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Freshman Green continues to grow into role

Virginia Tech freshman Erick Green admitted to being nervous when he heard he would have to replace injured Hokies starter Malcolm Delaney. But with Delaney still nursing a sprained left ankle, Green might have to get used to his a new role.

Delaney will be a game-day decision on Sunday, when the Hokies (12-1) play at No. 9 North Carolina (11-4). Green might have to make his second straight start in place of the Hokies' best player, and he could have a pivotal role in the outcome of the game.

"I’m preparing to start right now," Green said recently. "If Malcolm will be able to play, he’ll be able to play. But right now, I’m preparing to start."

Green had a respectable showing in Virginia Tech's overtime win against Seton Hall on Jan. 2. It was his first career start, and he had 7 points and 1 assist in 32 minutes. But he also had 3 turnovers and fouled out.

Throughout the game, Green said, Delaney pulled him aside on the bench and offered words of advice and encouragement.

Coach Seth Greenberg said Green did not play well in defensive transition and added that there were a couple of plays that the guard would probably want back. Green missed two free throws with the game tied at 80-80 with 18 seconds in regulation, sending the game to overtime.

"I thought he handled himself well," Coach Seth Greenberg said of Green. "He’s got to continue to get better."

One of the coaches' and players' criticisms of Green is that he is not vocal enough from the point, and they have told him to step up and take command of the team when he is on the floor. But Greenberg said the Pirates were talking trash to Green, and he did not back down.

“It gets me kind of hyped," Green said of trash talk. "I like that. I don’t like to talk. I just play the game. But when someone’s talking to me, it kind of gets me going a little bit. I just forget and just play ball.”

As a senior at Paul VI High School in Fairfax, Green played against top prospects like Kendall Marshall, who committed to North Carolina, and Tyler Thornton, who committed to Duke. But he said it made him a little nervous when he found out he would play for Delaney. He said there are "big shoes to fill" when coming in for Delaney.

On Sunday, Green might have to step in for Delaney again. And against the talented Tar Heels, it should be a difficult test of the young guard.

“It’s going to be different," Green said of playing in hallowed Chapel Hill. "Walking into that atmosphere, it’s going to be crazy. Once the jump ball goes up, I’ll be fine. Going up and down, I’ll be fine after that.”

By Mark Viera  |  January 9, 2010; 2:31 PM ET
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