In a way, it was like leaving one family to check on another. But both families were also looking after him.
On Nov. 4, Virginia Tech sophomore guard Marquis Rankin had two doses of bad news. His great uncle and great grandmother had each passed away on the same day, from two unrelated illnesses.
Rankin left his basketball family to be with his family, but when Rankin returned, it was as if he never left. And since then, he's improved both his game and stock with the Hokies.
For Rankin, it came as a surprise to hear the news of both his deceased family members. After talking about his situation with coach James Johnson, Rankin headed to his hometown Charlotte to grieve with, console and be with family.
"I'm a family type of guy," Rankin said. "I felt like that's what I had to do at the time, I had to just put away everything and spend time with my family. I felt like that was the most important thing at that time."
Johnson and Rankin's teammates never wavered with their support. Even in Rankin's absence, they sent him text messages with well-wishes and encouragement. Johnson also called Rankin's mother to offer support.
Rankin left Nov. 6 and returned Nov. 11. He missed Virginia Tech's season-opening 80-62 win over East Tennessee State. He was back in time for the Hokies' 69-50 win over Rhode Island, but didn't see the floor. It wasn't because Johnson wasn't comfortable with Rankin on the floor, but Rankin also had a few nagging injuries that plagued him in addition to his time away.
"He just needed to get back into the flow of things, practice, be on the floor, get his timing back," Johnson said. "But confidence-wise, I've got full confidence in him. He brings speed to the game, he pushes the ball in transition and he's probably one of our best on-ball defenders."
It also helped that Rankin's teammates embraced him like a brother from the moment he got back to Blacksburg. It still took time to readjust, but the love certainly helped.
"When he first came back, I mean he had lost two members of his family," junior forward Jarell Eddie said. "I mean, that's tough. He was a little down, but the team was able to put its arms around him and really get him back on board."
There's been plenty of adjusting for not only Rankin, but the rest of his teammates as well with a new coach with some changes to how Virginia Tech plays. But it's been nearly seamless as the Hokies are out to a 7-0 record, their best start since 1982.
Rankin has seen his impact rise as well, including five points off the bench in a 95-79 win over Iowa. In Virginia Tech's 81-71 upset of Oklahoma State Saturday, Rankin was scoreless, but played 20 key minutes, much coming in the first half as senior guard Erick Green sat on the bench with foul trouble.
Rankin hasn't completely gotten over his losses. But he's leaned on his Hokie family even more.
"When I step on the basketball court, I just think about basketball," Rankin said. "I try to leave everything else outside until I step off the court and I handle it then."