Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hokies' Green confident ... extremely

"I'm honestly one of the best guards in the country," Tech senior Erick Green said at ACC media day.

Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green (11) led the Hokies in scoring (15.6 ppg) and assists (2.8 apg) as a junior last season.

Photos by Matt Gentry | The Roanoke Times

Virginia Tech senior guard Erick Green (11) led the Hokies in scoring (15.6 ppg) and assists (2.8 apg) as a junior last season.

Hokies senior Erick Green stood out at the point guard camps held by NBA stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams this summer.

Hokies senior Erick Green stood out at the point guard camps held by NBA stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams this summer.

Virginia Tech Hokies basketball

Berman Courtside

Erick Green is confident - in himself and in his new coach.

The senior point guard made the All-ACC second team last season, when he led the Virginia Tech men's basketball team in scoring (15.6 ppg) and assists (2.8 apg).

This season, he wants to prove he is among the nation's elite.

"I'm honestly one of the best guards in the country," Green said Wednesday at ACC media day in Charlotte, N.C. "I went to camp this summer, had a great summer, and I played right with â? the best guards in the country."

At the point guard camps of NBA stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams, Green got to measure himself against the likes of Missouri's Phil Pressey. Murray State's Isaiah Cannon and Lehigh's C.J. McCollum.

Green is "one of the most talented guards in the country," said TV analyst Cory Alexander, a former Virginia and NBA point guard.

The Lindy's basketball preview magazine rates Green as the No. 17 shooting guard in the nation, no doubt ranking him in that category instead of among point guards because he is the Hokies' top scoring threat as well as a playmaker.

But Green takes a lot of pride in being the Hokies' floor general.

"I am one of the best point guards in the country and I'm going to prove it out there this year," he said. "My goal is to make my teammates better and get my assists rate up.

"I'm going to score, I'm going to play the way I've always been playing. â? But I'm going to be making better reads, coming off pick-and-rolls and getting these guys the ball."

Green learned the pick-and-roll at the Paul and Williams camps, where he also worked on ballhandling, defense and "really understanding the game."

He did not make the preseason All-ACC teams of either the media or the coaches last week. But in March, he hopes to be on the All-ACC first team.

"That definitely is the goal," he said. "I want to be the best point guard in the ACC. I want to show everybody that."

He also wants to make the NBA.

"If I have a good year, I have a good chance," he said. "But I'm not worrying about that. I want to focus on college basketball, enjoying this last year."

But the Hokies are expected to suffer their second straight losing season.

Like former teammates Malcolm Delaney and Jeff Allen, Green could finish his Tech career with individual accomplishments but without a single NCAA tournament bid.

"That does, a little, worry me because I don't want to go out like that," he said. "I want people to talk about me - 'Erick Green, he led his team to an NCAA tournament.' I don't want to just be a guy that just scored all these points or did all these great things and didn't lead my team somewhere."

Green played the past three seasons for former coach Seth Greenberg. He said he would have returned for a final season with Greenberg.

But Greenberg was fired in April. He was replaced by James Johnson, one of his former assistants.

If Johnson had not gotten the job, said Green, he would have transferred and "a lot" of his teammates would have as well.

After Johnson was hired, forward Dorian Finney-Smith transferred to Florida and prized recruit Montrezl Harrell signed with Louisville.

Green talked with Finney-Smith before he decided to leave.

"We thought he was going to stay, but his mind changed," Green said. "It was just the coaching change. â? He felt comfortable with Coach Greenberg."

Green is enjoying having the 41-year-old Johnson as the team's coach.

"He's been cool," Green said. "He's like one of us - dancing, joking, singing Kanye West, hanging out with us. He just kind of feels like he's one of the guys.

"He brings a lot of energy. Even at 5:30-in-the morning practices, he's jumping up and down, chest-bumping, and I'm half asleep.

"I believe he can make this happen, I really do."

But the Hokies have just eight scholarship players.

"As long as we don't turn the ball over and make the silly mistakes we made at the end of the games last year - traveling calls, missing free throws, missing layups - I think we'll be really good," Green said. "We've got to stay healthy. And we've honestly got to buy into what Coach Johnson's stressing - running and playing defense."

Johnson wants to have an up-tempo offense.

"All we've been doing is running, every practice," Green said. "It's not been sets. We go up and down, every drill. It's a way different style of play than last year.

"I know Greenberg stressed about running last year, but we didn't do what we're doing this year. Everything is full court.

"We've been running and doing all this conditioning and we all know in our heads that this is the style of play we want to play."

Green will be the key to that offense. He is eager to show what he can do.

"This is the most confident I've felt going into a year," he said. "I'm so ready. I feel like my game's on another level."

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