Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sports columnist Aaron McFarling: Hudson's game crucial for success

BLACKSBURG -- Watch Virginia Tech's Dorenzo Hudson offensively on Saturday.

He and the Hokies will be at Penn State, but he'll be easy for all of us around here to find: 7 p.m., ESPN2.

His performance, good or bad, will tell you a lot about Tech's chances at competing in the ACC this year.

Don't worry so much about points or rebounds or shooting percentage. Look instead for attitude. Aggression. Or as Tech coach Seth Greenberg calls it, "a little bit of city ball" in his offensive game.

Tech needs it badly moving forward.

The Hokies got plenty from Hudson in Wednesday's 98-73 victory over VMI. The junior shooting guard eclipsed his career high in scoring with his 16th point of the first half before finishing with 24. He pulled down a career-high seven rebounds, including six before intermission. He shot a sizzling 10-for-18 from the field.

But we must be wary of pure numbers because the Keydets throw everything askew. They willingly trade 2-point buckets for 3s, sending scores soaring. A lot of players have career nights against VMI.

Still, there was something about the way Hudson got his points Wednesday that make you think he might be on the verge of breaking out as a true offensive threat.

Maybe it was the way he drove the baseline against VMI's bigs, something we rarely see from him. Or that instinctual pull-up jumper in transition in the second half, an indication that his confidence was intact.

Or that stickback off a missed free throw, that fast-break bounce pass to J.T. Thompson for an easy dunk, that steal and long outlet to Ben Boggs for a layup.

Hudson appeared to be more than comfortable Wednesday.

He appeared to be in command.

"That's the Dorenzo we're used to," Tech point guard Malcolm Delaney said. "We were trying to find him. Once he hit a shot, we tried to go right back to him so he could shoot again.

"And he was converting. At one point, he went on a run by himself."

The Hokies hope this will start a run of performances just like this. While they primarily rely on Hudson to be a lock-down defender on the other team's best player -- which he was Wednesday, holding VMI's leading scorer to two points -- this Tech team just feels like the kind that could be offensively challenged when conference play arrives.

Hudson has the size, strength and quickness to be a scoring threat, but he'd cracked double digits in points just once in Tech's first eight games. The Hokies aren't the only ones who noticed that, either. So did all his old friends back home in North Carolina, who'd expected him to raise his offensive game this year now that A.D. Vassallo is gone.

"They're very disappointed in me," Hudson said. "They're calling me, telling me why am I not shooting the ball? Why am I not doing this? Why I am I not doing that? It's been kind of tough for me the first couple games, but right now I feel like I've kind of got it going, so I want to see what I can do in the next couple games."

Hudson has been working on his jumper with Greenberg before practice every day. But the real missing piece has been a willingness to take chances on offense rather than just settling for perimeter heaves.

"I want him to be more aggressive and attack and pick his spots," Greenberg said. "I'm hoping this is a game he can build on."

Hudson entered Wednesday's game averaging 6.9 points per game this season. He thinks an average in the 12- to 15-point range the rest of the way is realistic and would best serve the team.

He took a nice step toward that goal against VMI.

But that was VMI.

He wants to make sure it's not an aberration, and proving that begins with Saturday.

"I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now," he said. "I'm going to see what I can do against Penn State."

So will we.

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