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Friday, June 27, 2003
Updated: June 30, 1:29 PM ET
New league means new challenges for Va. Tech, Miami

By Andy Katz

New Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg isn't going to hide from selling the ACC during the summer recruiting period. The only question is: Should his staff let it be known they want ACC players for 2004 or '05?

Perry Clark
Miami coach Perry Clark, left, may be smiling in new buildings in two years.

Virginia Tech and Miami should become official members of the conference on Tuesday -- the same day the summer evaluation period begins. When that happens, the first-year Hokies coach and Miami's Perry Clark have an even better mechanism to use to build their programs.

The Big East, top to bottom, has competed evenly with (or at times, better than) the ACC in men's basketball for years. But Virginia Tech hasn't been able to maintain a competitive position in the conference. The Hokies haven't won more than four games in the Big East in their first three seasons in the league. They failed to qualify for the conference tournament last season.

Virginia Tech is in the heart of the ACC country. The Hokies could be a player for a recruit who lives in the Virginia-Maryland-North Carolina area that wants to play in the conference. Maryland, North Carolina and Duke are mostly going to get first choice. But Virginia Tech can at least compete if the Hokies are in the same league.

"The recruiting pitch will definitely change,'' said Greenberg, who arrived at Virginia Tech from South Florida after the '02-'03 season. "There is an attraction for players who want to play close to home.''

Virginia Tech, like Miami, isn't geographically close to the majority of its Big East brethren, at least not enough for families to drive to most road games.

Greenberg thought he'd be battling the Big East, but two seasons from now, he could be suddenly coaching in the ACC. He may need even more of a honeymoon with his new fans if he has to alter his style of recruiting -- and maybe even his style of play.

"We're looking for the Michael Vick of Virginia Tech basketball here,'' Greenberg said.

And how.

Greenberg faces a critical summer of recruiting with a roster that isn't ready for the Big East or ACC. The Hokies need to get better in a hurry or face finishing 14th in the new one-division look of the Big East. If they move into an 11-team ACC in 2004 or '05, that last spot could be theirs for the taking if they don't upgrade the talent pool.

The problem for Greenberg is this: Virginia Tech has only three scholarships to give out in 2003-04 and two in 2004-05. Blame the 5/8 scholarship limit, which allows a team to give no more than five scholarships in a given year, and a maximum of eight in two years.

Clark, meanwhile, says the Big East tends to be a more physical conference than the ACC. Clark coached as an assistant at Georgia Tech and has a grasp on both conferences.

Clark says he isn't going to alter his recruiting approach, considering the Hurricanes have gone after big-time talents recently in James Jones (drafted in the second round of the NBA draft) and Darius Rice (a likely draft pick in 2004). But Clark has thought about having to sell the ACC instead of the Big East over the next two months.

"There are some differences,'' Clark said. "In the ACC, the centers are taller and longer while the Big East centers tend to be stronger. You can get away with a 6-6 guy in the middle in the Big East if he's physical and strong. That's not the case as much in the ACC.''

Connecticut's Emeka Okafor refutes that theory at 6-9, 240. But Boston College's 6-7, 245-pound Craig Smith or outgoing Pittsburgh senior Ontario Lett (6-6, 265) are more akin to what Clark is discussing. The ACC did have a few long, llimber centers like the 6-10 Chris Bosh at Georgia Tech (the overall No. 4 pick of the Toronto Raptors on Thurday night) or the 6-11 Casey Sanders, who left Duke after his senior season.

"Regardless of the league, you've got to get a high-caliber of player,'' Clark said.

Miami does have a new on-campus arena to sell, as well as the lifestyle of South Florida. Those aspects of the program haven't changed. If the Hurricanes are trying to hook a player on being in the ACC, they may not have to change much. Miami did beat North Carolina in Chapel Hill last season.

"But we've got to go back there next season,'' Clark said of the Big East.

But the 2002-03 season in all likelihood be it for Miami and Virginia Tech. And, as a result, Greenberg knows he has to upgrade his talent to ensure the Hokies are competitive every time they step into the Dean Smith Center.

What else we're hearing
  • At Syracuse: Carmelo Anthony was singing the praises of rising junior Hakim Warrick (15.3 ppg, 9.1 rpg) during the draft week in New York. Warrick will become Anthony's heir apparent inside. He will be expected to score and rebound in the post for the defending champions.

    "He's improved so much,'' said Anthony, who averaged 22.7 points and grabbed 10 boards a game. "He's in the weight room every day now. A lot of people say he's only gained a few pounds (on his 205-pound frame), but he'll gain more this summer.

    "He can score real well and rebound, he outrebounded me a lot last year,'' Anthony said. "He's ready to be a team leader. But the problem is he's not as vocal or outgoing (as him).''

    The Orangemen also return guards Gerry McNamara, Billy Edelin and Josh Pace as well as Craig Forth and Jeremy McNeil. So, what's missing that could help Syracuse get back to the Final Four?

    "They're missing me,'' Anthony said. "They've got more players who are comfortable going into the year, though.''

    Warrick has a chance to shine with the U.S. Pan Am team in the Dominican Republic.

  • At Gonzaga: The verbal commitment of Josh Heytfelt from Clarkston, Wash., is another sign of the Bulldogs' dominance in the state and in the Northwest. He might have looked harder at Washington had the Huskies not involved him in recruiting violations last summer. But getting Heytfelt to commit before the July evaluation period means the Bulldogs are doing what the elite schools like Duke and North Carolina have done in the past and that's get early commitments.

    Andy Katz is a senior writer at His Weekly Word on college basketball is updated Fridays throughout the year.