New Frontcourt parts could propel Virginia Tech even further in 2022-23

Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young has a very talented group this year. (Virginia Tech Sports Photography)

At the ACC Tipoff in Charlotte on Wednesday, Virginia Tech head coach Mike Young said his current roster is as deep as it’s ever been.

Despite losing three starters – Keve Aluma, Storm Murphy and Nahiem Alleyne – in the offseason, the defending ACC champions are back and they have depth, especially in the frontcourt.

ACC Scholar of the Year Justyn Mutts, who averaged 10 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.4 assists last season, is back. However, four of the other big five left, including Aluma. The other three were transferred to Kansas State, George Mason and East Tennessee State. Tech’s only remaining contributor, Lynn Kidd, has played sparingly in 2021-22.

But Young & Co. reloaded. There are five new faces inside, three through the transfer portal.

Grant Basile (Wright State), John Camden (Memphis) and Mylyjael Poteat (Rice) have found new homes in Blacksburg. Darren Buchanan Jr. and Patrick Wessler were recruited out of high school.

“We’re more on the front line than we’ve ever been,” Young told media. “Guys, we were as thin as nickel soup last year in the frontcourt after Mutts and Aluma. But I’m comfortable with Darren Buchanan, John Camden, who has some versatility in third, fourth, and Mylyjael [Poteat] and Lynn Kidd, will help our team.

“[They’re] tall, strong, athletic people. Lynn Kidd is an incredible athlete. Mylyjael Poteat is just a physical person who can run and he has exceptional hands. I think we can approach you in different ways this year.

How will the Hokies use Grant Basile? (Virginia Tech Sports Photography)

Young said one of the biggest factors in Basile joining the Hokies was the opportunity for him to play with Mutts. This will likely be the starting duo on the front line.

Hunter Cattoor was host to Basile during his visit to Blacksburg and says the fifth-year player is a great addition to the dressing room. On the pitch, he can do anything. The Pewaukee, Wisconsin native averaged 18 points and 8.5 rebounds last season, and his 307 boards ranked 22nd in the nation.

“He can shoot the ball from the outside, he can put it on the deck and get to the basket,” Cattoor said of Basile. “He can also post and score there too. I’m very excited to see how people are going to keep him because I think it’s very difficult when you extend the defense with the way we can shoot but also if you come in and get your fives out he can blow through them and also put it on the ground.

Meanwhile, Poteat has been a nice addition. Young said the 6-foot-9, 265-pound junior from Reidsville, North Carolina was a pleasant surprise.

He’s beefy and a brute force – which is to be expected – although he also has the ability to finish around the edge. According to Mutts, Poteat adds the strength the Hokies lacked but is also able to catch a pass and be in control without rushing.

“He’s got amazing hands,” Young said of Poteat. “Much, much better feet. I liked him coming out of high school and I called him three or four times. … He’s going to help us win. He’s tall and he’s physical and he doesn’t have not afraid of contact.

“He knows who he is as a player, and I think it’s an advantage to play college basketball for two years.”

Mylyjael Poteat was a “pleasant surprise”. (Virginia Tech Sports Photography)

The third transfer, Camden, could be Tech’s deadliest weapon this season. Mutts called him a “sniper” and joked that he was probably one of the top three shooters on the team.

This leaves Kidd, the other returnee in the frontcourt. According to Cattoor, he worked hard in the offseason and realized he had to change bodies to take his game to the next level.

How does it all shake out, especially when it comes to replacing Aluma’s production (16 points, 6.5 rebounds, 31 minutes per game)? When you’re as flexible as Virginia Tech will be, there are plenty of combinations.

“Lynn Kidd is going to play, as is Mylyjael Poteat,” Young said. “We can play Grant at four and five. We can play Mutts, not much at five, but he can and will play at five. Now we can mix and match Lynn Kidd.

But where Virginia Tech might miss Aluma the most is defensively. He blocked 33 shots last year, good for 12th in the conference, an aspect that Mutts says has often gone unnoticed. Young mentioned that Aluma could hide some things he would miss on this end of the floor and had a good basketball IQ.

What will this aspect of the Hokies look like in November?

“You have Lynn and Mylyjael, two super athletes,” Mutts said. “Lynn, you can’t put a float on him, he’s going to get it. And Grant, I think he does a great job of being versatile on the defensive end as well, being able to hold multiple positions so we can change easily.

Lynn Kidd hasn’t played much in his career, but he’ll be a big part of 2022-23. (Virginia Tech Sports Photography)

One of the main takeaways from the interaction with Virginia Tech in Charlotte: it will be difficult for Young to find ways to mix playing time with such a talented group of players. This also applies to the rear area. But it’s a good problem to have.

Real freshman Rodney Rice underwent ankle surgery and Young wouldn’t speculate on his status for the Nov. 7 season opener. But he noted that the DeMatha product is more of a playmaker than he originally thought.

“When we brought in Rodney, I thought he was more of a two-man guard,” Young said. “The kid wanted to play it at some point, I assured him he would play it there.

“I thought it was a 2-1. Being around him during the summer, he is more of a playmaker than he is two guards. He’s really good with the ball in his hands.

When he’s fully healthy, the addition of Rice could relieve starting point guard Sean Pedulla. In a similar sense, Cattoor can end up strictly on the wing. He has helped manage the ball in the past for the Hokies.

Then there is Darius Maddox, the fifth starter alongside Pedulla, Cattoor, Mutts and Basile. It hasn’t been an easy path for the Oak Hill product – his playing time was scarce as a rookie and he didn’t see consistent minutes last year until late January. However, he “marks as he breathes” and he has taken the next step in his career.

It wasn’t always ice cream and rainbows for Darius Maddox. (Virginia Tech Sports Photography)

“All hasn’t been rosy for him,” Young said of Maddox. “He probably felt like he should have played more. But he stayed the course, he hung on and hit one of the biggest shots in Virginia Tech history. [vs. Clemson]. I can guarantee you that he made one of the biggest Mike Young shots in his history.

Young, in his 21st season as college basketball head coach, described this group as “smart.” Built on the culture created by his first recruiting class at Blacksburg – of which only Cattoor remains – the Radford native has slowly transformed the Hokies from a challenger brand to that of a champion. Last March’s unforgettable week is a perfect example.

So while the 2022-23 version of the Hokies is vastly different from previous ones — it features seven new faces — it still embodies the principles on which Young built the program.

“There is no cap,” Mutts said. “I think our team is so diverse, so talented and so dynamic that if we really start to click like I feel it will be scary. Just the way we defend, the way we can shoot, the way we can reach the basket or space it out or our pace of attack.

“I think once we really start to hit all the cylinders with the relationships we have as people off the pitch, it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

About Julius Southworth

Check Also

Can South Carolina repeat? Will UConn’s Elite Eight race end?

The NCAA women’s basketball season kicked off Monday and featured a Top 25 tilt with …