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Gober Previews VPI

The Virginia Tech Hokies, a/k/a Gobblers, (-0.2 ppg, -3.4 rpg, +0.9
apg, 4.7 bpg, 42.7% fg, 35% 3-fg, 5.6 3-fg made/g, 64.2% ft, -37 ft
attempts, +31 blocks, +1.0 bpg, +77 steals, +2.6 s/g, +4.4 to/g, 1.0
a/t, opponents: 44.4% fg, 34.8% 3-fg, 6.4 3-fg made/g, 0.7 a/t)
return four starters from a team that finished 4th in the 2004-2005
ACC standings with a record of 8-8. Even more than Miami, however,
Virginia Tech has not established that it is a good choice to finish
in the upper tier of the ACC standings.

Indeed, the Gobblers were barely a top-100 team in the
Sagarin Predictor rankings last season, and Virginia Tech was one of
only three ACC teams to be outscored by its opponents during

The Hokies also were just two games away from finishing in 8th
place in the ACC standings, and four of Virginia Tech's ACC wins came
by a total of 6 points.

Unless Virginia Tech can continue to win a high percentage of
its close ACC games, it will need to improve to challenge for a high
finish in the 2005-2006 ACC standings.

Further, it does not appear that Virginia Tech has a comparable
replacement for 6-7 departed senior WF Carlos Dixon (13.8 ppg, 4.5
rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.8 spg, 0.8 a/t, 44.6% fg, 41.2% 3-fg, 77.2% ft).

As the second leading scorer for the Hokies, Dixon contributed
offensively with deadly accurate shooting from three-point range and
the foul line.

Losing Dixon means that Virginia Tech will be without one of its
two players who were serious threats to make threes and its best
free-throw shooter.

Dixon also kept pace with Virginia Tech's excellent defensive
guards in collecting steals, and his defense will be missed too.

Though Virginia Tech may not be a solid ACC contender just yet,
several returning players for the Hokies and Coach Seth Greenberg
certainly established that they are deserving of much respect by the
ACC basketball powers and are not to be taken for granted, especially
in close games.

The guard tandem of 6-2 junior 2G Zabian Dowdell (14.4 ppg, 2.7
apg, 1.6 spg, 1.2 a/t, 44.9% fg, 42.3% 3-fg, 71.3% ft, Honorable
Mention All-ACC) and 6-3 junior PG Jamon Gordon (10.9 ppg, 4.1 apg,
2.3 spg, 1.1 bpg, 1.6 a/t, 41.6% fg, 26.4% 3-fg, 58.1% ft, 1st Team
All-ACC Defensive Team) is one of the best in the ACC.

In their two wins against the Miami Hurricanes, Dowdell and
Gordon scored effectively and held the more highly acclaimed scoring
guard duo of Guillermo Diaz and Robert Hite to relatively low
shooting percentages that made the difference in those games.

As Miami learned, any team that cannot attack Virginia Tech in
the frontcourt will have trouble trying to generate offense solely
against the Hokies' guards.

As the leader of the Gobblers' offense, Dowdell was a deadly
adversary in close games who was unafraid to take the crucial shots
in those games Virginia Tech kept close enough to win. Dowdell also
provided outstanding ball-handling and solid defense.

Though Gordon does not pose the offensive threat that Dowdell
does, Gordon is such a tremendous defensive player that he led the
Hokies in blocked shots, as well as steals, while providing excellent
ball-handling and passing at the PG position.

Obviously, the weakness in Gordon's game is his shooting
ability, which makes the loss of Dixon that much more significant for
the Gobblers.

6-3 freshman PG Marquie Cooke (3.6 ppg, 1.6 apg, 31.3% fg, 19.1
3-fg, 57.1% ft) was expected to challenge Dowdell and Gordon for
playing time last season, but Cooke performed well below the level of
play of Dowdell and Gordon and was dismissed from the team by Coach
Greenberg soon after last season ended for a violation of team rules.

Instead of Cooke, the backup for Gordon and Dowdell will be 6-5
redshirt junior PG Markus Sailes (0.3 ppg, 0% fg, 50% ft), who missed
almost all of the 2004-2005 season with a foot injury.

Sailes' statistics from last season are completely deceiving,
since he only played 23 minutes before being injured. In his
previous seasons at Virginia Tech, Sailes has been an excellent
ball-handler with an outstanding assists-to-turnovers ratio.

Sailes has been versatile enough to play WF in addition to both
guard positions.

Providing depth as a scorer at the 2G and WF positions will be
6-4 senior 2G Shawn Harris (2.9 ppg, 0.4 a/t, 50% fg, 38.5% 3-fg, 75%
ft). Harris has not been a reliable ball-handler, but he can provide
explosive scoring with his athleticism.

With the departure of Dixon, 6-7 soph WF Deron Washington (7.9
ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.6 a/t, 47.6% fg, 60% 3-fg (3 for 5), 60% ft, All-ACC
Freshman Team) may be able to return to his natural WF position as a
starter instead of playing inside at PF. Washington showed great
athleticism last season, but he will need to improve his shooting if
he does make the move to

Although he hit 60% of his 3-point shots, he made only 3
three-pointers all season and showed his true shooting limitations at
the foul line. Although Washington is a good ACC player, Virginia
Tech will not be as strong at WF this season without Dixon.

Besides Washington, Sailes and Harris, other candidates for
playing time at WF are 6-7 soph WF Wynton Witherspoon (2.4 ppg, 1.1
rpg, 32.7% fg, 25.8% 3-fg, 44.4% ft) and 6-6 freshman WF Angel Daniel
"AD" Vassallo (Prep Stars # 235).

Witherspoon failed to impress with his shooting touch during his
freshman year, but he has some potential.

Angel Daniel "AD" Vassallo, who is from Santa Maria Toa Baja,
Puerto Rico, brings range, toughness and passing to the WF position
according to Coach Greenberg. If Angel Daniel, who may be
underrated, can provide even a poor man's imitation of the other
Puerto Rican playing ACC basketball, Miami's Guillermo Diaz, ACC
Coaches can be expected to recruit regularly from that island ceded
to the United States in 1898 as a result of the Spanish-American War.

The three best players on the 2005-2006 Virginia Tech roster
arrived on campus as freshmen at the same time Coach Seth Greenberg
was about to commence his first season as coach in 2003-2004.

Besides Dowdell and Gordon, the third player in this very solid
group of juniors is 6-8 junior PF Coleman Collins (11.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg,
0.9 bpg, 45.2% fg, 33.3% 3-fg, 65.7% ft). Collins was the only true
frontcourt player for the Hokies who averaged at least two rebounds
per game, leading the Gobblers with 7 boards per contest.

Also, Collins was the only PF or C who averaged as many as 2
points per game, finishing only behind Dowdell and Dixon with 11.4
points per game.

Just as Washington had to play out of position at PF, Collins
had to play C and face players with significant advantages in
bulk. Still, Collins acquitted himself well.

Returning players who failed to impress at the PF position
include 6-8 senior PF Allen Calloway (1.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 36.1% fg, 50%
ft), 6-7 junior Chris Tucker (1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 45.8% fg, 14.3% 3-fg,
58.8% ft) and 6-5 senior PF and football tight end Jeff King (1.1
ppg, 1.4 rpg, 24% fg, 50% ft). King may concentrate on football and
not return to the hardcourt next season.

The other returning frontcourt player is 6-11 soph C Robert
Krabbendam (1.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 31.3% fg, 60% ft). Of this group of
players, Krabbendam perhaps has the most potential due to his size
and good fundamentals. Once Krabbendam adds strength, he could be a
decent option at center.

Considering the performance of Virginia Tech's players at PF and
C other than Coleman Collins, Virginia Tech added 6-9 freshman PF
Hyman Taylor (Prep Stars # 190), 6-9 freshman PF Terrence Vinson
(Prep Stars # 213), and 6-8 freshman PF Cheick Diakite (pronounced
Check Ja-KA-tay) (Prep Stars # 269), who is from Bamako, Mali.

Diakite is described by his prep school coach as "a poor man's
Ben Wallace," and Taylor is similarly described as the physical type
of player who aggressively pursues the ball on defense. Neither
Taylor nor Diakite is described as an offensive standout however.

Vinson draws praise for his ability to run the floor, rebound
and play defense, but Coach Greenberg has said that Vinson needs to
develop his offensive game facing the basket.

In summary, Virginia Tech has a lot of options with regard to
which frontcourt players to use, but only Coleman Collins has proven
himself to be a solid ACC starter inside for Virginia Tech.

Four starters for Virginia Tech return next season and are sure
bets to be starters in 2005-2006. There is some question though as
to what positions Washington and Collins will play.

If Collins remains at C and Washington at PF, the WF position is
wide open to Sailes, Witherspoon, Harris and Angel Daniel "AD" Vassallo.

If Washington moves to WF, Krabbendam, Taylor, Calloway, Diakite
and Vinson all have the opportunity to start inside with Collins.

Perhaps to make the options less confusing, Coach Greenberg has
indicated that he may redshirt one of the three incoming freshmen
power forwards, probably Vinson, given the similarity of their
talents and skills.

Most likely, the Hokies' starting lineup and player rotation at
the positions other than guard will develop over the course of the
season and be a work in progress.

Whoever takes the playing time of departed WF Carlos Dixon,
whether as a starter or substitute, is not likely to match Dixon's
basketball skills and contributions. For that reason, the Hokies may
not be as good as they were last season and as some predictions for
this coming season might suggest.

Even if Virginia Tech can catch some of the traditional ACC
basketball powers during the anticipated down year for the ACC in
2005-2006, the Hokies have too many missing pieces to their
basketball team to be considered a genuine first-tier ACC team.

There is a slim possibility that the Hokies may finish in the
upper division of the ACC again in 2005-2006. Given the Gobblers'
inside deficiencies, however, there is a greater likelihood that
Virginia Tech will finish in the middle of the mix of ACC teams
battling for positions in the bottom half of the ACC standings.