Food for Thought
By Greg Kehr, 2/14/00

I havenít eaten breakfast yet, so I am still a little cranky. The whole idea of food pleases me, but for our purposes, we arenít going to talk bacon and eggs; weíre going to talk basketball, from a fanís perspective.

I drove down to Olean, NY this past Thursday to watch the Virginia Tech menís basketball team hit the court against my longtime favorite St. Bonaventure Bonnies. The game started off well for the Bonnies. A number of made baskets, coupled with numerous Tech turnovers, and the Bonnies had the early lead. Co-workers of mine were on me from the start. They called the Hokies a "bad team"; a team that had no business making the jump to the Big East next year. Now you must know, this banter comes from a St. Bonaventure alum, a Seton Hall alum and a Syracuse alum. Jaded, you think?! As I sat there in the Reilly Center, I watched closely and tried to envision this team next year in the Big EastÖand the thought right now concerns me a bit.

First things first, we need some big time recruits. I donít just mean players either; I mean BIG recruits, seven-footers, thoroughbreds, you know where I am going. Guys like Alvaro Tor wonít cut it. We need guys the size of Jimmy Carruth (tall), with the bulk of Shawn Smith (wide). Dennis Mims was solid the other night, and he is a good ball player, but he isnít going to be able to match up with guys like Etan Thomas at Syracuse, Ruben Boumjte Boumjte at Georgetown, or Jake Voskuhl at Connecticut. Granted, Thomas and Voskuhl are graduating and wonít be around next year, but you get the idea. We need horses to play with these guys and not just against them. Mims guarding one of these big men, or even Rolan Roberts guarding one, it takes them out of their game. And with our youth, we need all we can get out of our frontline.

Speaking of Mims, a situation occurred during the final stages of the game that couldíve turned very ugly. Bonnies point guard Tim Winn was tied up near half court with one of the Tech players. A foul was called on the Hokies, but some pushing and shoving ensued. Mims pulled at Winn and Tim didnít like that very much and pushed Dennis away. Mims then decided to make a fist and fire a punch.

Luckily, Brian Chase jumped in and grabbed Mimsí right arm before he could throw the haymaker. I was watching Dennis the entire time and he looked like he wanted to throw Tim Winn into the middle of next week. I donít know what was said, but if he had thrown the punch, not only are we looking at ejection, but very possibly suspension. To make matters worse, a few seconds later, Winn and Andre Ray are tumbling out of bounds near the Tech bench, only to have Dennis come over again and get in Winnsí face as he was laying on the ground. The crowd was booing, the student section was ready to pounce on Mims, and the whole situation was close to getting out of hand. The officials, though, did a great job restoring the peace and the game ended without incident.

My point is simple: we need Dennis Mims to play ball, not play enforcer or bully. I know he has a mean streak, which I think is good, as long as it is channeled in the right direction. Coach Stokes seemed to have a pretty good handle on the whole situation. He didnít take Dennis out of the game; he didnít yell at him and belittle him in front of the team. He talked to him calmly, and thatís the way the game ended. If Dennis can control his anger on the court and mature to the point where he shrugs off the taunts and the trash talking, it will make this team that much more dangerous for opponents. If he decides he wants to fight his way out of trouble, then the whole team will suffer because of his actions.

And now back to our program. One thing that I was very impressed with was the play of Brian Chase. This was my first opportunity to see him in action and he didnít disappoint. For those of you that havenít seen him play, make it a point to get to a game, this kid is the real deal. Chase single handedly kept the Hokies in this game. He was not only running the show, but he was the only one hitting any type of basket with regularity. Sure Mims, Roberts and Dunlop pitched in, but Brian Chase hit the big baskets that kept the Hokies in this game until the final minutes. Not to mention he had to guard Tim Winn, one of, if not the best guard in the Atlantic 10. Freshman vs. Senior. Normally, the senior "winns" (no pun intended), but this game went to our little freshman, who might have played his best collegiate game so far.

With Chase running the show and Dobbins spotting up from the wing, this team could put a scare into people next year. Iím not predicting miracles here, but the talent in the backcourt is there, and itís only going to get better as time goes on. Hopefully these two, Chase and Dobbins, donít pull a Jenis Grindstaff, and leave school for greener pastures. Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again, these kids should cherish the thought of being the foundation of a program. Stay at your school, work hard, and try to put the program on the map. Donít take the easy way out and transfer to somewhere thatís already established. Whatís the fun of that?

Finally, when all was said and done with the game, I realized the last piece of the puzzle was a bench. Coach Stokes didnít go real deep into his bench and the reason is pretty simple I think, there isnít much depth to go to. The Hokies are going to need to shore up the reserves in hopes of spelling the starters when they jump to the Big East next year. The six or seven man rotation isnít going to cut it against the likes of Syracuse, Villanova, Miami or Georgetown.

I know this is only Ricky Stokesí first year. I know recruits donít happen over night, and that the whole process of building a program takes time. What I do know is, without the right personnel, I donít care if you have 5 or 10 people running in and out of a game, you are not going to win. I firmly believe Coach Stokes has the tools to get us where we want to go. He played at UVA (which is a downer, but what are you going to do). He battled ACC opponents night in and night out. He knows big time college basketball and he knows what kind of players you need to get to the big time. The Atlantic 10 plays good basketball, but the Big East plays better. To move this team to the next level, Stokes and his staff need to find the personnel that will do it. From what I saw this past Thursday, the future is already looking bright.

Greg Kehr is a Marketing Coordinator for Empire Sports in New York.


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