Virginia Tech's basketball prospects were higher for 2010-11 than any season in recent memory.
And maybe they still are. But things don't look as sunny for the Hokies as they did the day Malcolm Delaney announced he would remain in school --- presumably, in the process, making Virginia Tech a likely top-two or top-three pick in the ACC and probably a preseason top-25 team.
Well, as the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Darryl Slater points out on Twitter (@darrylslater), Florida transfer Allan Chaney was already in limbo because of his heart condition.
Now, the Hokies will surely go into the season without 6-foot-6 forward J.T. Thompson, who averaged 7.3 points and 4.6 rebounds as a junior. That was a logical progression from 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds the year before.
Thompson was lost for the season when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He'll undergo surgery on Tuesday, and will be eligible to return for his final year of eligibility in 2011-12.
Statistically, Thompson might not be the sort of player who stands out. On the Hokies' roster, Delaney, Dorenzo Hudson, Jeff Allen and even Terrell Bell have a way of putting up more eye-popping numbers.
But there's a reason Thompson has played between 18 and 22 minutes a night in each season. He's the ideal sort of grinder needed to thrive in the drawn-out, late-game situations the Hokies always seem to find themselves in.
Virginia Tech played 16 games last season decided by 10 points or less. Only Delaney and Hudson --- the Hokies' two prolific scorers --- were on the floor at the end of those more often than Thompson.
Thompson might not have started much (just three times last year), but he was definitely a finisher. A look at how those "GF" --- games finished --- stacked up in close games for Virginia Tech:
GAMES FINISHED IN 10-POINT (OR LESS) CONTESTS, VIRGINIA TECH 2009-10
14: Malcolm Delaney
14: Dorenzo Hudson
13: J.T. Thompson
12: Terrell Bell
11: Jeff Allen
7: Erick Green
5: Victor Davila
2: Manny Atkins
2: Ben Boggs
People who have watched Virginia Tech closely know today exactly how tough a blow this is for both Thompson and the Hokies. By the time January rolls around, everyone else will probably come to this realization if Virginia Tech can't find a similarly rugged option who Seth Greenberg clearly trusts as much as nearly anyone on his roster.