We'll See What's About to Happen Next, Okay?
As the news of Virginia Tech's hiring of Associate Head Coach Mike Jones begins to settle down, the positive impact on the future of the program seems all the more likely.
Since producing a 15-17 record in 2003 during his first season at the helm of DeMatha Catholic High School, Jones' groups have finished inside the Washington Post's top-10 DMV schools 14 times, including seven first-place finishes (three of which came consecutively from 2018-2020), as well as six top-10 finishes in USA Today's regional rankings. Combine these successes with his long-standing tenure in Team USA's development program, and Jones has one of the most impressive resumes a high school coach could put together.
With such tremendous experience comes the obligation to create a web of connections, a task that Jones feels he has accomplished quite well.
"My network, I'm very proud of," Jones told The Roanoke Times earlier this week. As much fun as it may be to speculate, however, many are wondering what his first steps on the recruiting path will look like and the effects on VT's program.
Here's a look at some names to watch.
A 6'7 wing with skills all over the court, Ward is a rising senior at DeMatha Catholic and currently rated as the best prospect in his class in the state of Maryland. Virginia Tech is reported to have offered him a scholarship back in January, though the appointment of Mike Jones could help see this recruitment over the line.
Ward has flourished under the tutelage of Jones, averaging 19.3 points, 9.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game in the 2020-21 season, all while converting 46% of his three-point attempts. His performances thus far have made him a four-star prospect and member of the Max Preps junior All-American Second-Team.
Watching the tape on Ward, it is easy to see his development over the years. He gets more lift on his shot than he did as an underclassman, has enough athleticism to throw down some highlight dunks and looks smooth off the dribble, all while managing to post decent numbers in the blocks and steals categories.
The biggest criticism of his footage online would be his lack of interest locking in as the primary defender, though with an adjustment to Mike Young's system and an assortment of refined of talent around him, he could make the transition.
Ward is currently being pursued by LSU, Indiana and Maryland, amongst other schools, meaning that he is in demand and is not a sure-fire future Hokie; however, his recruitment is certainly a situation to monitor over the next year.
A former Providence commit, Epps announced Tuesday morning that he would be reopening his recruitment.
Known as a 6'2 combo guard with limitless range, Epps is revered as the sixth-best prospect in Virginia's class of 2022 and is a top-100 national recruit.
Just a few days before Christmas 2020, Epps announced that his final decision would be made from a list of six schools: Providence, Virginia Tech, Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas. Now that Providence appears to be ruled out from his list of possibilities, the Hokies are right back in the mix.
A sharpshooting native of Suffolk, Virginia, Epps has been involved with Team USA in the past, most notably after delivering a 31-point performance en route to winning the inaugural 14U national tournament in 2017. Epps' team had trailed by 13 points in the third quarter but rallied behind their young guard, who managed to score an astounding 23 points over the final 12 minutes.
Epps has the ability to score with ease while still managing to get his teammates involved, a quality that will greatly benefit him at the next level; having the ability to roll him out in the backcourt would be a tremendous asset, even during his freshman year.
Jalen Duren, Chris Livingston, Kijani Wright, Richard Isaacs Jr. and Gregg Glenn III
These players are the five members of the Mike Jones-led national team that won the 2019 FIBA Americas U16 Championship that are still unsigned as of today, May 18th.
Realistically, the first three names are probably nothing more than a pipe dream, as Duren, Livingston and Wright are regarded as the #2, #4 and #11 prospects in America for the class of 2022, respectively. However, four-star players Isaacs Jr. and Glenn III could be viable candidates to lead the resurgence in Virginia Tech's national prestige.
Isaacs Jr. is a 6'2 guard from Mount Pleasant, Utah, and averaged 14.1 points and 2.4 assists per contest this season; meanwhile, Glenn III is a 6'7 power forward from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that averaged 13.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per outing in his 2020-21 campaign.
Both players prefer to deal their damage on the inside, with Isaacs using a special blend of speed and decisiveness to penetrate the lane, while Glenn III uses impressive mobility and natural strength to free himself inside the painted area.
Both are capable shooters from the outside and can handle the ball well at their position, though neither has completely fulfilled their potential; both have the chance to be elite college players.
While Virginia Tech is yet to officially offer these players, other Atlantic Coast Conference schools are in the running for their services— falling back on the newly acquired connection with the Hokies' assistant coach and swooping in to lure one of them to Blacksburg would make quite an immediate impression.
Yes, the Hokies may lose another assistant coach after replacing the one they just lost (Chester Frazier).
Christian Webster has been reported to be in talks to join the University of Florida's coaching staff, a move that would add to the list of Hokies that have made the move from Blacksburg to Gainesville.
Webster was named one of ESPN's 40-under-40 in 2020 and is known as a winner since his college days at Harvard, during which he amassed a program-record 90 victories.
Webster is from the Washington D.C. area and has established a network in the area, though his importance on the recruiting front may have been usurped by the hiring of Mike Jones— after all, Jones runs that part of the country.
With the being said, Webster has seen success everywhere he has stopped, both in the performance of his teams and players: he looks to be one of the brighter young minds in college basketball and has a serious future ahead of him.
If Webster chooses to stay at Virginia Tech, he will be a key piece of the coaching staff; if he leaves, he will be a key loss.
There are many scenarios that could shake-up the scene in Blacksburg, and these are just a few— but no matter what, fans should have their eyes peeled for signs of activity from the newly bolstered Hokie staff.