Virginia Tech men’s basketball is about to cap a successful offseason, or at least as successful as one could ask for given the circumstances.
Heading into his second season as Head Hokie, Mike Young has revamped his roster and prepared his team for the next level — fighting for an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Hokies were at that point early last season, but long apparent flaws reared their heads as Virginia Tech slipped from contention. This offseason brought about serious roster upheaval — Landers Nolley tested the NBA waters before landing at Memphis, Isaiah Wilkins announced his intentions to transfer and PJ Horne, a Buzz Williams holdover, transferred to Georgia. These three players combined to start in 64 games last season, while Nolley and Horne both averaged at least 28 minutes per game.
Replacing that production and depth wouldn’t come easy, even if the world wasn’t on full or partial lockdown thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet, Young filled critical holes on his roster that has sped up the rebuilding process in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech has accepted three transfers this offseason — Kansas State guard Cartier Diarra, Iowa forward Cordell Pemsl and Delaware forward Justyn Mutts. All three transfers are eligible immediately, giving Tech instant production and depth without sacrificing future spots on the roster.
Pemsl and Mutts offer something that Virginia Tech has long lacked — frontcourt depth. Virginia Tech has consistently struggled to field a deep corps of big men on the floor, a problem that exacerbated itself under Williams’ leadership. Last season, Young’s roster consisted of just two big men — Horne and freshman center John Ojiako. Ojiako was one of two eligible scholarship players on the roster taller than 6-foot-7.
Next season figures to be very different. Pemsl and Mutts, 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-7 respectively, will join Ojiako and 6-foot-9 Keve Aluma, a Wofford transfer who sat out last season. For the first time in years, the Hokies should have some legitimate depth in the frontcourt.
And it’s not like that depth hasn’t been tested. Pemsl played in 28 games off the bench last season for Iowa, Mutts averaged 12.2 points per game and 8.4 rebounds per game and logged 32 starts at Delaware and Aluma, who has played for Young before, started 37 games in two seasons before transferring to Virginia Tech.
Before beefing up the frontcourt, Young took in the 6-foot-4 Diarra, who averaged 13.3 points per game and made 27 starts in 2019-20. Diarra will need to be more efficient than he was at Kansas State, but he’ll add an explosive option off the bounce for Young to employ, an option he lacked for most of last season.
These three transfers, combined with incoming four-star freshmen Joe Bamisile and Darius Maddox, will infuse the program with as much talent as it has had in quite some time. Virginia Tech might not be elite in 2020-21, but they don’t need to be. Being good is fine for now, and this roster can be very good.
Over his first season and a half, Young has proven to be a reliable and clever recruiter, managing roster turnover while adding young talent in his first real recruiting class. He overachieved last season, engineering a lackluster roster into a cohesive unit that for part of the season, looked like a bona fide NCAA Tournament team.
Now, Young has more tools in the toolbox. It’s hard not to expect more from Young heading into Year 2, as he’s already shown he can exceed any expectations set for him.