Feb 18, 2014; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Ben Emelogu (15) handles the ball against Virginia Cavaliers guard Justin Anderson (1) at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
It is very rare when a freshman becomes the team captain but that is what happened this past fall as Ben Emelogu was named the Hokies team captain as a true freshman. Emelogu proved himself to be a solid player with tons of upside and that was largely due to his success in some early-season games as a sixth man before earning the starting job. Emelogu seemed like a big part of the rebuild for the Hokies under Buzz Williams as a guy that could start or be used as a sixth man.
However, that won’t be happening.
Yesterday, Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch broke the news that Ben Emelogu had made the decision to leave the Virginia Tech basketball program. This is a disappointing loss after Emelogu averaged 10.5 points per game for the Hokies this past fall while also averaging 3.1 rebounds per game and shooting 37% from beyond the arc. Emelogu also seemed to be a leader on the team after being the captain so losing a leader in the locker room could hurt.
One reason that many will speculate is that he didn’t fit well with Buzz Williams but Emelogu was actually recruited by Williams. On top of that, Ben Emelogu had praised the hiring of Williams as the replacement for James Johnson and there have been no reports that have even suggested that Williams was the cause of Emelogu’s departure.
From the previously mentioned Richmond Times-Dispatch report, there was one interesting note in there that suggest a couple of potential reasons for Emelogu’s departure.
"Emelogu, a native of Grand Prairie, Texas, hasn’t been with the team this summer. He has returned to Texas. It’s unclear if he will continue to play college basketball."
One possibility based on this quote could be that Emelogu may have had some academic issues and decided to leave the program due to some academic issues. However, that seems very unlikely especially since there have been no reports of that recently and Emelogu seemed to have no academic issues during basketball season. Another reason that seems like the most realistic is that he was homesick though we honestly have no clue why Emelogu has left.
Jan 19, 2014; South Bend, IN, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies guard Adam Smith (3) dribbles the ball in the first half against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the Purcell Pavilion. The Fighting Irish won 70-63. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
While this seems like a somewhat big loss for the Hokies, the only loss will be the fact that he was the Hokies’ captain. With the Hokies bringing in 3 4-star wing players in Ahmed Hill, Justin Bibbs, and Jalen Hudson; the shooting guard and small forward positions were going to be quite crowded. The Hokies had Adam Smith and Will Johnston returning also so it was looking like a very crowded picture at the wing positions.
However, the departure of Emelogu lessens the competition a little but allows for these 5 players to all feel that playing time is slightly more realistic without it being a given. Players like Ahmed Hill and Justin Bibbs could both end up starting in the backcourt next season while Adam Smith and Will Johnston will both want the chance to start after not starting much last season. Jalen Hudson seems like the long shot to get playing time though the chances he gets redshirted as a freshman, while still being fairly high, have gone down some.
Ben Emelogu seems like someone that will have success wherever he goes and we would like to wish him the best of luck. While losing Emelogu is a loss, Hokie fans should not panic about losing Emelogu because of the loads of talent at the wing positions with great freshman like Justin Bibbs, Ahmed Hill, and Jalen Hudson joining Adam Smith and Will Johnston.