Chris Clarke was once the one particular person depicted at the quilt of the informational booklet that Virginia Tech dispensed at ACC males’s basketball media final month in North Carolina.
However Clarke is not some of the faces of this staff.
The Hokies open their season Friday with out Clarke, a senior ahead who was once indefinitely suspended from the staff final week.
“We’re no longer actually seeking to fear concerning the Chris scenario. We’re nervous about subsequent guy up,” senior level guard Justin Robinson stated. “Any person has to step up — can’t depend on one participant or one particular person. It’s a staff recreation. So I believe we’re in a just right way of thinking.”
Clarke averaged 8.2 issues and a team-high 6.Three rebounds final season, when Tech made the NCAA Match for the second one instantly 12 months.
“We don’t need to be outlined via one participant,” stated sixth-year senior ahead Ty Outlaw, who ignored final season with a torn ACL. “We’ll select up the slack as a result of we’re an older staff. We’ve were given a number of senors, a number of returners. … We’ve got a tradition of successful now.”
However rebounding was once no longer one in every of Tech’s robust fits, even with Clarke. How will the Hokies make up for his talent at the forums?
“Subsequent guy up,” fifth-year senior guard Ahmed Hill stated. “Myself, [I’ve] … were given to get in there and get extra rebounds — with any other guys.”
Clarke additionally helped the staff in alternative ways. He ranked moment at the squad in assists (98) and steals (31) final season.
“He was once a man that was once everywhere in the ball, at all times,” Hill stated. “Numerous guys simply were given to pick out it up. It’s no longer one individual that’s going to pick out up all his slack.”
Clarke got here off the bench final season however was once a most likely starter this season. Outlaw began in his position in final weekend’s exhibition win at Liberty.
Clarke began for the Hokies two seasons in the past, when he averaged 11.four issues and seven.Three rebounds prior to struggling a torn ACL in February 2017. Outlaw changed him within the lineup after Clarke was once harm that season and emerged as a 3-point ace throughout the staff’s run to the 2017 NCAAs.
“It offers me numerous self assurance [this time]. It’s nearly like deja vu,” Outlaw stated. “It came about as soon as [before], and I need to check out my highest to make it occur once more.”
The Hokies must nonetheless be just right with out Clarke.
They’ve a potent lineup that includes Robinson, who averaged 14 issues and earned All-ACC second-team honors final 12 months; Hill (10.6 ppg); Outlaw; Kerry Blackshear (12.five ppg); and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (10.7 ppg).
However the Hokies, who’re ranked No. 15 within the Related Press preseason Best 25 ballot, have upper objectives than just making the NCAAs once more.
They need to make a run within the NCAA Match, no longer go out within the first spherical like they did the previous two years.
Does Clarke’s loss impact the possibility of this staff?
“I don’t assume so,” Robinson stated. “We’re a senior-led team. … The revel in we have now and the style we nonetheless have from final 12 months is simply overwhelming the entirety.”
Tech went 21-12 final 12 months, when it dropped its ultimate 3 video games. The Hokies misplaced their regular-season finale at Miami; misplaced to Notre Dame within the ACC Match; and fell to Alabama within the NCAAs.
“So it’s superb that we closed out the season [like that, and yet now] … supposedly we’re just right,” trainer Buzz Williams stated. “We nonetheless must turn out that.”
To be higher than it was once final 12 months, stated Williams, Tech should fortify at the forums.
Tech ranked next-to-last within the ACC in rebounding margin final 12 months.
“Rebounding is our Achilles heel,” Blackshear stated.
Tech ranked 8th within the ACC in defensive rebounding share (grabbing 70.6 p.c of the to be had defensive rebounds).
“We couldn’t end the ownership with a rebound,” Williams stated. “So now they get the rebound, [and] we’re guarding once more.”
Tech must also minimize down on its turnovers to be higher than it was once final season, stated Williams. His staff averaged 12.zero turnovers final 12 months.
The Hokies grew to become the ball over 18 occasions in final weekend’s 86-70 exhibition win at Liberty.
“We have been nervous,” Williams stated after that recreation. “We have been seeking to make a home-run play.”
The Hokies will make use of the defensive way they used within the ultimate 10 video games final season.
After giving up 84 issues in a Feb. Three loss to Miami, Williams modified Tech’s defensive philosophy. He emphasised retaining groups out of the paint to restrict their layups. He additionally changed Hill within the beginning lineup with defensive-minded Devin Wilson.
Tech received 5 of its subsequent seven video games, together with wins over Duke and Virginia.
“Maximum of our practices revolve across the protection,” Hill stated.
The staff’s two highest defenders final season, Wilson and guard Justin Bibbs, each graduated. Williams stated Tech isn’t as just right defensively with out them.
“Bibbs and Devin have been so instinctual [on defense],” Williams stated.
Bibbs, who’s now within the G League, averaged 13.Three issues and sank a team-high 66 3-pointers.
Outlaw hopes to fill Bibbs’ 3-point void.
“I’ll be very dissatisfied in myself if I don’t lift that water for the staff,” Outlaw stated.