Hokies Hope Surging Hoops Team Can Keep it Up

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Ten games into the season, Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball team is 7-3, which isn’t appreciably better than either of Seth Greenberg’s first two Hokie teams. But this year’s Hokies seem to be gelling earlier, establishing an identity earlier, and coming on strong earlier than previous editions. That bodes well for a team with NCAA Tournament aspirations, though the road to the Big Dance is long and hard.

Just two weeks ago, after the Hokies put in an uninspired first-half performance against Ohio State, losing 69-56 and dropping to 5-2 on the year, I found myself shaking my head and thinking that the season wasn’t shaping up well. The team was searching for an identity and was plagued by inconsistency and off-court difficulties. The first-half egg laid by the Hokies in Columbus, which saw Tech fall behind 46-25 at the half, wasn’t an anomaly. Lackluster performances against Western Carolina (Tech trailed 23-20 at the half before winning 54-40) and Mount St. Mary’s (who outscored the Hokies 40-36 in the second half of a 74-62 Tech win) were pause for concern.

Of course, there’s the granddaddy of them all, the 72-71 home loss to Bowling Green in which the Hokies were outhustled, outplayed, and lost on a last-second tip-in when Tech freshman A.D. Vassallo knocked a missed BGSU shot into the goal as the horn sounded.

Guard Zabian Dowdell had more than one scoreless half during Tech’s early games. Center Coleman Collins scored 15 points a game through the first three games, but averaged just 3.3 rebounds during that same time period, before taking a two-game leave of absence to visit his ailing father in Stone Mountain Georgia. (Jackson Collins, a long-time poster on the TSL basketball board under the username HokieDad’07, has lung cancer and isn’t expected to live much longer.)

Guard Wynton Witherspoon was injured, and he discovered while he was out with a broken foot that his mother has breast cancer; the family of Deron Washington, a New Orleans native, lost their home to Hurricane Katrina; and senior center Allen Calloway is battling a rare, inoperable form of soft-tissue cancer, the treatments for which have left him weak and depleted and only able to play in two of the first four games, for token minutes.

In short, the team was a mess, both on and off the court. After one of