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Posted at 10:29 AM ET, 02/23/2011

Virginia Tech freshman Jarell Eddie's intriguing night vs. Wake Forest

By Mark Giannotto

After Jarell Eddie erupted for a career-high 17 points and nine rebounds in Virginia Tech's 76-62 win over Wake Forest Tuesday night, senior Malcolm Delaney cracked a smile when asked whether he'd told the freshman to straighten up or provided any guidance in light of Eddie's possession of marijuana charge last Tuesday.

“What do you mean," Delaney asked jokingly. "What happened? Jarell's a good kid. He's a good guy. He'll be fine."

Delaney may be on to something there. Disregarding Eddie's off-court issues -- he's not due in court until April 21 and already served a one-game suspension -- he could be just the sort of late-season contributor that puts Virginia Tech over the top in its search for the NCAA tournament.

Tuesday night's explosion was Eddie's first difference-making performance since the last time Virginia Tech faced Wake Forest in January and he scored a then-career-high 12 points. Senior Jeff Allen, who knows a thing or two about playing through distractions, said he told Eddie before the game "just to go out there and play. That’s off-the-court stuff. You can't worry about that off the court stuff.”

Whether Eddie can do that in short bursts more consistently -- like his eight-point, seven-rebound performance facing Kansas State in November, or his six-point showing against North Carolina in January -- would be a huge boon for Coach Seth Greenberg. The Hokies' bench hasn't provided much production in recent weeks, and Eddie has struggled to string together consecutive strong games this season.

Once again Tuesday night, Greenberg did not discuss Eddie's legal troubles, and Eddie was not made available to reporters after the game. Greenberg did, however, mention that "Jarell’s obstacle is learning how to play hard and his definition of playing hard and mine are not exactly in the same hemisphere."

The irony in all this is that as much as Greenberg wants the memory of Eddie's off-court misstep to fade, it's still a story this morning largely because of how well Eddie played in his return to the lineup. It also remains curious why Greenberg has yet to even acknowledge the incident publicly.

To Eddie's credit, I'm not sure his recent actions are indicative of how seriously he takes his basketball. I've noticed all season he's consistently been the earliest player on the court, warming up and taking shots with a trainer before games. I've watched many times, and wide open, he doesn't miss all that often.

His shot-making ability and general feel for the game have Greenberg convinced that "when he learns to be more competitive, he has a chance to be really special.” What the Hokies hope is that down the stretch, they can get a boost from some small glimpses of that talent.

"Just Jarell playing a game like that today," Delaney said Tuesday night. "it could probably help us."

By Mark Giannotto  | February 23, 2011; 10:29 AM ET
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