Virginia Tech confident ahead of season opener vs. Radford

NCAA Basketball

In the season opener for both teams, the Virginia Tech Hokies will play host to the Radford Highlanders on Wednesday.

Virginia Tech leads the series, 8-2. The last time the schools met was in 2017, a 95-68 Hokies victory. Radford hasn’t beaten Virginia Tech since 2014.

Hokies coach Mike Young made his Virginia Tech debut last season, going 16-16 overall and 7-13 in ACC play, which was just one win out of the league’s cellar.

“We are better,” Young said of his 2020-2021 team. “How much better, I’m not sure yet. I think we’re appreciably better because we’re bigger and stronger and can beat you in more ways.”

Only six players return from last season’s Hokies team.

But Young added four freshmen and four transfers, including 6-4 guard Cartier Diarra, who averaged 13.3 points last season for Kansas State.

Diarra started 58 games in his days playing for the Wildcats. He also made Big 12 first-team All-Academic last season. In 2018, he helped K-State reach the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight.

“Carter is a seasoned vet,” said 6-1 senior guard Wabissa Bede, a Hokies returner. “His confidence is through the roof. He knows what the battle is about. I think his transition from the Big 12 to the ACC will be smooth.”

Diarra will be part of a group of Hokies guards that includes returner Tyrece Radford, who averaged 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds last season while also shooting 60 percent from the floor.

Up front, the Hokies lost 6-7 forward Landers Nolley, who averaged 15.5 points last season and made the ACC’s All-Freshmen team. He transferred to Memphis in April.

Replacing Nolley will be a trio of transfers: 6-9, 250-pound Cordell Pemsl (Iowa), 6-7, 230-pound Justyn Mutts (Delaware) and 6-9, 235-pound Keve Aluma (Wofford).

Meanwhile, the Highlanders have been reeling a bit since star guard Carlik Jones transferred to Louisville this past spring. He was the Big South Player of the Year last season, when he averaged 20.0 points, 5.5 assists and 5.1 rebounds, shooting 40.9 percent on 3-pointers.

In all, Radford lost eight players off last season’s roster, and the Highlanders have been picked to finish just sixth in the league.

Radford’s Mike Jones, the reigning Big South Coach of the Year, will try to win his third straight league regular-season title, despite those personnel losses.

Jones’ roster this season will include seven newcomers, five returners and three players who redshirted in 2019-2020. Junior-college transfers Dante Moses, a 6-4 guard; and Jamal Burke, a 6-11 center, lead the recruits. Shaquan Jules, a 6-7 forward who transferred from NCAA Division II USC Aiken, could also be a factor.

“Jamal is the big-bodied athlete we needed in this class,” Jones said. “Shaq is an athletic forward reminiscent of some Radford greats.”

–Field Level Media

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