2022-2023 Virginia Tech Men's Basketball Season Preview
The opening tipoff of the 2022-2023 men’s basketball season versus Delaware State is less than a month away, so how is Virginia Tech’s roster shaping up? And how are the Hokies planning to defend their ACC Tournament Title? Let’s take a look:
In the 2022-2023 ACC media poll, Virginia Tech was picked to finish seventh in the conference. North Carolina was predicted to finish first, and Duke, Virginia, Miami, Florida State, and Notre Dame followed suit behind the Tar Heels.
In Ken Pomeroy’s preseason rankings, Virginia Tech was ranked 21st out of all division one teams. Only three ACC teams are ahead of the Hokies: UVA at fifth, UNC at ninth, and Duke at 15th.
This year’s team comprises five freshmen, two sophomores, three juniors, one senior, and two graduate students. Because of the NCAA’s COVID-19 eligibility offer, Hunter Cattoor, Darius Maddox, Lynn Kidd, Grant Basile, and Mylyjael Poteat have the option to play an extra year in Blacksburg if they so choose after their five-year eligibility clock expires.
The 2022-2023 roster looks quite different from last year’s. These are the players that either graduated or left via the transfer portal during the offseason:
Keve Aluma (NBA)
Storm Murphy (Graduated)
David N’Guessan (Transfer, Kansas State)
John Ojiako (Transfer, George Mason)
Jalen Haynes (Transfer, East Tennessee State)
Aluma and Murphy were huge losses for the team, because they were huge contributor’s to the success of last season. Coach Mike Young brought them over (as well as Mutts and Cattoor) with him from Wofford to Virginia Tech, and the move paid dividends and heightened Virginia Tech’s men’s basketball program like never before.
Murphy is now playing overseas in Germany and Aluma is currently signed to the Memphis Grizzlies. The 2022 ACC All-Tournament First Team nominee signed a free agent contract shortly after going undrafted.
N'Guessan’s role off the bench was crucial for Virginia Tech in their regular season and ACC Tournament run. Playing in all 36 games, N’Guessan was a lockdown defender, and his presence will be missed this season for Virginia Tech. N’Guessan transferred to Kansas State in May.
Haynes’ time at Virginia Tech was marred with off-court issues, and the sophomore did not play in the final 11 games of last season. Young spoke to the media post-game after Louisville on March 1, telling reporters that Haynes was not with the team and that he would instead be focusing on academics. Haynes entered the portal shortly after the Hokies’ opening round loss to Texas in the NCAA Tournament.
Ojiako played in 20 games, but most of those were non-conference matchups early in the regular season. He transferred to George Mason to seek more playing time with the Patriots.
Here is the projected starting lineup. Only Mutts, Cattoor, Pedulla, and Maddox are confirmed by Mike Young to start:
Grant Basile transferred from Wright State and is competing for the four or five spot in the Virginia Tech lineup. The 6-foot-9, 225 pound graduate student looks to fill the hole left by Keve Aluma.
Basile was a centerpiece for Wright State, starting every game in his senior year. He helped the Raiders win the 2022 Horizon League Championship and make the NCAA Tournament as a No. 16 seed by defeating Bryant in the play-in round. The Raiders fell to No. 1 Arizona in the first round.
In the 2021-2022 season, Basile averaged 18.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2 assists – all career bests for his collegiate career.
The rest of the starting lineup includes household names for Hokie fans from last year’s squad. Justyn Mutts, who was nominated to the 2022 Preseason All-ACC Second Team, is returning alongside senior Hunter Cattoor. The duo are the two lone starters of the 2021-2022 team playing this season.
Mutts’ decision to stay was crucial for Virginia Tech if they wanted to carry over the momentum from last year into this season. Along with Aluma, he declared for the NBA draft, but announced in June via Twitter that he would be returning to Blacksburg. Mutts’ powerful presence down low and outside the arc, as well as his defensive prowess, makes him an intimidating force on both fronts of the court.
Mutts will not be playing in the season opener, however, because he violated NCAA rules after playing in a non-certified NCAA event while he was going through the NBA Draft process, per release. The one-game suspension means his debut will instead be Thursday night when Lehigh comes to Blacksburg.
Hunter Cattoor is looking to carry the momentum he created last season into his senior year. The 2022 ACC Tournament MVP is best known for his lethality beyond the arc. Last season, Cattoor led the team with a 41.7% average beyond the three-point line and 83 total three-pointers made. His efficiency from deep carried into the ACC championship game, where Cattoor sank seven threes in the victory over Duke, tying J.J. Redick for the second-most in ACC Title game history.
Sean Pedulla and Darius Maddox are the final two confirmed starters, and have developed nicely during their time in Blacksburg. Both were two key players to come off the bench last season, checking in for all 36 games for the Hokies.
Pedulla in his freshman season would swap in for Storm Murphy, so playing time was sparse. But when given the opportunity, Pedulla would come up big, such as his season-high 20 point game against Florida State off the bench. The ACC matchup was a much-needed win for the Hokies – who were 2-7 in conference play before facing the Seminoles – and the victory jump started their 9-2 run to close out the regular season.
Maddox was pivotal for Virginia Tech in the closing stretch of the regular season and the ACC tournament. In the last five games of the regular season, he averaged 9.5 points per game. Maddox was the sole reason the Hokies were able to advance past the second round thanks to his unforgettable overtime buzzer-beater against Clemson. Then, further into the tournament, Maddox posted a season-high 20 points against North Carolina in the semifinals. Due to his heroics and top-notch performances, Maddox was named to the 2022 ACC All-Tournament Second Team.
Now, as Pedulla and Maddox graduate to the starting lineup, Mike Young will mainly rely on the likes of Camden Johnson, Lynn Kidd, and Mylyjael Poteat to come off the bench this season.
Poteat (whose name is pronounced Muh-lie-juhl Po-teet), is a junior who transferred from Rice to Virginia Tech back in May. Although he only started three games with the Owls, the 6-foot-9 forward checked in for every game, averaging 6.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game during his tenure in Houston. Poteat will most likely be substituting in for Basile, and filling in at the four spot down low.
Kidd, a 6-foot-10 junior centerman, is projected to be playing behind Mutts at the five. Transferring to Blacksburg from Clemson last season, the junior only averaged 2.5 minutes per game in 10 games played off of the bench, with most of those logged during non-conference play. But in year two with the Hokies, more playing time is certainly expected.
Camden Johnson rounds out the top eight in the Virginia Tech lineup. Like Kidd, the 6’1 sophomore guard only played in 10 games last season, and did not come onto the court for most of those until the waning minutes of the second half.
The rest of the roster pales in comparison when it comes to experience and consists of freshmen – both true and red-shirted. However, true freshman Rodney Rice stands out amongst the bunch. A 6-foot-4 195 pound guard who spent his high school career at DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, MD, Rice was ranked the 68th best player in his recruiting class.
Rice is the 7th-best recruit Virginia Tech has ever signed and most prized prospect since Mike Young began coaching for the Hokies. He is also the highest graded recruit the Hokies have landed since Landers Nolley in 2018 (Nolley transferred to Memphis in April 2020). His lethal jumper, ball handling skills, and efficiency behind the arc make him a key player, and his future at Virginia Tech appears bright.
As Mike Young enters his fourth season coaching the Hokies and continues to build a successful program in Blacksburg, the departures of Keve Aluma, David N’Guessan, Storm Murphy, and John Ojiako may hurt the Hokies defensively. But this season, it’s up to the young guns to step up and fill the holes in the lineup. The Hokies have the ability to contend yet again for an ACC Title, and hope to advance further than the round of 64 for the first time since Mike Young took over.
Opening night for Virginia Tech against Delaware State is slated for 9 p.m on Nov. 7 in Blacksburg. The women’s basketball team plays at 5 p.m., making it a doubleheader at Cassell Coliseum.