As expected, Virginia Tech men’s basketball received three signed letters of intent today, the first day of the Early Signing Period in Division 1 men’s basketball. Coach Buzz Williams followed up a successful spring of recruiting with a 2015 class that, as of this writing, is ranked Top 25 nationally by three major recruiting outlets.
247Sports.com ranks Virginia Tech’s 3-man haul of Kerry Blackshear, Chris Clarke, and Justin Robinson number 17 in the nation (click here for 247’s Team Rankings). Scout.com ranks the class no. 20 in the country (click here for Scout’s article on the top classes) and Rivals.com ranks the class no. 25 in the nation (click here for Rivals’ Team Rankings).
The individual recruit rankings are as follows…
Kerry Blackshear, 6’9″, 220 pounds, PF, Evans (Orlando, FL)
247Sports – 4-star, no. 75 overall nationally, no. 20 power forward nationally
Scout – 4-star, no. 93 overall nationally, no. 15 power forward nationally
Rivals – 3-star, no. 110 overall nationally
ESPN – 4-star, no. 27 power forward nationally
Chris Clarke, 6’5″, 180 pounds, SG/SF, Cape Henry Collegiate (Va. Beach, VA)
247 – 4-star, no. 41 overall nationally, no. 9 shooting guard nationally
Scout – 4-star, no. 71 overall nationally, no. 14 small forward nationally
Rivals – 4-star, no. 59 overall nationally
ESPN – 4-star, no. 63 overall nationally, no. 12 small forward nationally
Justin Robinson, 6’1″, 175 pounds, PG, St. James School (Hagerstown, MD)
247 – 3-star, no. 141 overall nationally, no. 24 point guard nationally
Scout – 4-star, no. 86 overall nationally, no. 11 point guard nationally
Rivals – 3-star
ESPN – 3-star, no. 34 point guard nationally
TSL’s expert basketball recruiting guru, Rev. Zeke, took some time to answer questions regarding Virginia Tech’s class of 2015. Below are his thoughts on the class, the impact these players could have next season, and more.
Q&A with REV. ZEKE
Generally speaking, what are your thoughts on Coach Williams’ recruiting class?
REV. ZEKE: This is a solid class for Buzz on top of last spring’s solid class. You need momentum in recruiting. That is especially true when you are coming off back-to-back cellar finishes. It isn’t quite the class as it might have been with a fourth addition of (Texas Tech recruit) C.J. Williamson (whom I personally really like), but Buzz has backed up last year’s class with another solid class. You simply can’t have any down years or interruptions in recruiting. Buzz has avoided that so far, while adding talent to the program.
Chris Clarke had a great summer and really rose in the rankings. What improvements have you seen in his game over the course of the past year?
REV. ZEKE: It’s not so much improvements where Chris Clarke is concerned and we have to view him thru a different prism when talking about his game. If you simply break down his game into individual components and look at these components in a singular manner, then it might be difficult to find many-perhaps even any- aspects that jump off the page at you. I would say if you look at his skills, you could arrive at the conclusion that he has no real outstanding skill, unless one considers energy level and activity level as a skill. IF you do look at that as a skill, something I am doing more and more in evaluations rather than viewing it as a secondary component or one of the “little things” that we look for after breaking down a prospect’s skills, then Clarke possesses a truly outstanding skill. It’s an elite skill if you will. He does something better in every game than any other player on the floor and that’s bring energy in a manner that no one else can match. It’s that simple. Except it isn’t, because Clarke plays harder, is involved in more plays and plays with a higher activity level than any other prospect in the 2015 class.
What do you like about Blackshear?
REV. ZEKE: Above all else, I Iike that Kerry Blackshear is starting to fill out and expand his offensive repertoire and range of his game. He is a low post type that is showing serious signs of being able to have a solid mid-range face up game. Finding back-to-the-basket low post offensive threats who can also go out and face the basket isn’t something in abundance. Blackshear shows some positive signs that he can be a multi-faceted offensive threat on at least two levels. Not to mention he brings much needed size at a position that is currently practically barren.
What roles do you see these players playing next season?
REV. ZEKE: Chris Clarke will play next year and I expect he will play early. He can be used as a two, three or even four. But he will carve out a role for himself. I will be surprised if he doesn’t. Kerry Blackshear has the best opportunity if the three though in my opinion. There isn’t a current player on the team that is a four, other than Shane Henry. And Shane will be a senior and is a little light in the pants to be a 30-plus minute type in ACC play. Zach LeDay does become eligible as well, but Blackshear can play a position where there will be no returning player with a deathlock grip on the position going into next fall. Justin Robinson might have the most difficult road in front of him because of the depth at his position. But Justin can play at the same time as both points on the team this year (Malik Muller and Devin Wilson), as well as with Seth Allen, who becomes eligible next Fall. So while the path looks more arduous for Robinson perhaps of the three, I still think he makes a serious push to insert himself right in the middle of things.
Coach Williams obviously targeted Robinson early as the point guard he wanted in this class. Why do you think Williams likes him so much? What observations do you have about Justin?
REV. ZEKE: Obviously Buzz saw things hat he liked with Justin. It might have been twofold. First of all, his history shows us that he likes multiple point guards on the court at he same time. And while this program was returning a starter at point last year in Devin Wilson, there was no other point guard with a resume. Malik Muller sat out last year so Buzz didn’t know what he had with Malik. And Buzz needed to start hitting the 2015 class instantly upon arriving in Blacksburg, thusly not affording him the luxury of watching Muller a lot in the Spring and individual workouts to determine exactly what he had in Muller. So you instantly jump in the mix with point guards. Bringing me to my second point about possibly why Robinson? Perhaps because he runs with Boo Williams and Buzz knew he had to make progress there and needed to open the avenue with that program. All that aside, Robinson is a very solid prospect. I can see him especially being very effective playing with Maryland-transfer Seth Allen next season. Robinson is the Ying to Allen’s Yang. Seth Allen is a scoring point who might be a true combo. He can shoot the ball and score it and is aggressive offensively. Robinson is a more natural point guard. He is a facilitator. He doesn’t necessarily need a certain number of shots each game. He has a very nice mid-range pull up game and can knock down open shots. There is a lot to like about him, mostly that he brings something different to the position than the other three points.
What common thread or theme do you notice with Coach Williams’ first two classes?
REV. ZEKE: I’m not sure there is really a truly overriding theme to the first two classes other than trying to build up the talent base and fill out all five positions as quickly and deeply as possible . We have seen him bring in a five (Satchel Pierce), three fours (Zach LeDay, Shane Henry and Kerry Blackshear who can also play a little five), two point guards (Seth Allen and Justin Robinson) and several wings in Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibbs, Jalen Hudson and Chris Clarke. Of course former head coach James Johnson had already signed both Bibbs and Hudson. I think the ’16 class will truly show us any theme that might exist and give better insight into what priorities shape his recruiting philosophy. The first two were about simply grabbing any [players he] could and filling positional depth as best he can, playing catchup all the while recruiting at those positions. The 2016 class will be the first opportunity where the playing field for prospects is more even and he isn’t starting immeasurably behind. Then we might be able to induce a little more priority clarity.
Do any of these three kids remind you of any past VT players?
REV. ZEKE: Robinson does remind me a little of former point guard Troy Manns. Not quite as offensively oriented as Manns but has that type quickness and some similarities. Clarke is a very difficult comparison so I will bring up two former players that both go back quite some time. They play different positions but I can’t help but remember former point guard Reggie Steppe when discussing Chris Clarke. Simply because they play with a similar degree of energy and relentless attitude. Former Tech Forward Tim Anderson is another somewhat similar player as Chris Clarke. Anderson got much of his stuff done on the court by sheer will, much in the same way that I see with Clarke.
Is VT finished recruiting this class?
REV. ZEKE: I think as things stand now, Virginia Tech is finished with this ’15 class. We know injuries, performance, transfers can often change that thinking but I don’t see any further additions to this class. Instead, I think we will see the focus shift to 2016 and 2017. There are some very good prospects in both those classes statewide and regionally speaking in North Carolina. There are some opportunities to get involved with some truly promising underclass prospects right in the backyard of the program, so I expect that to now become the focus.