Mike Young's Grocery List
As the frantic nature of the portal has slightly died down in recent days, the storylines for players' futures have started to take shape.
Virginia Tech Head Coach Mike Young has made it clear that he wants to bring in a new big man to play minutes at the five spot, or at least provide some relief on the interior.
The resultant change would shift Keve Aluma to power forward, his natural position, while a tough decision would have to be made regarding Nahiem Alleyne, Justyn Mutts or Tyrece Radford's starting status, should a new arrival be added to the starting five.
This season, the Hokies ranked 212th amongst qualified Division I programs in rebounding margin and 81st in blocked shots: both are significant improvements from their marks of 332nd and 182nd a year ago, although there is a glaring vacancy for a glass-cleaning, shot-swatting force on the inside.
While not outright undersized, Virginia Tech's "smaller" roster has it's benefits: Mike Young's system allows for pick-and-pops, pin-downs and simple ball movement to find any one of his five starters an easy look for three, regardless of position. An incoming transfer does not necessarily have to fit this mold, or be an outside presence at all, but they must be able to function in a motion-based system that relies on proficient passing from the inside. Plus, you can never have too many shooters.
According to 247 Sports and various members of the national media, the Hokies have already made a number of calls to big men around the country, hoping to find another gem in the packed-out transfer portal— those players are as follows.
Formerly of: UMass
2020-21 stats: 18.8ppg, 7.2rpg, 1.5bpg, 51.9% FG, 37.5% 3PT
Mitchell is one of the most sought after commodities in the portal thus far, having taken calls from a boatload of Power Five schools since announcing his intent to transfer; however, the Hokies may have a leg up on some of the competition, having made his top six choices during the high school recruiting process.
Mitchell is another natural power forward and is not exactly the physical force that would command the interior, officially listed at 6'9, 240 pounds (five more than Keve Aluma, for perspective), but he is a talented scorer at multiple levels.
While UMass has not seen renewed success since Mitchell's arrival, it is hard to point the finger at him. The versatile center has gone for 30+ points five times in his two-year collegiate career, three times during the 2020-21 season, and notched a career-high of 37 in December, 2020.
The downside to Mitchell's performance at the five is his limited rebounding influence, having only secured double-digit boards in eight of his 44 appearances: with that being said, he does have a career-high of 19 rebounds, and could be molded to fit the needs of the system.
Formerly of: East Carolina University
2020-21 stats: 18.3ppg, 8.3rpg, 47.9% FG
A 6'7, 235-pound forward hailing from Wake Forest, North Carolina, Gardner has enjoyed three dominant seasons at East Carolina since arriving in 2018.
Gardner provides no threat from outside, attempting six total threes in 19 games last season, yet was still the American Athletic Conference's second-leading scorer, trailing only SMU's Kendric Davis.
Gardner was the headlining star of the Pirates' this season, averaging over 35 minutes per game. One sign of concern is his limited defensive production in such heavy minutes, only creating .2 blocks and .6 steals per game. Gardner's block standard is over two times worse than Hunter Cattoor's, a 6'1 guard off the bench, and his steals average ties for the worst in the Hokies' starting five. Still, Gardner makes his keep on the offensive end, not the defensive side.
Gardner also could only contribute defensively sparingly due to his immense workload on offense: nobody else on ECU's roster averaged double-digit points for the season, leaving Gardner to operate largely as a one-man show in the attacking 47 feet.
Gardner was not recruited by any members of the Atlantic Coast Conference coming out of high school, but is likely to end up in one of the fifteen programs now, or somewhere within the Power Five at least.
Formerly of: Eastern Washington University
2020-21 stats: 17.2ppg, 8.0rpg, 56% FG, 34.9% 3PT
Groves burst onto the national spotlight after dropping 35 points on the #3 Kansas Jayhawks in the opening round of this year's NCAA Tournament. He is not a one-hit-wonder though, having had an extremely productive season with the Eagles prior to his postseason eruption.
The rising senior is said to be a package deal with his little brother (more on him in a little), but is deserving of a starting spot on a competitive team regardless of the strings attached.
Groves does have two major obstacles standing in the way of his success as a Power Five piece: he will struggle against the athleticism of dynamic forwards and is also not sizable enough to defend dominant interior players, and he is defensively undisciplined, averaging 3.4 fouls per game and recording 4+ in 11 of 24 games this season.
The 6'9, 235-pound forward could be a key contributor to a prestigious program, so long as he is allowed to serve in his niche role and the team around him is able to cover for him on defense at times.
Formerly of: Eastern Washington University
2020-21 stats: 9.3ppg, 4.2rpg, 55.2% FG, 36.4% 3PT
The second half of the Groves tandem started in 14 of the Eagles' 24 games, making noticeable contributions in his sophomore season.
At 6'7, 185 pounds, Jacob Groves offers great size and length at the guard position. Jacob was not one to miss the spotlight against the Jayhawks either, following his brother's lead and going for 23 points and nine rebounds in the NCAA's Round of 64.
Although he is not a knock-down shooter from outside, Groves' 55.2% conversion rate on field goals is tremendous for a guard— he is crafty inside the painted area and uses his natural size to get his shot off in tight windows, a quality that will serve well in conferences taller and more athletic than the Big Sky.
The young guard will likely have to succumb to becoming a bench piece if he wants to see regular involvement in an elite program, but could help a team significantly with his presence in the second unit.
Formerly of: Georgetown University
2020-21 stats: 12.7ppg, 8.2rpg, 1.6bpg, 59.1% FG
The former Hoya big man stands at a towering 6'11 and is thunderous inside the lane, using natural strength to fend off weaker opponents. This site has already done a deep dive on Wahab's skillset, which can be found here.
While the Hokies did land inside Wahab's top five during his high school recruiting process, it is rumored that he is currently interested in six schools not named Virginia Tech, with the Tennessee Volunteers leading the charge.
Wahab would be an instant starter in Mike Young's team, although it appears that the Hokies are less and less likely to acquire his services.
Formerly of: Rutgers University
2020-21 stats: 8ppg, 8.5rpg, 2.4bpg, 62.8% FG
If any team is looking for a defensive stalwart, they are looking for Myles Johnson.
The former Scarlet Knight anchored one of the most ferocious defenses in the nation this season, partially due to his 2.4 blocks per game, good for 19th in the nation amongst qualified individuals.
Johnson is not a major threat around the cup skill-wise, but uses his career standard of 2.9 offensive rebounds per game to secure second-chance opportunities while terrorizing opposing big men.
The rising senior would become Virginia Tech's tallest and heaviest player at 6'11, 255 pounds, and would supply the "nastiness" that would not only demand attention, but free up space for the more artistic wing players on the Hokies' roster.
Johnson does have one glaring weakness in his game: free throw shooting. He only managed to go 43.5% from the charity stripe last season, which was actually a career best; he would have to be subbed in for defense and subbed out for offense in games that go down to the wire. In those defensive possessions, though, he is tremendous.
Formerly of: the University of North Dakota
16.8ppg, 7.6rpg, 50.6% FG, 36.6% 3PT
Mike Young said that he wanted a five, but Rebraca would likely become a starting wing player.
At 6'9, 222 pounds, the Serbian native does not bring much in the way of an imposing presence inside— this is evident in his marks of just .6 steals and .7 blocks per game. He did average 8.9 rebounds per game as a sophomore, however.
There is an old saying to strengthen a strength rather than a weakness, or else it is impossible to become dominant in one area. Although the validity of this statement may come into question at times, adding Rebraca would be a plus for the Hokies offense.
The former member of the Fighting Hawks can create his own shot, mostly from inside 15 feet, and has effective slashing ability.
Rebraca's arrival would create a dilemma for the coaching staff in determining the starting five, as Rebraca, Justyn Mutts, Tyrece Radford and Keve Aluma all largely find their success from the mid-range and in. Rebraca only attempted 1.6 threes per contest last season, .6 less than Wabissa Bede, and would close the space in the painted area.
Despite this, if the popcorn man can maneuver the pieces effectively, Rebraca would be a welcome addition.
Formerly of: Furman University
2020-21 stats: 15.4ppg, 5.8rpg, 2.5apg, 48.8% FG, 33.9% 3PT
It took less than an hour for the Hokies to reach out to Gurley after he announced his entrance into the transfer portal. Gurley was a co-star for a Paladins team that finished third in the Southern Conference last season, and he went out with a major bang.
The current junior averaged 26 points over his final four games of the 2020-21 season, including 30 in a 90-91 overtime defeat to VMI. Gurley also averaged 8.3 rebounds during that stretch.
One of the newest members in the transfer portal community was unranked coming out of high school, but found a home for three years at Furman, starting in 83 of his 88 games.
Gurley, standing at 6'8, 210 pounds, would also be deployed as a forward for the Hokies, leaving another selection dilemma for Mike Young and a gaping absence at center.
The Fayetville, Georgia native has only played three games against Power Five opponents and would need an adjustment period should he end up in Blacksburg, but could provide quality minutes as a scorer and auxiliary rebounder for the maroon and orange.
Formerly of: the University of Cincinatti
2020-21 stats: 7.3ppg, 5.9rpg, 1.3bpg, 46.2% FG
A three-star recruit coming out of high school, Eason put forth some impressive performances during his freshman campaign with the Bearcats.
Eason's numbers may not seem like much, but when you factor in his 19.1 average minutes of action and translate his stats to starter's minutes (say, 32.2, Tyrece Radford's Hokie-leading average), those projections become 12.3 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. Suddenly, Eason looks like a top-level starter.
Eason has an imposing demeanor despite being a lighter power forward, listed at 6'8, 215 pounds. The Hokies are in desperate need of more physicality from their big men, whether in the form of a rotational piece or a starter, and Eason fits the bill.
The rising sophomore is poor from three-point range and the free throw line, and would be unlikely to play extreme minutes as a result; he would certainly be an upgrade for the team's depth, though.
Formerly of: Valparaiso University
2020-21 stats: 6.3ppg, 2.0rpg, 54.5% FG, 51.7% 3PT
That's right, the VALPO freshman sank 30 of his 58 three-point attempts during the 2020-21 season, a truly sensational display of sustained excellence from the perimeter.
Now, for what it's worth, Ognacevic was nowhere near the top of the important covers for defenses: competing in just 12.9 minutes per game, the 6'8, 210-pound forward ranked ninth on his team in playing time.
Whereas Ognacevic's talent was sparingly shown in a freshman campaign at Valparaiso, he was a complete stud in high school, averaging 39.4 points and 16.1 rebounds at Sheboygan Area Lutheran High School in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
The young forward has the capability to score from long-range and around the basket, making him a tough cover for defenders. Whether or not his high school dominance is a sign of Power Five potential is a huge question mark, but at the very least he could serve as a catch-and-shoot cog for one lucky squad.