November has arrived which means it is finally time for college basketball to begin. While the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team made their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years last season finishing with a record of 22-11, the women’s basketball team finished 20-14 and won three of four games in the WNIT tournament. The Hokies advanced to the quarterfinals of the tournament where they lost to Michigan. After head coach Kenny Brooks’ first season, the first 20-win season since 2005-2006, the Hokies are on the rise.
Junior guard Chanette Hicks led the team in scoring last season averaging 16.1 points per game. Regan Magarity, the redshirt junior forward out of Norrköping, Sweden, also had a key role for this Virginia Tech team that went undefeated in its first 15 games of the season including a 67-63 win over then-ranked #17 Tennessee. However, the Hokies struggled in ACC play going 4-12 in conference games. The Hokies did lose seniors Sidney Cook, Vanessa Panousis, and Samantha Hill, but they have some fresh faces that are expected to make some big impacts this season.
Head coach Kenny Brooks recruited five-star guard Aisha Sheppard out of Alexandria, Virginia. Aisha Sheppard was named Gatorade Player of the Year in Washington D.C. while in high school, as well as being named the All-Metro Player of the Year and a USA Today High School All-American. Sheppard was ranked 34th in the country by ESPN in the 2017 class. Sheppard will be a huge addition to the depth in the Hokies’ backcourt and will give help to Hicks, sophomore guard Kendyl Brooks, and newcomer Taylor Emery.
Emery, a 5’10” junior guard out of Tampa, Florida, played at Tulane during the 15-16 season and played at Gulf Coast State for a year, starting 32 of their 36 games and averaging 19 points and 4 rebounds a game. While at Tulane, she was named to the AAC All-Freshman team and scored in double figures eight times in their 35 games. Like Sheppard, Emery is also expected to have a huge impact on the backcourt, providing twice as much depth at the guard positions than the Hokies had last season.
Kendyl Brooks will bring some firepower for the Hokies this season, especially behind the three-point arc. Brooks, a 5’10” guard from Harrisonburg, Virginia, played in 32 games last season and started four. She finished third in the ACC in made three-pointers by freshman with 62 as she shot 33 percent from long distance.
Those 62 threes set the freshman record at Virginia Tech for most made three’s in a season. Brooks will see a greater role on the team this season as she tries to fill the holes left by the seniors that graduated. Regan Magarity will have an even bigger role on this team as well. Magarity will be the Hokies’ biggest presence in the paint and will get even more touches than she did last season.
With the loss of the three seniors, different players will have to step up to fill those roles, a job they are perfectly capable of. The rotation will now be nine players instead of six which gives Coach Brooks a plethora of depth at his disposal for this season. The non-conference slate starts at home against Wagner on November 10 in Cassell Coliseum.
The Auburn Tigers travel to Blacksburg and will play the Hokies in Cassell at 7PM on Monday, November 13. The non-conference schedule will become even more difficult with games against West Virginia in Melbourne, Florida, and on the road at Illinois in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.
An undefeated non-conference slate for this improved team is not out of the question, and a league record of 8-8 and strong performance in the ACC tournament would likely be enough to propel the Hokies into the NCAA tournament in coach Kenny Brooks’ second season.
The season is here for Virginia Tech and it starts tonight against Wagner.