The year of Erick Green: Where does he rank?

Virginia Tech guard Erick Green

Erick Green is having a phenomenal senior season, but where does he rank all-time?

The 2012-13 college basketball season hasn’t been kind to Virginia Tech fans. It began last winter when Jim Weaver, the Hokies’ athletics director, gave then-coach Seth Greenberg a vote of confidence and then pulled the rug out from under him a few weeks later.

One player transferred (Dorian Finney-Smith), and Montrezl Harrell, a highly-touted incoming freshman, asked to be released. That left Tech with just eight scholarship players coming into this season.

Most fans, however, believed that the Hokies could have a respectable season so long as they stayed healthy. And with the exception of freshman Marshall Wood missing seven games, Tech has, for the most part, avoided the injury bug that had plagued them over the last few seasons. Unfortunately, staying healthy hasn’t been enough. This team just can’t seem to get it together.

After starting the season a surprising 7-0, the team is just 4-13 since, including a current seven-game losing streak. One player was benched for an entire game for lack of effort during practice; another missed almost an entire half after an on-court temper tantrum that nearly injured his teammate; and that same player, who has been playing poorly, was replaced in the starting lineup by a walk-on. Yeah, it’s been that bad.

Enter the Winchester Rifleman, Erick Green

The only bright spot for Hokie hoops fans this season is senior guard Erick Green, who is still the nation’s leading scorer. With hopes of a winning season and post-season appearance all but gone, Virginia Tech fans have thrown their support behind the senior guard from Winchester, who is having one of the best seasons by a Hokie in recent memory.

Of VT’s 24 games this season, Green has led the team in scoring 23 times. He averages 25.2 points per game, tops in the country and seven points better than the ACC’s second-leading scorer, Mason Plumlee of duke, who averages 18.2 ppg.

If Green continues on his current scoring pace, he will become the first Hokie to average more than 25 ppg since Bimbo Coles did so during the 1989-90 season. Coles averaged 25.3 ppg that year, a tenth of a point ahead of where Green stands now.

And unless Green just completely falls off the map (he could go scoreless for the rest of the season and still be above 18 ppg), he’ll end the season as just the third tech player to average better than 20 ppg in the last 23 years. Bryant Matthews averaged 22.1 ppg during the 2003-04 season and Malcolm Delaney averaged 20.2 ppg during the 2009-10 season.

What’s even more incredible is the percentage of points Green scores for his team. Take a look below and you’ll see the leading scorer for each ACC team, their total points (through Feb. 12), and their team’s total points, followed by the percentage. The teams appear in order of the current ACC standings:

Team Player Player Points/Team Total % of Points
miami Kenny Kadji 298/1549 19%
duke Mason Plumlee 419/1799 23%
uva Joe Harris 391/1543 25%
unc James Michael McAdoo 342/1801 19%
ncst C.J. Leslie 374/1871 20%
fsu Michael Snaer 305/1546 19%
md Alex Len 299/1714 17%
clemson Devin Booker 283/1450 19%
wake Travis McKie 335/1557 21%
gt Marcus Georges-Hunt 228/1429 16%
bc Ryan Anderson 354/1545 23%
VT Erick Green 604/1700 35%

Green is the ACC’s leading scorer by nearly 200 points. He scores more than 35 percent (35.5 to be precise) of his team’s points; 10 percent more than the next highest percentage in the league – uva’s Joe Harris, who contributes 25 percent. That stat speaks volumes about the lack of support from Green’s teammates.

Now, one could argue that Green scores more points because he shoots the ball more. That’s a valid argument, on the surface. Take a look at the shooting percentages for each team’s leader in attempted shots.

Team Player FGA/Team Total % of FGA
miami Kenny Kadji 223/1215 18%
duke *Seth Curry 265/1335 20%
uva Joe Harris 267/1223 20%
unc James Michael McAdoo 295/1532 19%
ncst C.J. Leslie 248/1374 18%
fsu Michael Snaer 230/1202 19%
maryland Alex Len 213/1344 16%
clemson Devin Booker 208/1220 17%
wake Travis McKie 238/1242 19%
gt Marcus Georges-Hunt 197/1196 15%
bc Ryan Anderson 273/1196 23%
VT Erick Green 414/1407 30%

*Seth Curry is the only player in the league to lead his team in shot attempts, but not in points.

But if you dig a little deeper than just the season stats, you’ll find that Green attempts, and scores on, a higher percentage of shots only when the rest of the team is struggling, which has been for a couple of months now.

In the Hokies’ first seven games, all wins, the team shot 48 percent from the field. In the last seven losses, that number is down to just 37 percent.

During the seven-game winning streak to start the season, Green attempted just 23 percent of the team’s field goals (95/404):

FGA in first seven wins
VT – EG
58 – 11 (19%)
57 – 15 (26%)
68 – 13 (19%)
53 – 15 (28%)
52 – 16 (30%)
61 – 15 (24%)
55 – 10 (18%)

During the team’s current seven-game losing streak, the percentage of shots by Green has increased to 34 percent (136/397):

FGA in last seven losses
VT – EG
43 – 18 (42%)
60 – 17 (28%)
53 – 20 (38%)
62 – 21 (34%)
65 – 23 (35%)
62 – 20 (32%)
52 – 17 (32%)

What about made field goals? Well, we’re glad you asked. During the first seven wins, Green made 25 percent of tech’s field goals (49/195). During the last seven consecutive losses, Green has made more than 40 percent of the team’s field goals.

Green’s not a ball hog by any stretch of the imagination. This kid WANTS to get his teammates involved, but they’re just not hitting shots. The team attempted 404 shots in their first seven wins and 397 in their last seven losses, so they’re still not afraid to shoot, but Green’s the only one hitting anything on a consistent basis. And he’s doing it while being double-teamed.

Say what you want about opposing teams giving Green space and letting him have his points, but from what I’ve been seeing, they’re not doing that at all. They’re guarding him using every combination they can think of and he’s still getting his shots off and keeping his team in the games.

What does it all mean, Basil?

If you are on Twitter and follow tech hoops, you’ve probably seen the comments arguing that Green deserves to have his jersey retired and his banner hung from the rafters of the Cassell.

Look, Green is having a heck of a senior season, especially under the circumstances, but before we start making room next to Ace Custis in the rafters, let’s take a step back and see where Green ranks among some of the greatest of all time at VT.

Green’s career isn’t done yet, so we have to do some predicting (not Niemo, he sucks at making predictions). The Hokies have seven regular season games left and at least one (and probably only one) ACC tournament game. So let’s assume Green has eight games left in his career. If he continues on his current statistical pace, here’s where he’ll likely finish in the record books:

Points Scored in a Season:
1. Erick Green (2012-13) – 810
2. Bimbo Coles (1989-90) – 785
3. Dell Curry (1985-86) – 722
4. Bimbo Coles (1988-89) – 717
5. Bimbo Coles (1987-88) – 702

Points Scored in a Career:
1. Bimbo Coles, 2,484
2. Dell Curry, 2,389
3. Malcolm Delaney, 2,255
4. Dale Solomon, 2,136
5. Perry Young, 1,899
6. A.D. Vassallo, 1,822
7. Allan Bristow, 1,804
8. Zabian Dowdell, 1,785
9. Bob Ayersman, 1,782
10. Erick Green, 1,750

Scoring Average in a Season:
1. Bimbo Coles (1988-89) – 26.6
2. Boby Ayersman (1958-58) – 26.5
3. Bimbo Coles (1989-90) – 25.3
4. Erick Green (2012-13) – 25.2

Free Throws Made in a Season:
1. Malcolm Delaney (2009-10) – 230
2. Malcolm Delaney (2008-09) – 225
3. Erick Green (2012-13) – 218

Free Throws Made in a Career:
8. Erick Green (2009-13) – 418

Free Throw Percentage in a Career:
T8. Erick Green (2009-13) .800

Assists in a Career:
8. Erick Green (2009-13) – 333

As great a season as Green is having, I’m not sure anyone can make a compelling case that he should have his jersey retired and a banner with his likeness hanging from the rafters with Ace Custis, Bimbo Coles, Dell Curry and Allan Bristow.

While Niemo is under a gag order not to make any predictions, naturally I wanted his thoughts on Green’s legacy at Tech.

As of today, I wouldn’t have Erick in my VT Top 10 and therefore wouldn’t retire his jersey. While he is having one of the five greatest seasons in Tech history, I don’t think his body of work is top 10-esque just yet. He may reach the top 10 in scoring and definitely will reach it in assists, but there are a lot of guys ahead of him that were very productive for four years, not just two and a half.

While I’m with Niemo on this, I played devil’s advocate and suggested that Green’s extraordinary senior season is made even more impressive given the fact that he’s doing more with less. Niemo countered:

Also, I don’t like the argument of “he’s doing more with less.” I actually think that lessens his scoring in my eyes. The numbers guys like Zabian [Dowdell], Malcolm [Delaney], and Dell [Curry] put up with a better supporting cast impress me more. If Erick could score 25 per game on a team that won and had other guys that could score consistently, I’d be more impressed. Still, his 50 percent shooting percentage this year is remarkable for a guard, and by the end of the season my opinion may very well change, but I would not have him in my top 10 and would not retire his jersey at this point.

The TechHoops staff have spoken. We love Erick Green and have enjoyed watching him play the last four years. He has done everything he’s been asked to do and has represented the team and the university with honor.

We’re not taking anything away from Green, but when you think about some of the great players that have come before him that have had more productive careers and DON’T have their jerseys retired, I think even the Winchester Rifleman would agree that while he’s had a fabulous career, he’s not in same category as those four legends.

This post was written by:

- who has written 235 posts on Tech Hoops.

Cope is a Virginia Tech graduate and veteran sports journalist with a career spanning television, radio, and newspapers. He's the recipient of three Virginia Press Association awards for his writing and design, as well as a CASE Gold Award for his feature writing. Cope has covered the Hokies since 1993 for various local and national news organizations. He's been with TechHoops.com since 2007.

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  • Blue Collar Hokie

    well, way to piss in my cheerios cope! no but seriously i guess i feel like he’s meant more to the program by carrying it on his back for two seasons than guys like malcolm or ad. maybe to me it’s an intangible thing. like you said above, he wants his teammates to be better. he encourages his teammates when they’re doing well and you see him talking to them trying to pick their heads up when they’re not. he draws defenders to himself and kicks out the ball for wide open shots and what do we get? clank off the front of the rim.

    if we’re not gonna retire his jersey, maybe we could just have a nice pizza party for him or something. ;)

    • http://www.thegarycope.com Cope

      I completely agree. Green’s impact on the team and the program goes far beyond his stats and career rankings. But, unfortunately, those intangibles don’t count for much when being considered for retired jersey status. But, you gave me an idea. How about we have a TechHoops Hall of Fame and let fans vote on who gets in?

      • Niemo

        Cope – my predictions are rock solid. It is the team that fails to accomplish them. So blame the team. Yet, I still take my come-up-ins and wear pink, homemade uva gear and donate to eagle funds.

    • Niemo

      I vote for the pizza party! No anchovies, please.

  • Will Stewart

    Hmmm, very interesting questions about where EG ranks in the history of great players at VT. Certainly, what Erick is doing this year is one of the great all-time seasons, but as Niemo points out, his entire body of work doesn’t hold up to the greats like Bimbo, Dell, etc.

    I will say this, though: EG is a class guy all the way. And the improvement in his game over his career? Wow. How many of us have “upped our game” — whatever our game is — that much in a little over three years?

    • http://www.thegarycope.com/ Cope

      Will, I completely agree. The intangibles are what really separates Erick from other players we mentioned. Delaney put up some impressive numbers for the Hokies, but if I had to choose, I’d take Erick Green every day of the week and twice on Sunday. He’s the consummate team player and a quality young man on and off the court (as far as we know). He’s my favorite player since Zabe and I’ll miss watching him play. Guys like him don’t come along very often, especially for a program like VT.

  • hokiegrad

    avoiding the injury bug (except for Wood) does not equal staying
    healthy. All these flu cases strung out over time need to be taken into
    account as well. Not saying we can blame this year’s problems on health
    issues, but they have certainly contributed.

    As for EG…
    comparing players is always a tricky business. I think y’all ranked
    Delaney and a couple other guys ahead of Ace a while back, yet Ace’s
    jersey is up there and Delaney’s isn’t. Personally I’m less concerned
    with what someone did over their whole career and more with what they
    developed into. If you were picking a team, would you rather have jr/sr
    Delaney or jr/sr EG? I think I’d go with EG there.

    • http://www.thegarycope.com/ Cope

      I was really referring to the catastrophic injuries that plagued us in recent years with JT Thompson (2 blow ACLs) and losing Dorenzo Hudson for a season.

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