During Virginia Tech’s practice on Friday, sophomore forward J.T. Thompson bombarded through a pile on the floor, picked up a 50/50 loose ball and jammed it into the hoop.
“That’s the type of play we’ve been missing,” Coach Seth Greenberg told associate athletic director Tom Gabbard.
Two plays later, Thompson sprained his left foot – another setback during a disappointing first month when Thompson has been sidelined with an inguinal hernia.
The cynic could say it’s much ado about 5.6 points and 4.1 rebounds. Greenberg and his players are convinced Thompson’s return will make the difference to the team’s frustrating 6-4 start.
Thompson was supposed to play in Sunday’s 79-57 win over Longwood, but the sprained foot delayed the return. Now, Greenberg is reserving hope that Thompson is healthy for two games at the Holiday Festival in New York this weekend.
“I don’t want to rush him, because he’s really valuable for us,” Greenberg said. “He’s the toughest guy on the team.”
Thompson presents value because he can slide between the small forward and power forward spot and allow the Hokies to play different styles. He will play in spurts upon his return – he is still not in game shape after missing a month – but provides another option.
“The close games we lost by one point, J.T.’s 12 points and seven rebounds makes a big difference right there,” forward Jeff Allen said. “He can pass the ball, shoot the ball, drive the ball. When he’s in the game, it’s a mismatch. With him at the four and me at the five and we’re both in the game, it’s a running team.”
Allen was projecting numbers for Thompson, but that stat line will be welcome. Thompson was a candidate to replace Deron Washington in the starting lineup. Instead, Thompson’s cousin Dorenzo Hudson took the spot. Hudson is averaging just 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds and his lack of production has been costly.
If Thompson can fill the fifth starter’s spot more effectively, the Hokies might be able to salvage the season when the ACC schedule arrives.
December 15, 2008; 11:11 AM ET
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