Steve Thomas (Director of Student Athlete Development, Men’s Basketball)
There was a much better mood in the office after the win last night. The Hokies were able to make up for their lack of size by playing hard and playing team basketball.
Tech has been on the unfortunate side of things in close games, but they earned Monday night’s win. It’s always a big sigh of relief to win a game like that. Georgia Tech’s strengths matched up well with VT’s weaknesses, but the Hokies were still able to get the win because they had a lot of key guys step up.
The whole Tech staff was as surprised as VT’s fans when Buzz Williams came out in the orange and maroon sweater for the second half. It was entertaining. Williams also bench pressed 300 pounds on Monday, so it was a big day for the head coach.
Buzz Williams is recruiting today. He’s been around the state, and he’s in New Jersey on Monday night. He’ll be back on the road again tomorrow. He’s in full recruiting mode when Tech doesn’t have a game or a full day of practice. His use of time and efficiency is very important.
Thomas handles anything from basketball preparation to academic preparation. His job involves a lot of things.
Buzz Williams is very close to his former players. Jimmy Butler, an NBA all-star who played for Buzz at Marquette, texts him all the time.
Thomas was doing some work for Nike Basketball Sports Marketing and working at AAU events. He reached out to Buzz, was a grad assistant at Oregon, and eventually landed a job here in Blacksburg when Williams got the VT job. He has been working at Tech since June.
Williams doesn’t run the program just as a program. He runs it like a Fortune 500 company. He is big into marketing, and nothing is ever stale or stagnant.
Thomas has been fortunate to be able to stay involved in basketball ever since graduating college. He has been all over the world for Nike, and all over the United States. He has gone overseas to Italy, London, Istanbul and Paris to study overseas basketball events.
Tech is getting some funding to rebrand the interior of the Hahn-Hurst Basketball Practice facility to fit Buzz’s philosophies, quotes, etc. Buzz sort of has his own language, with key words, and things like that will be all over the walls and gyms of the facility. Tech will even freeze frame pictures of players taking charges and put them up in the basketball facility.
The Hokies begin their season against Mercer this weekend in Macon, GA.
Mason feels like he has a tight, close-knit group of guys this year. They lacked that a bit last year, and he feels like many of those one-run losses could have been different if the team was a littler closer.
Mason likes his team’s work ethic this year. He likes their pitching, and the hitting gets him excited. They aren’t where they need to be with defense and baserunning, but they are getting closer.
Tech went to practice in Salem last week so they could get some time on a natural grass field.
Mason really isn’t talking about last season’s last place finish. Instead, he talks about how they played, and how they finished the season. The motivating factor is to get back to the ACC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
Tech has some important pieces coming back. Sean Keselica will be the Friday night starter. He was very good down the stretch last year. Brendon Hayden hit seven of the team’s 12 homers last year, and he is a four-year starter. Alex Perez is a middle infielder who has started every single game since his freshman season, and he will also be used on the mound a bit this year.
Joe Mantiply is the toughest kid Pat Mason has ever coached. He has a lot of in-game toughness. He is mentally and physically tough. Mason feels like the scouts missed him. He should have been drafted in the first five rounds. He is the first Hokie to be drafted three different times: after high school, after his junior year and after his senior season.
Mason remembers that Mantiply would have extra long bullpen sessions. He was always very intense, both before the game and during the mid-week sessions.
Tech has to come out of the gate strong. The first three games are every bit as important as the last three games.
Baseball Night in Blacksburg was great this past weekend. It was great to hear Charlie Manuel speak, and it’s always fun to come back and see former teammates and coaches.
Mantiply has been invited to Spring Training with the Detroit Tigers. It’s a huge honor. All 40 guys on the 40-man roster are invited, and the Tigers also invited 17 non-roster guys (including Mantiply).
When Mantiply found out he was invited to Spring Training, he was at home and had just finished working out. The minor league coordinator of the Tigers called him and told him that he made the list. He immediately walked downstairs and told his dad, and it was a great day.
The Tigers liked what Mantiply did in the minors in 2014. They see him as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen, and perhaps a late inning guy. They will give him every opportunity to show what he can do this spring. He couldn’t be more thankful to the whole organization.
Mantiply’s strikeout numbers have gone up in the minor leagues. He’s still a pitch to contact guy, however. If you pitch to contact early in the count, you can get ahead of hitters. That puts him in a better position to go for the strikeout.
Mantiply’s favorite team moment as a Hokie was when Mark Zagunis hit the walkoff homer against Florida State in the ACC Tournament. As far as his own personal performance, his favorite moment was when he beat UVA in the ACC Tournament.
Virginia Tech has held the Commonwealth Cup for 3727 days. #Hokies
— Commonwealth Cup (@CommonwlthCup) February 10, 2015