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Virginia Tech basketball officially nabs top 15 recruiting class

By Mark Giannotto

The Virginia Tech men's basketball program received letters-of-intent from four top-100 recruits during college basketball's national signing day Wednesday, an unprecedented haul under Coach Seth Greenberg.

Forwards C.J. Barksdale and Dorian Finney-Smith from Virginia join guards Marquis Rankin of North Carolina and Robert Brown of Florida to form a four-member 2011 recruiting class that is currently ranked No. 12 in the country by ESPN. Amongst ACC programs, it ranks third behind only Duke and North Carolina.

Barksdale, Brown and Rankin are all currently playing their senior seasons together at Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va.

“This class, having four players in the top 100, reflects a little bit of the branding of Virginia Tech basketball and where we’re going," said Greenberg. "We have a bunch of guys graduating, so there’s a tremendous opportunity to put their hand print on the program."

Let's take a look player-by-player at a class that Greenberg believes "has a chance to be one of the elite freshman classes, not only in the ACC, but in the country."

F Dorian Finney-Smith

A 6-7, 185-pound wing from Portsmouth, Va., Finney-Smith is the reigning VHSL AAA Player of the Year after leading Norcom High to a state championship as a junior. He averaged 19.7 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks per game last year.

Finney-Smith was a member of Boo Williams prestigious AAU program, and his commitment comes in some part because of John Richardson, Virginia Tech's newest assistant coach. Richardson was the director of basketball operations and an assistant coach at Old Dominion the past five years where he coached Finney-Smith's older brother, Ben.

Greenberg called the younger Finney-Smith "my priority from early on." He was given a five star rating by ESPN and was considered at least a top 30 recruit by every major recruiting service.

"He can handle it like a point guard. He shoots the ball like a two-guard ... He can rebound the ball and start your break," Greenberg said. "He’s a tough matchup and that, to me, is a really big thing -- to have guys who can play multiple positions. ... He’s almost too unselfish, which is a rarity in today’s basketball. He doesn’t have the ego of a great player, yet he’s a magnificent player."

F C.J. Barksdale

A 6-8, 220-pound power forward from Danville, Va., Barksdale is coming off a season at George Washington High in which he averaged 19 points, 13 rebounds and six assists per game. He's considered a four-star recruit by all the major recruiting services. Greenberg is particularly impressed with his jump hook and ability to rebound and shoot the ball from the perimeter when facing the basket.

"CJ was a guy that came to camp at the end of his freshman year and you could see he was gonna be a special player," Greenberg said. "He had great big shoulders and long arms. He loved the game and he was excited to be in the gym. ... He’s the type of guy you can always see getting better because he’s big and he’s got great shoulders and terrific hands."

G Robert Brown

A 6-5, 180-pound shooting guard from Clermont, Fla., Brown averaged 20.1 points per game as a junior and was a fourth-team all-state selection. Greenberg admires his long range jumpshot and defensive skills. Brown garnered three- and four-star ratings from most recruiting services.

"He's the prototypical athletic, rangy wing player that’s been successful in my system," Greenberg said. "He’s long, he’s active, he’s quick, he can make shots."

G Marquis Rankin

A 6-1, 170-pound point guard from Charlotte, N.C., Rankin averaged 13.6 points, seven assists and 4.4 rebounds per game as a junior. Rated as a four-star recruit, Rankin was a third-team all state selection and a member of the Chris Paul All-Stars AAU program. Greenberg is enamored with his natural unselfishness and said he plays "like a little general."

"He has no ego, he just wants to make other players better," Greenberg said. "He distributes the basketball, he’s unselfish, he’s fast with the ball. We wanna play faster and he’s really fast with the ball. [Hargrave Coach] Kevin Keats said he’s the best on ball defender they’ve ever had at Hargrave, which is a terrific compliment. He can really put pressure on the basketball on both sides, whether it’s bringing it and attacking or guarding the basketball."

*So just how did Greenberg and company reel in so many big time recruits? Part of it is to be the growing profile of the program, even without an NCAA Tournament berth since 2007. But Greenberg intimated his newest crop wasn't much different than previous classes, it's just the so-called recruiting experts thought more highly of them.

"These guys, we evaluated them early, and then all of a sudden they blew up," Greenberg said. "We evaluated and secured commitments and developed relationships with these guys before they were top-100 players. Then all of a sudden they had great summers and great springs and people said ‘Wow, these guys are really good.'”

Perhaps most importantly, Greenberg said all four are quality students and should have no issues passing the NCAA's clearinghouse.

*Greenberg said this class is not yet complete per say, as he's still looking to sign another big man. The variable, though, is 6-9 sophomore forward Allan Chaney, a transfer from Florida. His career is in doubt due to a heart ailment and in a worst case scenario, that could open up an additional roster spot.

*As for playing time with these latest recruits, next year appears wide open with Virginia Tech losing four of its five starters from this season.

"There’s gonna be minutes to be had, someone‘s gonna have a chance to earn those minutes," Greenberg said. "We recruited these guys to play. They gotta earn their playing time but these guys are good players and they’re competitive. You put these guys with the guys we have and then you continue to build on that. We’ve had a history of throwing our young players in and giving them a chance to play and letting them play through their mistakes and giving them confidence and empowering them. There’s an opportunity there.”

*Lost in all the signing madness is all the hard work and man hours that Greenberg and his coaching staff put into recruiting high school basketball players. It's at least a three year process for each class that Greenberg equated to shaving ... "If you miss a day, you look like a bum." He shared a little bit of his recruiting philosophies with us, so I figured I would pass along some of that to close the post.

“I pick about six or seven guys each year, whether they’re sophomore, juniors or seniors, to really be involved with, to develop a trust and a relationship with," Greenberg said. "A good assistant puts a coach in a good position, whether it’s seeing the right game, we gotta get a note to him today, you’re putting the right amount of time, you’re touching all the people on that circle of that recruitment.

“You’re always working it, whether it’s trying to evaluate, trying to cultivate, trying to see what players are unsigned, trying to see what players are overseas. It’s a continuing process and we’ll continue to work, that’s for sure. You don’t win in this league with one recruiting class, you win in this league with continuity in recruiting."

By Mark Giannotto  | November 10, 2010; 6:22 PM ET
 
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