a little bit more. Duke was probably the most electric venue.
What was it like trying to out-recruit Oklahoma State to get Sean Pedulla, also knowing his best friend was going to Oklahoma State?
Yeah, I don’t think that way. I’ve had several kids from Minnesota in my career. I’ve had kids from Chicago, Illinois. I’ve had several kids from Florida, Wisconsin, that have opportunities other places closer to home. With air travel as it is now, in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the ACC is comprised of 11 states or something like that. Notre Dame is not a bad trip for his family.
For Sean specifically, it was bizarre and probably, when you get right down to it, probably even that much more lucky to get him to Virginia Tech because we recruited him during COVID. We couldn’t go see him. He couldn’t see us. I couldn’t see him the summer before his senior year. We’re taking everything off of film. I remember being in South Carolina during the summer and talking to his head coach, a gentleman named Shane Cowherd, who was a terrific coach.
Sean came over with his mom, Bernadette. We couldn’t see him, and he wasn’t going to commit anywhere without seeing the campus, and I can certainly understand that. He was on our campus and he is literally outside on Washington Way and Beamer, and we could see him and his mom. We couldn’t go outside of Hahn Hurst to welcome him, to thank him for coming. We were literally in Kevin Giltner’s office window waving to him. That was the way the rule was structured. Obviously, he had a good experience. He liked what he saw. We were fortunate enough to get him to Blacksburg and he is certainly not disappointed. He’s a really good player.
He played in every game last year, played an average of 13 minutes per game. Now he’s averaging 36 minutes per game and played 40 in a bunch:
What I put him through, I’m doing a lot better job. You have to agree over the last two or three games, I’ve gotten him off the floor for a minute in the first half. He’s spry after that minute break. Then I’m asking him to go for the rest of the game. He’s handled himself admirably. He’s tough. He plays really, really hard. He’s had a couple of situations over the course of the game that gave me pause and scared me a little bit, but right up he goes and he’s a good one. We’re lucky to coach him.
What were your overall thoughts on the Pitt game?
I thought we played a great ballgame against a team that I really admired going into it. I really admired them coming out of it. Old, grizzled, tough. They reminded me of the old Pitt teams with Ben Howland and Jamie Dixon. Really physical on both ends of the floor.
We were as good as we’ve been defensively. They came in averaging 10 made threes a game and we limited them to three. One in the first half. The four man is a difference maker. Blake Hinson, we limited him to just one. We had things contested. Sean did a really good job on Nelly Cummings, who’s having a really good year for them, a transfer from Colgate that stepped into the ACC and played very, very well.
I’ll tell you who I really like. He’s not a scorer, but he affects the game with his defense and his ball screen activity. Federiko Federiko. We did a really good job with him. We had him bottled up and I thought we were sharp. The ball got from side to side and into some really good areas that we want to get into offensively. That was a most impressive win for our team.
How about the 15 points and six rebounds for Mylyjael Poteat?
Yeah, we had him on skates a little bit. Our team had him on skates with our passing and the interior passing was really good. Mylyjael had a great look about him. I thought Lynn Kidd was good again. But Mylyjael found a groove and if you can get to that left shoulder and get it with his right hand, he’s a load, he’s hard to handle. He had a couple of catches, people kind of take that for granted. He had a couple of darts coming at him. Mylyjael gets his big paws up there and snares it and got it in the basket. He played an awfully good game for our team.
Mylyjael averages nine minutes per game, yet is fourth on the team at getting to the free throw line. What makes him so effective at getting there?
Well, he’s big as a house. He does a really good job of playing low and gets that shoulder down, extends the ball, it’s kind of an uncanny knack of extending the ball, which is not real sound fundamentally, but you’re not going to take it out of his hands. People just continuously whack him across the arm, get into his body. He’s a post player that can take a lick, he can take a lick and get through that contact and get the ball up on the rim, which is easier said than done. He’s playing very well for the Hokies.
It was good to see Rodney Rice back out there:
We’re going back and forth, holy cow. Just a tough set of circumstances for a young person to have to endure. We get him back for Syracuse, everyone’s aware of this. Two days later, going into another game, he breaks his pinky, he’s going to have surgery and they pin it. We didn’t think at the time that we’d had any shot at all of getting him back. He healed quickly, his medical staff gave him the go ahead to play. He was in good shape. Obviously not foot, ankle, knee. He was able to stay in shape during his rehab.
The reps that he gets from here to the end will aid him greatly as we look ahead to the next year. The hand this team has been dealt with everything that’s going on, I see MJ Collins improving every day. I made the comment in practice today to one of our assistant coaches. Every rep that Rodney Rice, every rep that MJ Collins sees through the course of this year to the end of the year is only going to aid them as we move ahead. Those two kids are going to be very good players.
Did you like your defense on Tuesday against Miami?
I don’t know if I liked our defense as much as I liked the pace of the game. I said before the game, “If the game is in the 80s, we’ve got real problems. I don’t think we can win that game. I don’t think we can score enough to win that game.” The pace of the game was good. They had a couple of spurts on us, I think we were up 27-24 with three and a half to play, something like that in the first half. Went into the locker room down 36-32.
That’s the kind of team that they have. They are that explosive, they can score so easily. We didn’t do as good a job with Norchad Omier, number 15, but did a great job with Jordan Miller. But Nijel Pack and Isaiah Wong are just so darn dynamic and it’s hard to keep them boxed in with the ball screens coverages. We did some really good things in that game.
It’s February 23, we’ve got a couple of weeks left. I think today, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of question that Miami has the best team in our league. That can certainly change. But they’ve got a good outfit and a team that I think could go a long way, in my opinion.
Norchad Omier had 17 points and 14 rebounds, six on the offensive glass. He was a man on a mission:
He came into the game averaging four offensive rebounds a game, and that is quite the statistic. Maybe he was a little quicker to the ball, but Duke does a good job with this too. He does as good a job of rebounding his own miss, it reminds me a Moses Malone. You guys remember Moses Malone from Petersburg, Virginia?
It’s like he misses a shot on purpose so he can get a better look at it. He’s going to get his own ball, had big strong hands. He is a load. He is a good basketball player. You’d think you’d be able to go at him, he’s just 6-7, but plays a lot bigger than that. He’s big, he’s wide. He’s quite the problem for anyone that plays the Hurricanes.
How is preparation for the Blue Devils going?
Really good. We gave them yesterday off, they needed a day off. We had a chance to go back and watch our first game with them in Cassell where we played awfully well. Duke is playing better, so we’ll have our hands full, but I look forward to getting to Durham tomorrow afternoon. We’ll be ready to go near eight o’clock on Saturday evening.
Kyle Filipowski is a handful, isn’t he?
I thought the first time we saw him, he was the best player in the ACC. Best that we had played against. That was my personal opinion. He’s not supposed to shoot it like he shot it at our place. He made four threes in our game. We knew how we were going to guard some things with [Jeremy] Roach and [Tyrese] Proctor and Dariq Whitehead, who is playing again. I thought he had ruptured his Achilles. Thankful that he did not, he’s back playing well for them.
We knew that Filipowski was going to have some opportunities. He came in, he’s still shooting around 23, 24%, which is not great. We were going to have to give up something if we expect to stay in front of those guards. Well, of course he bangs four threes on me. I think he’s only made, since that game ,which seems like an eternity ago, only made like five since that time. We’re still going back and forth. We haven’t locked anything down yet on how exactly to handle those ball screens, but we’ll have it ready to go before we get there on Saturday.
How were you able to hold Jeremy Roach to six points last time when he’s been averaging 13 per game?
He wears No. 0 for our team, and Hunter had that matchup and Hunter did a really good job. You have to take care of Jeremy in transition. He’s a blur. He hit a couple in the ACC tournament last year. That guy’s moving 100 miles an hour and he’s fast with the ball, can really carve you up, create a lot of fouls and that sort of thing. We did a great job in that area.
It’s really interesting watching them play. They have a good basketball team, Coach [Jon] Scheyer is doing a really good job with them. When Jeremy Roach is good, they’re really good. So that is a big matchup, not that Roach is their best player, he’s not. He’s very, very good, don’t get me wrong. That matchup is a critical one.
What’s it like coaching at Cameron Indoor Stadium?
I’ve done it so many times now. I did it twice when I was at Wofford, 2015 when they won a national championship. I had a kid that broke his jaw like a week before that game and he played. He played the game with his mouth wired shut. I’ve got a pair of pliers sitting next to me on the scorer’s table in the event that he got sick so we could snip them real quick. Thank goodness he didn’t get sick. It’s a historic place. The students, like in Cassell, make it really special. Again, look forward to getting back down there and having the opportunity to compete against another really good program.
Hunter Cattoor became the 50th Hokie to hit 1000 points:
I don’t think people understand, as they should, what an achievement that is. That is quite the milestone for any player, to score his 1,000th point. I knew it going in, didn’t register with me when the shot went down. I’m awfully proud of that kid.
He’s a worker, you guys know that he’s a worker. He has earned everything he’s gotten at Virginia Tech, academically, athletically. It has been an absolute treat to have the opportunity to coach him and see him grow, see him come on from where he was as a freshman.