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January 6, 2014

Johnson Battling Misfortune

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It's a year later, but when you look at the circumstances that have befallen Virginia Tech this season, some of the instances are eerily similar.

Of course, some of what's happened to the crestfallen Hokies occurred before the season even began. But a combination of everything has Virginia Tech patching together it team in some cases, as it gets into the meat of its ACC schedule tomorrow against Syracuse.

Coach James Johnson isn't in a 'woe is me' state of mind, but it's tough not to imagine where the Hokies could be if everything had gone according to plan. And to add to it, a majority of the bad luck happened at the same position.

The bad news began over the summer, when incoming four-star freshman point guard Donte Clark was denied admission to Virginia Tech and instead enrolled at UMASS. Fellow freshman point guard Malik Mueller was ruled academically ineligible for this season. Junior point guard Marquis Rankin has been battling a number of issues off the court and last week announced he would leave the team indefinitely.

That string of unfortunate instances doesn't include junior forward C.J. Barksdale, who was suspended earlier this season and has also battled knee and ankle injuries. Freshman guard Ben Emelogu has suffered two concussions since arriving in Blacksburg and junior guard Adam Smith is still battling a calf injury.

"That's probably been the most disappointing thing of the year so far," Johnson said. "You come in, you recruit and you have what you think is a pretty good recruiting year, you're thinking about your vision and the way you wanna play. You think, alright, in your second year, you have an opportunity to play that way and then certain things happen."

Emelogu has played the past four games and will now be playing point guard to back up freshman Devin Wilson, who's been playing well over 30 minutes per game all season. But Smith is still questionable with his injury.

Now, the Hokies are also battling illness. Barksdale and sophomore forward Marshall Wood currently have the flu and are both questionable for tomorrow's game, leaving an even more depleted bench. It's around the same time Virginia Tech had the flu last season, with multiple players missing time.

"The guys that we have who are playing, Devin Wilson and Joey Van Zegeren and Jarell Eddie, those guys are doing a heck of a job and we're a possession away or three or four possessions away from being 11-2 if you look back at it like that," Johnson said. "But we can't look back. We've gotta move forward now and go with what we've got. But it's been frustrating now having the whole group of guys together."

Still, Johnson has to wonder where his team could be if the basketball gods hadn't stricken his team.





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