Hokies believe future is bright despite early tourney exit

Zach LeDay and Seth Allen believe they have laid a foundation at Virginia Tech that has the Hokies' program heading in the right direction.

The seniors were the first building blocks of the men's basketball team that Buzz Williams put in place when here was hired three years ago. Their Virginia Tech careers ended in an 84-74 loss to Wisconsin in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night, but the Hokies showed signs this season that they will likely not wait another 10 years before returning to the big stage.

''Figuratively, those guys have carried a lot of water since they've been here, and for whatever reason, they have never resisted anything that I've asked of them,'' Williams said Thursday night. ''And not because they're good players. They're really, really good kids.

''And what they've been able to help us establish in a very, very short tenure, way faster than I believe we've been given credit for, I owe them for life. My children owe them, and our staff owes them, and those other kids on our team owe them, and we're so thankful.''

LeDay and Allen will be missed, but the Hokies have a solid core returning.

Chris Clarke, their most versatile player, missed the final weeks of the regular season and all of the postseason after knee surgery, but should be back next year. Six-foot-10 Kerry Blackshear Jr. missed this year with a foot injury, and 7-footer Johnny Hamilton sat out after thumb surgery. Both also should be back next year.

Ty Outlaw, a transfer like LeDay and Allen, made 34 of 61 3-point attempts (55.7 percent) in games played in February and March. He finished the season shooting 48.7 percent from 3-point range (57 for 117).

Justin Bibbs. Justin Robinson. Ahmed Hill. All are ACC-level players, and more help is on the way.

Williams believes the examples set by his seniors will remain influential even after they have moved on.

Allen said he and LeDay made a deal before the season began.

''We were just trying to fight every night,'' Allen said. ''It's hard to change a program around. You have to be an everyday digging person. You can't take any days off even when you're beat up. That was always our mentality.''

It's an example the Hokies hope will carry into next season and beyond.

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More AP college basketball: http://collegebasketball.ap.org

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