As observers became restless at Virginia Tech's frustrating early-season losses, Hokies Coach Seth Greenberg cautioned that the first two months of the seasons require players developing into new roles. That transition happens quicker with some players than other players.
Now that Greenberg has a sense of his team and the players know what is expected, the Hokies are rolling. They've won nine of 10 games and established themselves as one of the better teams in the ACC.
Virginia Tech needed to replace emotional leader Deron Washington, who especially helped the team defensively. "The Big Three" of A.D. Vassallo, Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen receive the most attention, and for good reason considering they are the Hokies' most prominent players.
Yet two of the main reasons for Virginia Tech's recent success are forward J.T. Thompson and guard Hank Thorns. Thompson has settled into the role of the do-it-all forward who contributes in each statistical category while providing energy, defense and versatility. Greenberg calls Thompson the "Junkyard Dog" for his willingness to do all the little things a successful team needs to win. Thompson can also multiple positions, which allows the Hokies to switch their lineup and play different styles.
Thorns is the backup point guard, but his role is crucial. Delaney has established himself as one of the best players in the ACC, yet he is more of natural shooting guard than point guard. When Thorns is on the court, Delaney shifts to shooting guard and Virginia Tech becomes a faster team that can play up-tempo and prevent opposing guards from reaching the lane. In order for Thorns to play the minutes he now plays -- he registered 27 minutes and eight assists in Sunday's win over Miami -- he needed to take better care of the basketball. Since the injury, Thorns has 20 assists and four turnovers. Compare those numbers to his six games in November, when he had six assists and nine turnovers.
For anyone trying to identify why Virginia Tech is hot, these two role players are a good place to start.
January 26, 2009; 11:14 AM ET
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