Tech Talk Live Notes: Mylyjael Poteat And Mike Young

Mylyjael Poteat and Virginia Tech picked up a big win over Clemson on Wednesday, which he and Mike Young discussed on Tech Talk Live. (Jon Fleming)

On Thursday, Virginia Tech men’s basketball forward Mylyjael Poteat and head coach Mike Young joined Zach Mackey and Mike Burnop on Tech Talk Live. They discussed the Hokies’ big win over No. 21 Clemson on Wednesday, and they’re back in action on Saturday vs. Miami (7 p.m. ET, ACC Network).

Mylyjael Poteat

How was practice today coming off that win last night?

It was a good practice, good vibe all around. Obviously, we needed that win, lost when we thought we could have picked up the win with FSU. So definitely big to pick up this win against Clemson and feel that going into Miami.

I want to go back to high school. First of all, how big were you in high school?

Honestly, I’ve been this height since ninth grade. Probably had an extra 15 pounds on me back in high school, but I’ve been around this height for a while now.

All basketball all the time? Did the coaches try to get you to play football?

All basketball, I’ve never played any other sport. I always went to a private school. We never had football. So that kind of worked in my favor.

Run us through the process of how you ended up at Rice.

I went through the recruiting process in high school, it picked up going into my senior year of high school. I picked up my first offer then picked up probably about a dozen within the next couple of weeks like that. And then I committed before my senior year of high school. I just thought that it was a great fit, loved the coaches out there, loved the opportunity.

What was it like being a 6-9 freshman in high school?

It’s just crazy, you’re massive and everybody else well isn’t and it’s really hard to describe, but it’s honestly how you would expect.

You played a lot of minutes down at Rice. Now at Virginia Tech, the coaching staff kind of regulates your minutes a little bit. Is that something that took a while to get used to?

It definitely does. You want to be on the floor as much as you can, but obviously [it’s] matchup-dependent, stuff like that, so you’re ready when your name is called and you get the opportunity to play.

How did you end up here at Virginia Tech from Rice?

It’s actually funny. Going into my freshman year, Mike Young had just gotten this job and he talked to me a little bit, recruited me here and they recruited me back at Wofford too, so I was familiar with how he played familiar with his staff. So it was a pretty easy decision.

In the ACC, you go against some of these guys that are 6-11, 7-0. What are some of the tactics that you use when you’re giving up a couple of inches down low?

You definitely just want to try to use your lower body, try to inch into the matchup, but I feel like weight-wise, strength-wise, I can really match up with anybody, so you want to use that to your advantage, more so trying to take away guys’ athleticism that are really athletic and stuff like that.

Coach talks about your hands and your feet. How important is that?

Basically, for a big guy like me being able to try to be light on your feet and move well like that, it’s really big.

Coach Young said coming into the season that Mylyjael Poteat is in the best shape of his life right now. What did you do in the offseason? Do you agree with that assessment?

One hundred percent. That was honestly the main focus, especially injury-wise. I had two knee surgeries. My right one going into my junior year of college and left one going into my sophomore year of college. So you’re kind of out for a lot of time, you’re trying to adjust to that. Coming into last year, that was the first time I conditioned in college. I was injured going into my summers in the pre-seasons like that. So we just had an opportunity, we have a great strength coach, David Jackson, so that was a big emphasis coming into the season.

You spent your birthday yesterday on the court out on Wednesday. I have to imagine you’ve probably spent quite a number of birthdays on the basketball court over the course of your career.

Yeah, absolutely. Obviously, you’re always in season, you’re playing conference games normally. It was cool. My mom would come to the games so it’s always good to get to see her on her birthday because of the way traveling works or the way basketball works. So that was awesome.

Tell us about your family, your mom and the rest of your gang.

Yep. So mom and dad, they’re from North Carolina in a small little town that I grew up in [Reidsville]. Had an older brother as well. He works in New York now. but really a tight-knit family, love all those guys and it’s awesome when they get to come out to games.

You had that big dunk at the end of the game, it was a good feed from MJ. What was going through your mind during that?

Obviously, you get all the emotions building up from the game, big game. A lot of good momentum swings. So just finishing that off, kind of exclamation point on it all, that was just really awesome.

Mylyjael Poteat had a ferocious slam to cap off Wednesday’s win over Clemson. (Jon Fleming)

You guys had such a great first half. What was the message at halftime?

The first half was great. But I think we did allow 44 points. We thought we could have held them down a little bit more on that. We scored the ball great, but you want to be able to rely on your defense more, so that was honestly the message coming in, just try to get as many stops as you can and holding them to 28 points in the second half. They’re a really great offensive team so that was really big.

Hunter Cattoor went down in that first half diving after one of those balls. How physical are those scrum plays?

Very, very physical. Especially coming into that game, that was a big emphasis of ours, every 50-50 ball, first to floor for everything, just try to be as physical as you can be. But those plays are really important to the fabric of the game as well. You’re getting those 50-50 balls, trying to get extra possessions, it can be very intense.

Another point of emphasis was to rebound. Been a little bit of a problem the last few games, but you guys got after it.

Absolutely. We gave up way too many offensive rebounds at FSU. Coming in, they have a physical front line with PJ Hall and Ian Schieffelin, who rebound the ball very well. That’s a huge emphasis for us.

We were talking beforehand, it’s difficult to win on the road in this league, isn’t it?

Very difficult. We have such a great home-court advantage here. You can kind of rely on that at times, but it’s a very talented league, it’s very hard to win on the road, so it is what it is. You want to try to pick up as many of those as you can.

Take us inside for a second. What’s the locker room dynamic with this team this year like?

It’s really awesome. I’ll say it’s probably the funniest team I’ve ever been on. We’ve got a lot of really funny guys, a lot of big personalities. We know that we all love each other. It’s always a lot of fun being in the locker room chopping up before practice, after practice, stuff like that.

Who’s the funniest guy in there?

Oh, that’s a tough one. We got a lot of different kinds of humor on the team. Fan Favorite Patrick Wessler, he’s an interesting character, to say the least. He’s my roommate. I’ve spent a lot of time with him. One of our walk-ons, Michael Ward, is a really funny guy. Also, Mekhi Long is very funny. We’ve got a lot of them. Those are probably some of my top five I’d say.

We were joking about Patrick Wessler beforehand. He’s turned into a fan favorite inside Cassell Coliseum, hasn’t he?

One hundred percent. Everybody loves Pat and just waiting for the opportunity, he worked really hard over the summer. He’s gotten very good. Obviously, when you get to see him on the court, it’s very exciting for everybody.

Have you ever taken a three-point shot in a game? And if you took one here, what would coach do?

I think it was my sophomore year at Rice, it was late shot clock, like just threw one up and barely hit the rim. That was I think the only attempt of my career from three, but if I took one here, I don’t think it would end too well, unless I made it. The likelihood of that is small, but it will be interesting, I would have a little talk with Coach after that.

What about your degree? It’s in sociology, tell us a little about what you hope to do with it.

Majoring in sociology, and obviously, you hope to play basketball as long as you can. But I was always interested in law school. I’m not good with a sociology degree. I’ve always felt like I was pretty persuasive. I could argue pretty well. I think that law would be a pretty solid spot.

What’s your favorite venue of all the places that you’ve been, from Rice to here, and maybe your least favorite venue?

My first year at Rice, we were coming out of the COVID pandemic. So a lot of the times the fans weren’t allowed. A lot of those environments were really great. And then coming from that to here, obviously Cassell is great. It’s always packed with really loud stuff. That’s honestly my favorite, but I think outside of that probably, Cameron Indoor with Duke, that’s just such an iconic place to play. Going into there, it’s honestly my least favorite as well because those fans are ruthless. Really great environment, small, compact, kind of old sort of that kind of feel, so it’s a tough place to play, but it’s so iconic so you enjoy playing there.

There is also so much history in the ACC when it comes to the venues or coaches or whatnot. Was that at all an influence in your decision to come to Tech?

Absolutely, especially growing up around North Carolina, I’m right in ACC territory with four ACC schools within an hour of where I grew up, so you’re always kind of around that. It definitely played a role in that.

What is the one thing that you get the most pleasure out of: a dunk, a blocked shot, a great assist, a big rebound?

I’d say probably a blocked shot, I love blocking shots, I think that’s a massive momentum play and on the defensive end you take a lot of pride in that too. A big block shot for sure, plus you get to celebrate after.

It’s hard to coach blocking, you either have it or you don’t. How do you go about it?

A lot of it is just timing, you have to try and know people’s tendencies too. A lot of guys love pump-faking and you don’t want to jump for those shots, a lot of guys will run in like a chicken with their head cut off and you might be able to take advantage of that. The big thing is just learning the game and learning people’s tendencies.

Anything stand out to you when looking at this Miami team?

They shoot the ball very, very well. One through four, all those guys are shooting above 35 or 40 percent from three, so they shoot the ball well. These are five guys that are very physical as well so it should be another tall task for me and Lynn [Kidd] inside with their five, and then they have a lot of good shooters.

Looking at Norchad Omier, he is a hoss, isn’t he?

I can confirm he is a hoss, really strong guy with all that strength in like a 6-6 frame, so it’s really tough to stop him once he gets moving.

Mike Young and Virginia Tech are back in Cassell Coliseum on Saturday vs. Miami. (Jon Fleming)

Mike Young

How was practice and everything today?

So much went into last night’s game. Wasn’t sure how much I could get out of them physically. We had a session of yoga, we had a lot of treatment and we began our prep. We finished up Clemson and looked at some film from that, took a quick break, came back and started preparation for Miami. Personnel, top three or four actions and we’ll load them up tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a heavy day in terms of our preparation for the Hurricanes.

Did you participate in the yoga?

No, I probably should, but I did not.

What were your thoughts from the Clemson game as you were able to sleep on it last night?

Well, you know the cynic would say they played well because they made a bunch of shots and we did, but we did a lot of other things and I could go on and on. We outrebounded Clemson, which is significant. We shot more foul shots than Clemson, which is significant. We made more foul shots than Clemson took, which is a big deal. We thought the physicality piece of the game would be the determining factor. And Clemson’s really physical with Ian Schieffelin and PJ Hall. [Chauncey] Wiggins is a rather physical kid, we were more physical than they were and the game honors toughness.

Victory favors the team that plays hardest that is the most physical and we were that team last night. Had you told me that PJ Hall would come into Cassell last night and take 13 shots, eight of which were from three, that’s a win. And to keep Joe Girard under wraps and only score 11, PJ had 12. To limit those guys to 23 points, and they need those two kids to score, it was a big part of that game. And I credit our team. Hunter goes down, we don’t have him back in the second half and there’s a flip. You’ve got different roles at different matchups and MJ [Collins] did a great job on Girard. Lynn Kidd and Mylyjael were fantastic with PJ Hall. A lot of their stuff is through the post. They did a great job of getting it covered up and we did a good job on the perimeter and pressuring the ball, tracing the ball and making that pass difficult.

Had I told you in shoot around that you’re going to win this game by 15 points, Hunter Cattoor is not going to score in the game, what would you have said to me?

I’d say you’re crazy. He played 14 minutes. And he’s always done an exceptional job on Girard in the four years that Joe was at Syracuse and now this year at Clemson. He is just a great defender. Smart, knows all of Joe’s tendencies, as he knows all the tendencies of those who match up with him. I would have told you that it’s gonna make it really, really hard and it was, but a credit to MJ Collins, who scored two points but had seven assists. Did a great job on Girard, Tyler Nickel had his best game in a Hokie uniform. Jaydon Young came in briefly and did some good things as well to help our team. So a great Hokie effort and I’m awfully pleased with what transpired last night.

I’m sure you got a chance to be able to see Hunter today, how’s he doing?

You know what, I didn’t see him. That was somewhat purposeful. We wanted him away. Hisham [Ziyout] saw him. Hisham came up as soon as he came by and he’s feeling a lot better today. He still has some symptoms. We’ll know more tomorrow morning. Let’s put it that way.

Those plays are so physical too, aren’t they? Especially when you don’t have the grass underneath you and it’s just the hardwood.

I didn’t see it live. Matter of fact, we were going into a media timeout and Brad, who’s a dear friend, Brownell yelled at me to get my attention and he pointed to the ground and said, ‘Cattoor.’ And if you go back and watch it this morning on film, nothing flagrant, it was a basketball play. Hunter and [Joe] Girard go after the loose ball, it squirts out of there. And I think it was [Chauncey] Wiggins, 21, or [RJ] Godfrey, 10, dives by and his right foot, I’m telling you, oh my gosh, it was a shot right in the side of the head. But it’s the game and we will do everything we can to care for him and we’ll get him back on the floor when he’s ready to go and not before.

When you guys have a shootaround, do you have a feel maybe for how they’re going to come out and play? I mean, that first half was as good as you guys have played all year. 

It used to drive me crazy. I would be so sick to my stomach if I thought something was amiss during shootaround. We’re not dialed up, we’re not where we’re supposed to be, mentally we’re not in a good place. And several years ago, I said, you know what, that has nothing to do with it. What matters is when the folks get in the chairs and the ball goes in the air. That’s when I’ll make the determination where we’re supposed to be and we’re ready to go. I thought we had a good shootaround yesterday and our team was geared up. Clemson was desperate. They were coming off of a loss on the road at Miami and a loss at home to North Carolina. And we were coming off the two and sometimes the more desperate team wins. We were both desperate. And lucky to get out of there with a win.

How good was Sean Pedulla last night?

He was good and the 32 points are significant and needed. But I think he had seven assists and two turnovers. He was our point guard last night. He had a pass in the first half to Tyler Nickel out of his left hand across the court, I think it was Tyler’s first made three. People were involved. The ball had energy, the ball was moving from one side to the other. Sean was awfully good.

Tyler was really on his game last night, felt like he had a well-rounded performance last night, didn’t he?

He was really good and competed defensively. Did a nice job there. He’s finding himself in better spots where we need him on that end of the floor. He had a couple of timely shots, they cut it back to four, five different times in the second half or had the ball five different times when we were up four and we stiffened up and found a way to get out of there with a win. Tyler Nickel is that kind of player. Good to see him with his shoulders back and a good look and he was terrific last night.

Tyler Nickel had his best game in a Virginia Tech uniform vs. Clemson. (Jon Fleming)

You have had a lot of good bench performances this season. Do you see a difference in mentality between a guy that starts and someone that enters off the bench?

I think there are some that I’ve had in my career that are more comfortable coming off the bench. They may not admit to that, but it gives you a chance to see the flow and then you stick them in before the first media timeout or right after the first media timeout. Two years ago during our championship season, I started the same lineup every game. I know I’ve done that with a team here. I may switch it up to put a bee in somebody’s bonnet that I don’t think is playing very well. ‘Come on over here and watch it for a little while and then we’ll give you another crack at it.’ I’ve always been more concerned about who finishes the game. And I think players should be more concerned about that as well. Who finishes games are the guys that give you the best chance to win, needless to say.

Last night, you guys kept those turnovers down as well. What did you see?

You can’t turn the ball over in football, you can’t have base on balls in baseball. You can’t turn the darn thing over in basketball. Clemson does not turn people over. They’re only averaging nine turnovers, forcing nine turnovers a game. But now you go to Tallahassee, that’s what they do. You turn around and they’ve got five people on top of you and that was ridiculous. We had 16 and that makes it awfully hard. But our numbers last night were really good. Now we’ll have to do it again on Saturday against Miami, who’s presented some challenges. Bensley Joseph in the backcourt, number four, can really get after you. Nijel Pack is a great player and will run through a lot of passing lanes. So we’ll have to be sharp and our cutting and our techniques will have to be really good.

Mylyjael had a couple of big dunks for you last night and he’s been quite the player this year. Just kind of walk us through the process to get him here because you guys go back quite a ways.

I really liked him coming out of high school. Big, wide body and he has good soft hands. light on his feet. I liked a lot about him but didn’t think he was quite ready. He went to Rice and played for a fella that we know a little bit and when he went to the portal, I called him and one thing led to another. He’s a really smart person. He’s about the right stuff. And I thought at worst, he would be a quality backup in this league, and he has been and he’s helped us win games. I mean, he’s a good basketball player.

You faced a guy in Joe Girard, who started 121 games for Syracuse. Guys are transferring within the league these days. It’s a weird time, isn’t it?

It’s really strange, and just different. Not that it’s bad. Not that it’s not the way it’s supposed to be. That is not my point. But man, is it different than when this old boy got started back in 1986. It’s an interesting time for us in college athletics.

And that would probably be just what’s going on with Nick Saban. Out of the blue, he said he’s done. And when you think about Coach K and Roy Williams, bam.

Coach Saban is 72 and it’s OK to retire. It’s OK to walk away. And he did it on his terms and he went to the College Football Playoff again. What we do is phenomenal. I mean, it’s the best. I haven’t worked a day in my life and it’s now been 38 years. But it’s a lot and it’s really a lot now with everything going on and this isn’t the same as it was five years ago when I got here. It’s flipped. And not that it’s bad, but it’s different. It’s a different ballgame, for lack of a better expression. I’ve had some conversations with a couple of those men and that probably played a little bit of part in it.

Is there an end in sight in your mind, anytime soon?

Heck no! I’m having too much fun.

I’m talking about the way things are now. I mean, is anything going to change with the way that NIL or the portal plays into college athletics?

I don’t want to get over my skis here. I can’t imagine the U.S. Congress having a hand and trying to legislate the NIL and what that looks like. Holy smokes, we don’t need that. There’s movement afoot. And it’s going to take a year, two years for it to all come together. But man, there’s a lot of change coming in a lot of different areas in our world. And it’s a lot to bring together. And I hope when it’s all said and done that it’s good for all of us. Primarily the players. But the industry, college athletics, we’ve all had so much fun as fans, coaching, the players. College athletics has been great to a lot of young people on all levels.

As you start to look ahead, what stands out about Miami?

I’m thankful I don’t have to guard Isaiah Wong for the first time in my Virginia Tech career. They are rather good again. Needless to say, Nijel Pack is a dynamic back court person that gets his shot, can really shoot the ball. Their team can really shoot the ball. Matthew Cleveland, talking about in-conference transfers, was a Florida State player last year, now at Miami this year and is playing very well for them. Norchad Omier in the post is a good player. Wooga Poplar has been playing very well for them, as has Bensley Joseph. They’re not very deep. Those five starters are gonna play somewhere between 33 and 38 minutes a game. They manage it and they’re darn good.

You look at this league, there are no nights off. Every night anybody can beat anybody. Like how does Louisville go down there and beat Miami on the road?

I watched it first thing this morning. It wasn’t as though Miami played poorly. Miami played a good ballgame. Louisville was good, Mike James that had a good game in here, had 23 points. Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, the big center for the Cardinals, had a good game. Louisville hung around, it was an eight-, nine-, 10-point Miami lead and looked like they’re about ready to stretch it out. But here come the Cardinals and they came back and won the game and deserve to do so, they played well.

This weekend is also Shoes for Hope, meaning you and your staff will be wearing the shoes painted by kids from Carilion Clinic, some of those cancer patients who painted those earlier in the week. It’s always a neat event.

It’s an awesome event. What’s even more awesome is that a lot of those young people come with their parents and we have a chance to visit with them before the game. And it’s a great program, and then those shoes will go back and be auctioned off and those proceeds go to cancer research down at Carilion pediatric cancer research. So it’s a great day and I’m thrilled we have the opportunity to do it again. I think it’s something we’ll continue to do through the years.

Saturday night, another sellout, students should be back in attendance with classes starting next week. Should be a rocking Cassell for this Miami team.

I hope it’s a rocking Cassell. I hope the students are back. I’ll tell you one thing, if I was a young person, I’d come on back and head downtown after the game. But I think the Cassell Guard will be back in full force on Saturday. We need them, big game for us, you’ve got to win at home.

4 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Just tossing out a wild idea for a fun fund raiser for the Hokies. Mens b-ball team vs womens. Sure, straight up it might not be fair but a few changes could be implemented. 4 guys vs 5 gals. (although the way the gals are playing now…..) Plus, it’s not who wins, it’s for fun. Could have some interesting ideas besides ticket sales to raise money. Let the refs have some fun with calling the game too.
    Yes I’m crazy but sometimes crazy ideas are good.

  2. Nice interview, that really flowed well. I would have liked to have known how he’s got such a smooth free throw.

  3. “I’ll tell you one thing, if I was a young person, I’d come on back and head downtown after the game.” Mike Young – party animal….

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