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Virginia Tech senior Erick Green started his college career in a slump, but now looks to go out on top.
Virginia Tech's Erick Green is on track to become only the second ACC player to lead the nation in scoring. Green is on top with his average of 24.9 points per game this season. Iona's Lamont Jones is second with 23 ppg and Craighton's Doug McDermott and South Dakota State's Nate Wolters are tied for third with 22.8 points per game.
MATT GENTRY | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech senior Erick Green (center) will play in his last home game as a Hokie tonight. "I'm going to miss all of this," Green said.
Friday, March 1, 2013
BLACKSBURG - As a freshman, Erick Green had a hard time putting the ball in the basket.
Now he is the nation's leading scorer. And he's about to play his final home game.
The Virginia Tech senior point guard will bid Cassell Coliseum adieu when the last-place Hokies host Clemson tonight.
"I'm going to miss all of this - the crowd, coming out of the tunnel, just being a Hokie," Green said.
Green has given the Tech fans quite a show this season. He is averaging 24.9 points.
Not bad for someone who shot just 29.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He averaged 2.6 points that season, when he once went nine straight games without a basket.
"Every day I sit there and I have to tell one of the teammates ... how it all started for me," Green said. "It's been a great journey and I've enjoyed every moment of it. It just shows how much hard work, going in and focusing, really pays off."
When Green was a struggling freshman, what would he have thought if he had been told he would one day lead the country in scoring?
"I probably would've laughed," Green said. "I never saw this coming."
'A little chip'
Former Tech coach Seth Greenberg once joked that Green "went the whole 2010 without making a jump shot."
Green averaged 12.6 minutes in 34 games as a freshman backup in the 2009-10 season. He was 6 of 23 from the field (26 percent) in his first 10 games. He was 4 of 39 (10 percent) in the final 17 games.
His mother, Tami Green, recalled that a Tech fan wrote on an Internet message board that season, "Wow, what a wasted scholarship."
"It was one of the most hurtful things he could've heard, but [also] probably one of the most motivating things," she said. "He kind of put a little chip on his shoulder, like, 'I'll show them.' "
His struggles continued early in his sophomore season, when he was just 10 of 30 in his first six games.
But he became a starter in December of that season. He began to relax - and improve. He ended up averaging 11.6 points and shooting 41.4 percent from the field.
Last season, the Winchester native averaged 15.3 points and made the All-ACC second team.
"Don't ever let someone tell you [that] you can't do something," Green said. "I've always been told I'll never be able to be successful at Division I, I'll never be as good as I am now."
Aiming for a special senior season, Green made 20,000 jump shots last summer.
"I was in the gym two times a day," he said. "That really paid off for me. Anytime I let the ball go, I really think it's going in."
Green proclaimed last October that he was "one of the best guards in the country."
He did not predict he would lead Division I in scoring, but he has held the top spot since early January.
"I didn't know it was going to be like this," he said with a laugh. "I felt like it was going to be a good year, as much work as I put in, and I really felt confident. But it's turned out to be a great year, even though we're struggling."
Green still heads to Tech's practice facility each morning to work on his shot. The criminal justice major has only three classes this semester, including two online courses.
Despite the defensive attention he draws from foes, Green is shooting 47.5 percent from the field - an impressive percentage for a guard.
He also gets points at the free-throw line, ranking fourth in the conference in free-throw percentage (82.3 percent). He has not ignored his point-guard duties, either, ranking fifth in the ACC in assists (4.1 apg).
Green was averaging 25.2 points before taking a dip with a 16-point outing at Miami on Wednesday. But he is still on track to become only the second ACC player to lead the nation in scoring.
"To be the nation's leading scorer, it's taxing, especially when everyone coming into Virginia Tech knows who they have to tee up defensively," TV analyst Mike Gminski said. "To average 25 points a game, that's really something in this day and age. Looking around at some of these games, it's almost embarrassing what the halftime scores are. The [final score of the] Clemson-Miami game was 45-43. So scorers kind of stand out to me now.
"He's consistently gone out and had big nights when everyone's gunning for him defensively."
Since he was in high school, Green has put lists of goals around his bedroom: by the light switch, on the mirror, on the ceiling above his bed. Before this season, the goals included making the All-ACC first team, being named ACC player of the year and making the NBA.
He seems a lock for the All-ACC first team and is a contender for ACC player of the year. The third goal has become a possibility, too.
Green was not listed among the projected first-round NBA draft picks on ESPN.com's "Big Board" this week. But an NBA scout said he expects Green to be one of the final 10 picks in the first round in June.
"He has outstanding quickness," said the scout, who asked to remain anonymous. "He's a very good shooter. For a guy who scores all those points, he's unselfish. He's not a ball hog. He shoots good percentages, and that's the thing we look at. He's improved his stock tremendously."
Plenty of losses
Despite all of Green's points, the Hokies are just 12-16, 3-12 because of an underwhelming supporting cast.
"I get home and I watch film and I'm just so mad, I can't even sleep at night," Green said. "But I'm just trying to stay positive and have fun. I want to at least enjoy my last year.
"I think I got ripped apart when I kept saying [after games] I was having fun, because everybody thought I was just trying to score. But it's not even about that. If people understood what I went through these four years - just the whole process of me getting to where I'm at today was a struggle."
So when teammates go through shooting slumps, he can sympathize.
"I'm trying to stay in their ear, trying to get them in the gym, trying to keep them positive," Green said. "I tell Rob [Brown] every day, 'I went through something worse than what you're going through.' I don't think he believes me."
Although Green encourages his teammates, he can also be hard on them. He has criticized them in postgame interviews for not contributing more and for not paying attention to scouting reports.
Green still gets constructive criticism himself - from his parents. Green's mother played basketball for Howard University and coached him in rec-league ball. His father coached him in AAU ball.
"They always find something to get in me about," Green said.
Before every game, Green and his mother discuss the upcoming contest on the phone or in person. She texts him advice during the game, and they talk on the phone after the game.
"She's always in me to keep getting better," Green said. "We talk about ball every day."
Green said he would trade all his points to make the NCAA tournament. But he will no doubt end his Tech career without ever doing so.
Green, however, is a safe bet to wind up in the NCAA record book as the Division I scoring leader for this season. It's an accomplishment no one would have foreseen when he made just 29 baskets his freshman year.
"I'm just really happy how all this has worked out," Green said. "I wish my senior year could've went a little better, won some more games.
"[But] this has been a great year. I've enjoyed it all."
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