Posted: 10:23 p.m. Monday, April 22, 2013
First off, BIG TIME kudos to James Johnson. He took over a program ailing at the end of April in 2012 (by no fault of his own). He managed to maintain the roster minus one player (who may have been ready to transfer before his hiring), and kept one out of two recruits for the 2012 class (though the lesser of the two according to recruiting rankings and first year performance) picked up an incoming transfer soon after being on the job. And despite another transfer by a starting player this year, he has rebounded with a recruiting class that has left the Hokies absolutely maxed out on scholarships for 2013. While that may not seem impressive at face value, especially as some of these guys are prospects that the casual basketball fan has never heard of, simply holding together and then finding enough bodies to field a basketball team given the circumstances (one of the most poorly handled firings in recent sports history) is incredible. And even more kudos to Johnson for proving me wrong. I love it when a team, player, coach I root for does that. I have no qualms with being wrong if it means team success.
I can't find it on the Twitterverse for some reason, but my response was something to the effect of, I wish him luck, but good uncommitted players are few and far between at this point in the recruiting process, where for all intents and purposes, it's essentially over, minus guys trying to qualify and teams desperate for bodies picking over the scrap heap. Virginia Tech is in neither of those categories, as while they may be short on experience at some positions, they would have had 12 scholarship bodies and some key walk-ons that saw time last year prior to Wilson's commitment. And that is plenty. So I reasoned, why go after a guy who, in all likelihood, will not be worth a four-year commitment of a scholarship over holding it until next year and picking up a guy who you're after from day one. But, the Hokies managed to find a guy who shatters all of those concerns.
Now to Wilson's commitment. Of course it was announced on the Twitterverse Monday night by KipTJam, who is usually one of the first guys on things related to Tech basketball:
Hokies pick up Devin Wilson— KipTJam (@KipTJam) April 15, 2013
As we see from this tweet, Wilson was up in the air as recently as three months ago whether to choose between football and basketball:
Montour standout Devin Wilson has apparently chosen basketball over football for college and will now focus on picking a school. #WPIAL— Paul Zeise (@PaulZeise) January 14, 2013
As Mark Giannotto of the Washington Post added, this helps get James Johnson to the goal of playing more guard-heavy lineups, something he wanted to do this past year as well:
Devin Wilson is 6-4, takes place of Robert Brown on #Hokies roster. JJ told me Fri he wants to play more guard-heavy lineups next season.— Mark Giannotto (@HokiesJournal) April 15, 2013
Lastly, we find out about the time frame of Wilson's Tech offer:
Virginia Tech offered 2013 Montour (PA) PG Devin Wilson during an unofficial visit to campus this weekend.— Alex Kline (@TheRecruitScoop) April 1, 2013
Wilson was relatively unknown to most of the recruiting sites, despite holding offers from West Virginia, George Mason, St. Joseph's, Western Michigan and St. Bonaventure. He was not rated as a basketball player by either 247Sports, Rivals or Scout(though Rivals created that page and listed him as a 3-star retroactive to his commitment as far as I can tell, as that page never appeared on any search I performed). He was however rated as a 3-star player by ESPN. There is some disagreement between the sites about his height and weight, as ESPN tabs him as the shortest of any of the sites at 6'2" 178 lbs., while the rest agree that he is 6'4" and that he sits somewhere in the 175-185 pound range. Either way, that's good-to-elite size for a point guard.
Now down to my analysis of Wilson as a prospect.
This is a video I didn't see anyone else post, but I think is fantastic in evaluating Wilson. At this point, Wilson was a high school sophomore.
In this video you see him display several impressive attributes, particularly for a player of his age. First off, his speed and acceleration. Watch how many times he beats an opposing player off the dribble with both hands nonetheless. He drives the ball and exhibits superior control when using the ball fake or the positioning/timing of the ball/shot to get the foul and get a shot up. And man, can this kid finish through contact or what? He also shows a penchant for jumping passing lanes and making easy steals that go for a bucket the other way.
The next video I came across is his entire sophomore year highlights:
This kid has complete control of his game. He's so comfortable out there. He plays well beyond his years, always seeming to make the right decision, whether it be to pass, drive or shoot if open (that could be highlight tape syndrome, though a kid doesn't usually do those things just when he knows the cameras are on). The way he runs his team is impeccable. He is a true point, which is a blessing as Tech is completely devoid of one of these types of players at this moment. If you want to see a play that will get you excited about him (I recommend watching the whole thing though), check out the play that starts at 2:35 into the video. That's basketball savvy. His jumpshot, while fluid and repeatable, is not shown much in this tape. But count me in favor of a guard who is unafraid to get to the basket and score OR dish! Also, he is the king of the accurate outlet pass. Bravo for him rewarding players on the fast break for getting behind the defense. As a player who used to routinely beat defenders down the floor to no avail due to a passer who wasn't paying attention or didn't think he could get it there, trust me when I say that this is an important attribute for a point guard to have.
Moving along to his junior season, I was able to find that tape too. So let's look at that.
Starting off the video, the title screen tells us Devin was a WPIAL Section 5 AAA First Teamer, a Pittsburgh Tribune Review Terrific 10 member and 2nd Team All-State (AAA). Right from the start you can tell that Devin's offensive game is improved. His jumpshot looks better and the results reflect that. You also begin to see full-wraparound two-pump layups, which, WOW! Just wow. His handle, which was good as a sophomore, is now even better, as is his speed and acceleration, which only makes it more unfair for those guarding him. But just because he is better offensively doesn't mean he still isn't passing, and making safe, correct decision, but highlight reel passes with regularity. That's the perfect combination. And on the defensive side, I don't know that I've ever seen a high school player make so many steals when a player attempts to cross him over or even appears like he has already gone by him. I'm talking serious cookies.
Devin's senior tape I am less impressed with:
It is more jumpshot heavy, which is good in that it shows that he developed that as a viable part of his game, but I still love the kid unafraid to get to the rack. If he could find a happy medium of both, that would be best. In this video Devin introduces the Eurostep and the switching of the ball hand mid-stride while gathering for a layup, which make defenders look silly. Is Wilson a superstar at the next level? I don't know. But what is incontrovertible is that he makes his team better, something that the Hokies had and lost in the last two years with players like Erick Green and Dorian Finney-Smith, who both did the little things.
Also, per this tweet, you find out that he was the 2013 Post Gazzette Basketball Player of the Year:
Congratulations To Point Guard Devin Wilson @shmilson_3 On Being Named The 2013 Post Gazette High School Basketball Player Of The Year.— Montour Basketball (@MontourHoops) March 29, 2013
So now comes the dreaded comparison. Who is he like? What will he do? What will he average? Well, before I go there, I just want to let you know that just because I say something doesn't mean it is guaranteed to happen. But, I did feel strongly enough about Wilson to say this:
Fearless prediction: As team is currently constituted, he'll be #Hokies' best player in 2014-15.— GobblerCountry.com (@gobblercountry) April 16, 2013
So obviously I do have some level of confidence in him. I think he projects as a double-digit scorer by the end of his sophomore season and a high assist guy, maybe even up to 5 per game (depending on how well his teammates shoot). He has the acceleration, handle and moves of a guy like Erick Green (for lack of recently available comparisons), which make his driving ability very similar. His strength and ability to finish are better though, as he has a build more like Markus Sailes (at the risk of making two Markus Sailes comparisons in one recruiting class). He also is a little less explosive of an athlete than Green to date. He has the court vision of a Rajon Rondo-type (for lack of a better comparison), but luckily, at least so far, not his broken jumpshot. Put best, he knows where he is on the court at all times, and he knows time, score situation. He knows exactly how to break down whatever defense the other team is in and how to exploit it, including by passing it to a teammate in a better position to do so.
So why then, if Wilson is as good as I say he is, is he still available at this point? Well, remember how I mentioned above that he was up in the air between football and basketball until the middle of January? That's why. But why would that stop basketball teams from actively recruiting him as heavily? Did they really think he would choose football over basketball? If so, is he any good at football? Well that question was answered for me after the first play I saw on his football highlight tape (Again, kudos to whoever did his tapes, because he's got them aplenty, organized and with him in clear view. That's every recruiting analyst's dream). So the answer to that question: YES!
This is where our coverage separates the boys from the men. Unlike other sites that simply broke down Devin's basketball tape, we will also be doing his football tape. Why you may ask? Well, several reasons. 1. We know that Devin chose basketball, and that (particularly in Tech's case), it usually works the other way around (i.e. football player coming out for basketball). But if he were to be swayed, I would want you all to know what kind of player the program would be getting. And 2. basketball players sometimes make very good football players. Look at guys like Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez (among others), both of whom were primarily basketball players in their collegiate careers (though Gonzalez was no slouch on the football field either). Both of those guys are renowned for their jumping ability and ability to pull down the ball in traffic. So for Wilson, a wide receiver and defensive back, are those skills relatable? YES!
I will start with his sophomore video, which was not the first that I watched as I mentioned above. What you can see from this video, much like in basketball, is that Wilson is polished. He does the little things. He breaks up passes. He makes big but solid form hits on wide receivers. He runs good routes and wins the ball in the air. All things you want to see from a guy in those positions.
Moving along, I'll now show you the video I first saw. Get your popcorn ready.
Right off the bat, you see that Wilson has added the circus catch to his arsenal. I am giddy (and will remain so for up to four years if I have to until my dreams are ultimately quashed if Wilson does not opt to play football as well) at the possibility, whatever slight it might be, that Wilson could be lining up on the perimeter for the Hokies in Lane Stadium, flashing an ability to make catches that, among Hokie commits, I have only seen Robert Lockhart (now with the University of Miami) make in my decade of watching recruiting tape.
Also, if you wanted an expanded version of Wilson's junior offensive exploits, the tape above should fulfill your desires, as it's three times as long.
Above are his 2011 (or junior year) defensive highlights. Just like in basketball, he became a phenomenal player between his sophomore and junior years. He begins the highlight tape with another, just ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS catch, a pick in the end zone. Wilson may not always catch the ball, but he's good at realizing when he needs to knock it away, and displays near perfect timing in hitting the receiver each time to break up the pass while avoiding a pass interference penalty. He even blocks kicks (plural, as he did in an earlier video as well)! Now to the last video, I swear (not that you should be tired of watching this excellence).
Devin continues to evolve as a player in his senior tape. He isn't as flashy in the highlights here, as we don't see the circus catches or the ones where he is interfered with and still makes a ridiculous catch (the basketball equivalent of his and-1's, something he does incredibly well in both sports). Most impressive on this tape though is his improvement in straight-line speed and his ability to make guys miss via the juke (something he puts on display in a David Wilson-esque play at 1:05 on the tape. Go ahead and watch it.) He also has a nifty interception on this tape and doubles as a running back, where he scores by breaking tackles. Again, you don't do things like his and-1's and pass interference circus catches without being a strong kid, and he is that and some.
So, did he make the right decision? Well here's where I reveal what kind of actual prospect Wilson was as a football player (in case the videos didn't do it for you). He had offers from Akron, N.C. State, Ohio and Temple (I know, not setting the world on fire, but still, it shows he was regarded as a decent prospect) and was rated as a 3-star as a football player by ESPN and 247Sports. Watching his tape, I think a 3-star rating is fair, but Scout and Rivals both had him as a 2-star, below what I think he showed on tape.
When compared to his basketball exploits, I think he made the right decision, even if based on his recruiting ratings and even the sites' general familiarity with him as a basketball player (which was incredibly low), it may look otherwise. I think he would have fared very well in either sport, and still hope he chooses to do so at Virginia Tech, despite his announcement that he would choose between the two in January (Devin, if you are reading this, I have no hesitations about going all fanboy on you to get you to put on the cleats as well! PLEASE! PLEASE!PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE! be a two-sport athlete at Tech). Seriously though, in the end, not enough can be said about James Johnson and what a pick up he has made in getting Wilson. Whether or not he pans out to be the player I am seeing in and projecting from his videos remains to be seen. But I trust myself. This is one of the best tapes I have seen from a basketball maturity standpoint and I am enthralled about the prospects of having Devin in the program.
For more Virginia Tech basketball news, analysis and updates, including love letters an rave reviews of Virginia Tech prospects, Gobbler Country is your #1 option. Don't move a muscle.