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How Mike Young built an ACC Tournament champ at Virginia Tech in three years

mike young virginia tech
Virginia Tech coach Mike Young celebrates the ACC Tournament championship by making the last cut at the net. Photo courtesy Atlantic Coast Conference.

Buzz Williams, when he left Virginia Tech for Texas A&M, left the cupboard bare for his successor, Mike Young.

Literally three players – point guard Wabissa Bede, who’d averaged 3.8 points per game in 25.3 minutes per game as a sophomore on Williams’ Sweet Sixteen team in 2019, Isaiah Wilkins, who transferred out one year with Young and is now at Longwood, and PJ Horne, who after two years with Young transferred to Georgia for his senior season.

That’s it, in terms of what Young had to work with.

In three short years, Young basically built an ACC Tournament champion from scratch.

“We have a box, and we put all these cool things, I’ll process, and at the end of the season, we’ll pull it all out, and we’ll savor, and we’ll congratulate and pat one another on the back,” Young said last night after the 82-67 win over Duke in the tournament title game. “It’s significant. But we’re going to play in the NCAA Tournament next week. We did it last year. We didn’t play poorly. We didn’t play well enough to beat Florida in overtime.

“We’re going to put a lot of time and effort into our next opponent, and there will come a time we’ll look back on it. This is very significant for our program, for our coaching staff. A lot of fun,” Young said.

That reminds me, yeah, Young had Virginia Tech back in the NCAA Tournament in Year 2, with a group of kids he’d recruited to play with him at Wofford, in the Southern Conference, playing the key roles.

His last team at Wofford finished 30-5 and took Kentucky to the wire in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. Keve Aluma averaged 4.8 points per game in his two seasons there, sat out a redshirt year in 2019-2020, and transformed himself into a two-time second-team All-ACC performer, averaging 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds per game over the past two seasons.

Storm Murphy played four seasons at Wofford, the first two under Young, before transferring for his COVID redshirt year this season. Hunter Cattoor was set to join Young at Wofford before following him to Virginia Tech.

Those three guys account for 48.4 percent of the Hokies’ scoring this season.

“These guys proved themselves in a really good league at the Southern Conference. We won a championship together as a sophomore,” Young said. “As luck would have it, I was able to bring Keve along right away. Hunter came along right away. Storm finished his other two years there, and all three have been really good players. They’re old, they’re strong, they’re tough. They’re really, really skilled.

“I know this, it has been so enjoyable, an honor to coach them, as it has Justyn Mutts, Nahiem Alleyne, and Darius Maddox and others, but it’s an honor to coach young people like these three guys,” Young said.

Mutts, the smallish (6’7”) power forward who is second on the team in scoring (10.1 ppg) and leader in assists (3.4 per game), also lacks big-time pedigree – he started his college career at High Point, in the Big South, transferred for a single season at Delaware, in the CAA, before moving to Virginia Tech for his last two seasons.

This group dominated a team with six projected 2022 NBA Draft picks in its rotation to be able to cut down the nets at the Barclays Center last night.

“We talked about it as a team, that now it’s forever, like it’s etched, it’s engrained that we’re forever champions,” Murphy said. “That’s just something to be proud of, and it’s really special, and no one will be able to take that away. I think that was one of the first things that popped in my head.”

“It means a lot just for the history of Virginia Tech,” Cattoor said. “Coach Young mentioned before, we’re not going it just for our team here in that locker room, we were doing it for all the players before and everyone that came through Virginia Tech before. So, it’s a history thing for the Virginia Tech school and the program, and it means a lot to be the first ones.”

Story by Chris Graham


augusta free press
augusta free press
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