Thursday, January 24, 2013

Making points in Division I

Virginia Tech's Erick Green and Creighton's Doug McDermott are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 nationally in Division I scoring. Virginia at Virginia Tech Today, 8 p.m. WDBJ

Virginia Tech's Erick Green.

Daniel Lin | The Roanoke Times

Virginia Tech's Erick Green.

Creighton's Doug McDermott.

Associated Press

Creighton's Doug McDermott.

Virginia Tech Hokies basketball

Berman Courtside

BLACKSBURG - It's no surprise that All-American Doug McDermott of Creighton is once again one of the leading scorers in Division I basketball.

But McDermott - and everyone else in Division I - is looking up at Virginia Tech's Erick Green, and that is a surprise. No one expected Green to be the leading scorer in Division I this season - not even Green.

"It does make me smile," Green said Wednesday. "I'm not going to lie, I love being known as the No. 1 in the nation ... scorer. It's pretty cool.

"I would've never thought this would all happen, but it has really shown me hard work has paid off. I'm really enjoying this ride, and hopefully I can continue this success."

Entering today's game with Virginia, the senior point guard is averaging 24.6 points - nine points per game more than he did last season. It is the biggest increase in the ACC.

McDermott is the No. 2 scorer in Division I with an average of 23.9 points.

Last fall, Green said he would prove this season that he was one of the best point guards in the country.

"My confidence was high to maybe average 20 a game," he said. "But I really didn't see being the nation's leading scorer."

If Green remains the scoring leader at season's end, he will go into the NCAA record book on a list with the leaders from previous seasons, such as Jimmer Fredette, Stephen Curry and Adam Morrison.

"It'd be a dream come true, to be named up there in the books with some of the greatest that have played in college basketball," Green said.

Green wasn't exactly a big-time scorer as a freshman backup, when he averaged 2.6 points and shot a mere 29.3 percent from the field.

"It's been a rocky road," Green said.

The Winchester native worked on his shooting. He averaged 11.6 points as a sophomore and 15.6 points last season.

Green is averaging 25.5 points in ACC play for Tech (11-6, 2-2) this year, but UVa's stingy defense could pose problems for him tonight.

It would not be a shock if McDermott eventually overtakes Green for the Division I lead. Green's average might drop as he plays more ACC games.

McDermott plays in the less prestigious Missouri Valley Conference, so his average might not drop. The junior forward scored 39 points against Missouri State on Jan. 11 and 31 points against Northern Iowa on Jan. 15. He ranked third nationally with an average of 22.9 points last season.

No one from one of the six major conferences has finished a season as the Division I scoring leader since Purdue's Glenn Robinson in 1993-94. No ACC player has finished as the scoring leader since Grady Wallace of then-ACC member South Carolina in 1956-57.

It looked like Green and McDermott would spend the season in a three-way battle for the scoring title with Lehigh's C.J. McCollum. But McCollum, who had been leading Division I in scoring, suffered a broken foot Jan. 5. He is not expected back until March, if he returns at all this season. McCollum (23.9 ppg) has no longer played in enough games to be ranked among the nation's leaders.

Green took over the Division I scoring lead when McCollum got hurt.

Green credits his stints last summer at the point guard camps of NBA stars Chris Paul and Deron Williams for helping him boost his scoring. The camps helped him better understand the pick-and-roll and other aspects of offense.

He is also making more trips to the free-throw line. He is averaging an ACC-high 8.4 free-throw attempts per game, up from last season's average of 3.9 attempts. He ranks fifth in the ACC in free-throw percentage (82.5 percent).

The up-tempo offense of rookie coach James Johnson is another reason for Green's scoring increase. He has been able to get plenty of baskets in transition.

"He's a one-man fast break," Wake Forest coach Jeff Bzdelik said.

Green is averaging 16 shots per game from the field, an average of 3.5 more than last season.

He is shooting 49.3 percent from the field, a higher percentage than any other guard in the ACC. He shot 43.8 percent last season.

"The young man stayed in the gym every morning this summer," Johnson said. "He was in there [at] 7 o'clock, working on his game."

Green gained confidence from the thousands of jumpers he sank last summer.

"I made all these shots over the summer. I feel like anything I throw up is going to go in," Green said.

Green also spends more time studying game film of opponents than he did last season.

"When I'm watching film before the game, I always see what they're going to take away," Green said. "Now I can understand what people's tendencies are."

But Green has been facing more double teams in ACC play than he did during the nonconference season.

"These coaches that really know me, ... they're going to try to take away all my tendencies. But I'll be able to adjust," he said.

The past two games, Green struggled in the first half before erupting in the second half.

"He's seeing different things every game and is like a quarterback that's seeing different blitzes coming from different places," Johnson said. "It's taking him awhile to figure it out."

Even if he remains the nation's scoring leader, Green probably won't be named ACC player of the year. Duke forward Mason Plumlee is the front-runner for that honor.

"He's gotten so much better throughout his career," Green said.

So has Green. But Green said he doesn't think people regard him yet as one of the nation's elite guards.

"Hopefully I'll keep proving people wrong," he said. "I'm just as good as a lot of these guards out here."

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