Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics
Just when you thought Virginia Tech basketball made it through the teeth of the offseason unscathed as a potential top-10 team, third-year head coach Mike Young got some disgruntling news.
The new transfer portal era in college basketball produces multiple transactions you may not see coming. But when star guard Tyrece Radford entered the transfer portal on Wednesday afternoon, it featured one of the oddest departures you’ll ever see.
This is especially true, considering the fact the Hokies return a team that could potentially make a run at an ACC crown. Radford was thought to be a crucial piece.
Now, there’s speculation that Radford violated his probation stemming back to his late January arrest for a DUI in Blacksburg. It sidelined him for four games this past season and could’ve led to his exit. But with no inside information on the matter, we’ll focus on the facts.
The Radford Impact
The Baton Rouge, La. native averaged 12.2 points per game for 2020-21. He added 5.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists per game.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder was one of the few holdouts from the Buzz Williams era. Radford redshirted the year Virginia Tech made a run to the Sweet 16, before becoming a mainstay in the starting rotation.
He hit some big shots his freshman year, including a game-winning tear drop to take down North Carolina in double-overtime at Cassell Coliseum. He also added a one-handed jam at Wake Forest that’s thought of as one of the better flushes in recent Virginia Tech history.
Radford not only improved his scoring during his redshirt sophomore campaign — he jumped from 10.2 points per game to the aforementioned 12.2 points per contest — but he improved his skills from the free throw line.
Radford jumped from 69% to 77% at the charity stripe. He also immensely bettered his game from behind the arc. Radford increased his three-point percentage from a meager 8% his first year on the floor, to a respectable 29% last season.
He also saw the floor for an average of 32.2 minutes per game. That led the Hokies this past season.
A Peak At The New Rotation
Regardless of how he left, this is a crucial blow to Virginia Tech. It completely changes the trajectory for the 2021-22 campaign.
Many saw Radford as the glue to this upcoming team. He has the ability to drive and get the ball down low to star forward Keve Aluma.
Radford could pair up with Justyn Mutts or play off the ball with Wofford transfer Storm Murphy manning the top of the key. He’s going to be a tough one to replace with how perfectly he fits in Young’s system. That makes it all even more strange.
If this was all on his own, it was incredibly odd timing. It also leaves Young and company in quite a bit of a hole heading into July. They now have to replace their second-leading scorer and most versatile player on the floor.
As the Virginia Tech coaching staff scans the transfer market, Hunter Cattoor seems like the most likely candidate to take the majority of Radford’s minutes. Former ESPN 100 recruit Darius Maddox could also see the floor a lot more than initially anticipated.
Radford is the third transfer to leave the Hokies this offseason. He joins Joe Bamisile, who left for Atlantic 10 sleeper George Washington, and Jalen Cone. Cone joined Big Sky member Northern Arizona.
Wednesday’s news was easily the most head-scratching and impactful, however. Radford was expected to be one of the most important players for a team capable of making a deep NCAA Tournament run.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the Hokies can’t win the ACC. They’re still extremely solid across the board. Virginia Tech can both light up the scoreboard, and play top-tier defense in a league that prides itself on the defensive end of the court.
There’s still a long way to go until early November. With two scholarships available, don’t be surprised if Young works the phones and reels in another impact player or two by the time tip-off comes around.