Virginia Tech's Next Basketball Roster Takes Shape

Virginia Tech’s Next Basketball Roster Takes Shape

In this era of college basketball, the end of the season brings a period of roster uncertainty. Players depart for the NBA. Players enter the transfer portal, willingly and sometimes unwillingly. It takes a bit for things to fully settle down.

Virginia Tech lost to Texas in the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament on March 19. On June 1, Justyn Mutts announced he was returning for a sixth season of college basketball.

After 74 days, Mike Young‘s period of uncertainty ended. Keve Aluma declared for the NBA. Nahiem Alleyne transferred to UConn. David N’Guessan was also in the portal and ultimately landed at Kansas State.

Before Mutts’ decision, the Hokies brought in Wright State transfer Grant BasilMemphis transfer John CamdenRice transfer Mylyjael Poteatand signed high school Darren BuchananJr. Buchanan, Jr., join an incoming class that includes the highly touted guard Rodney Riceguard MJ Collins, and center Patrick Wessler.

And now, Mike Young and company can get moving on molding a team to get ready for a season in which expectations will be significantly elevated after an ACC Tournament championship.

Tech has lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back years, so it’s not hard to figure out what the expectation is going to be next season.

Let’s dive into the roster.


Hunter Cattoor (Photo: @HokiesMBB)

The Hokies are likely to shift their emphasis a little to the perimeter next season. When you have Keve Aluma AND Justyn Mutts at the 4 and the 5, you build your team around those guys.

When it becomes just Mutts, and you have shooters like Sean Pedulla, Hunter Cattoorand Darius Maddox on the perimeter, the emphasis is going to move outward at least a little.

All eyes this off-season specifically are on Pedulla. He had a terrific freshman season slowly taking playing time for the veteran Storm Murphy, but it’s his show now. He averaged 15 minutes per game in March, flipping between 18 against UNC and 19 against Texas to 6 against Duke and 12 against Clemson.

Is he ready to be an ACC point guard for 25-30 minutes a night, three times a week?

Consistency for him is going to be key, and the success of the 2022-2023 Hokies largely depends on him at least maintaining the level he played at last season, but ideally taking a step or two forward.

On the wings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better pair of shooters in the country than Cattoor and Maddox, and they’ll be roaming around the same arc. They are both primarily catch-and-shoot guys, so it will be fascinating to see what kind of offense Young deploys to get them open looks.

I’m a novice in terms of basketball Xs and Os, but it certainly seems like a high pick-and-roll with Pedulla and Mutts in the middle of the floor as Cattoor, Maddox, and potentially a floor-spacing big man floating on the perimeter could be deadly. Force the help to choose between stopping Pedulla/Mutts or sticking to the shooters and run it over and over and over and over.

Cattoor is not one anyone will worry about. I’m not sure there’s much development left in his tank, but he’s a guy that can already score 31 points against Duke in the ACC Championship. There probably doesn’t need to be.

Maddox is going to be an interesting player to watch. He played more than 20 minutes in 11 of 36 games last season, but that includes seven of the final eight. That’s going to be his role the entire season — 25-30 minutes per night. Can his ridiculous shooting proficiency hold up in the larger role? We’ll find out.

Let’s assume Cattoor is going to get 32 ​​minutes per game. He averaged 34 per game in ACC play last year, so seems fair. Maddox averaged 23 minutes per game in March, so let’s bump him and Pedulla up to 28 minutes per game.

That leaves roughly 12 minutes to cover at point and 20 minutes at two wing spots. The Hokies don’t have any true point guards behind Pedulla, so I’d expect Catoor to at least dabble when needed. And Rice can probably handle the rock well enough for a handful of minutes as well at the point. I like the high-pick-and-roll theory with him in the Pedulla role, too.

Beyond their veteran returners, Virginia Tech is going to be young. Rice is the 7th best recruit Virginia Tech has ever signed, behind Dorrian Finney-Smith, Nickeil Alexander Walker, Chris Clarke, Ahmed Hill, Landers Nolleyand Marquie Cooke.

He’s the favorite to gobble up a majority of those minutes. If he can come in as a pour-it-in 6th man or better and provide a slightly different look than the efficiently catch-and-shoot Catoor and Maddox, then he could bring clear value to this squad.

Collins is another bigger guard that Young signed this off-season, joining Rice in the ranks of being listed at 6 foot 4.

Between Cattoor at point and Rice and Collins at any guard spot, the Hokies seem like they should be able to cover the available minutes.

However, the youth and depth here have to be a potential concern. Rice looks like he should be able to contribute immediately. Collins to a lesser degree than Rice, but still should be able to.

But not all true freshmen can, and sometimes it takes longer than normal. Maddox only played in 11 games as a freshman, for instance.

What happens in the first half of the year if the Hokies get virtually no production off the bench from their guards? Is that enough to cost them a few key games in December and early January and park them on the bubble again?

The 3 Position

Virginia Tech didn’t play with a true small forward much at all last season. It was a three-guard lineup with Alleyne or Maddox in the 3 spot.

That largely won’t change in 2022-2023 with Maddox returning, but it does feel like there may be an opportunity to get a little bigger at this point for a few minutes per game, if not more.

We John Camden‘s Hokiesports bio, assistant coach Christian Webster says he “addresses our need of getting taller on the wing right away.” That’s a reference to the three spot, so it sounds like the Hokies would like to play more of a true 3 if possible and then either Cattoor or Maddox at the 2.

That’s another subtle shift compared to last year’s team to watch. With Aluma gone, you aren’t going to replicate that production at just the 5. It’s going to spread across the board, and part of that likely requires playing with a little more size at the 3 at times.

Forwards & Centers

(Photo: Ben Solomon/Contributor, Getty)

The big news is Mutts returning at the 4. Lock him in for 35 minutes per game. As many as you can get. He blessed you with the decision to stick around for one more year, so there’s no reason not to give him as many minutes as he can possibly handle.

I’d expect him to log the vast majority of minutes as a 4, shift to a small-ball 5 in small stretches, and maybe combine with Camden in bigger lineups as a combo 3 or 4.

Sidenote with Mutts: His return gives him a chance to leave Blacksburg as the most revered basketball players in recent memory, at least since Zabian Dowdell and Jamon Gordon.

justin robinson is the closest, but his ankle injury robbed him of what would have been an exhilarating (and deserved) finish to his career.

Malcolm Delaney would have been if the Hokies had been able to get into the tournament. In between, Eric Green put up terrific numbers on bad teams and Seth Allen and Zach LeDay put up good numbers on surprisingly decent teams, but nothing approaching what Robinson got near (or arguably achieved) or what Mutts could get to with another big year. Please stay healthy.

Beyond Mutts, the Hokies have to get 40 minutes at the center position and a handful at the four. Camden can play a floor spacer role a little bit, another thing Webster mentions on his Hokiesports bio.

Basil is the guy to watch. He put up 18.4 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last year at Wright State. He shot the lights out of the ball from three two seasons ago at almost 48%, but that number dropped below 30% last season as he attempted more threes. However, he’s exactly the type of big I was thinking about when theorizing about the Pedulla/Mutts high-pick-and-roll. Just enough shooting ability on the perimeter clears out the middle of the floor for Mutts and Pedulla to work and makes it really difficult on defenders.

Basile has a little more offense than fellow transfer Poteat, but Poteat has 30 pounds on Basile. He feels like a guy who is more of a traditional center, despite being 6 foot 9, and almost certainly is going to draw the pleasure of banging around with Armando Bacot next season.

Basil and Poteat figure to be the main guys at the 5 with Mutts dabbling there a bit as a small-ball 5.

Wessler & Buchanan

(Photo: 247Sports)

With the return of Mutts and the addition of Basile and Poteat, Young has teed up a patient development path for the two freshmen — Patrick Wessler and Darren Buchanan.

Buchanan looks like a potential clone of Mutts, and he could have a year to learn from one of the best to ever do it in Blacksburg while playing a small role to get his feet wet.

Wessler is the same way. It would be unfair to ask him to come in and play 25+ minutes per night on a team expected to contend in the ACC and get past the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

But with Basil and Poteat available, he, too, can take a small role, not be asked to do too much, and get ready for next season.

Mutts is definitely gone next season, as is Basil, so there will be plenty of minutes opening up. If Buchanan and Wessler do the right things this year, despite what will likely be a limited role, they could be trusted to slide into much bigger roles then.

Projecting the Rotation

Over the course of the season, most of these guys are likely to see some playing time. But when it gets to crunch time, in late January, February, and into March, the rotation is going to shrink to 8 or 9 guys. Here’s how I see it shaking out at this point.

1: Pedulla

2: Cattoor

3: Maddox

4: Mutts

5: Basil

6th: Rice

7: Potato

8: Camden

9: Collins

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