Coming off an ACC Tournament title winning season, the Virginia Tech Hokies will look to reload the roster with a talented recruiting class heading into the 2022-23 season. Currently, Virginia Tech is ranked 29th nationally and 8th in the ACC in terms of the 2022 high school class rankings. This is certainly a rebound from last year’s class which mainly featured Sean Pedulla and was ranked 13rd in the ACC.
The final piece to Mike Young’s frontcourt revival will be incoming sophomore Mylyjael Poteat from Rice. He played for the Owls for two years but has three years remaining thanks to the free COVID year for the 2020-21 season. This past year, Poteat was a key bench piece for Rice. He registered 13.8 minutes per game and scored 7.7 points with 4.2 rebounds per game. He also shot 62% from the field and grabbed 1.8 offensive rebounds which are good for his limited role.
Poteat is listed as a forward due to his 6’9 height but he plays much more like a true big man. He comes in at 260 pounds with a very thick frame to work with. Poteat will look to bring some depth along the backline with his unique blend of sheer size, athleticism, and agility.
Poteat was used as a traditional big man at Rice. He set screens, rolled to the rim, grabbed rebounds for putbacks, and scored on the interior. Even with low volume, the stats tell a good story in a few areas for Poteat. He ranked in the 98th percentile as a P&R roll man and in the 85th percentile on post-ups. The sample is low for both of these actions since he played in less than 14 minutes a game but they still serve as positive indicators.
One area Poteat can make an impact is as a roll man partner for the Hokies' ball handlers in a class pick-and-roll action. Poteat has the size to set hard screens and a few of these clips show that.
First, we see Poteat go into a dribble handoff which transposes into a pick-and-roll. Poteat’s screen rocks the handler's defender. Number 24 goes baseline and Poteat curiously doesn’t re-screen or flip the angle. Instead, he waits for his teammate to drive and the defenders to react. Once they attach two to the ball, Poteat releases and rolls into open space. He’s then able to catch the bounce pass and finish with two defenders swarmed around him.
In the second clip, Poteat screens and the defender goes over the screen. UAB plays in drop coverage here which means a basket inside won’t be easy. But they get a bucket on this possession because of Poteat’s ability to pace out his roll. He takes a well-timed two-step into catching the ball and finishing around the drop defender who slides back over.
Roll men have to be able to get creative with the variety of screen and roll coverages defenses can throw out there. Slipping or “ghosting” (screener fakes screen and cuts or rolls) screens are a valuable way to counter more aggressive coverages. Poteat has been known to do this.
We see Poteat come up to screen for a middle pick-and-roll. Once Poteat gets to the point, he jabs back and rolls to the basket. Since his man came up to the level and was ready to switch or “hedge” (the screener's defender meets him at the level of the screen), Poteat slipped out early. Poteat gets a free roll to the rim because of his well-timed slip and no backline help.
This time, Poteat gets the ball on the perimeter to flow into an action with a guard. He flips it to his guard for a side pick-and-roll play. Again, Poteat doesn’t screen and slips early for an easy roll. This works because Poteat’s defender is ready to hedge out and stop the handler from getting a three. His ability to slip screens is critical but you also see some of Poteat’s agility for his size.
This clip highlights his large catch radius very well. Poteat gets a good position as a roll man once again. Once he passes the drop defender on his roll, he gears up for the lob with a free lane to the rim. However, the pass isn’t on target so Poteat has to adjust. The ball nearly gets to the backboard, but Poteat skies off two feet to catch and finish the lob. He almost volleyball taps it in as he’s coming down from his jump. Poteat’s huge catch radius is on display here which will help him as an interior finisher.
Passing flashes are few and far between, but this one stands out as a read that will be very beneficial with more reps. It comes in a P&R set with a similar coverage to what we’ve seen. UAB hard hedges the screen and Poteat’s slip forces a help defender to slide over and protect the rim. However, even with UAB making the right rotation, there’s still an advantage created on the floor with UAB initially putting two on the ball.
The weak side defenders zone up in the 4-3 advantage, but Poteat can move one of them out of position. He does this by looking off his teammate in the corner which forces one of the weak side zone defenders to cheat over just enough so Poteat can make the real pass to the wing. One rotation and extra pass later, and it’s an open three that’s cashed. It was open because of Poteat’s passing read out of the short roll.
Poteat does a good job of sealing off his man before getting a post touch. In the second clip, he fakes setting a back screen and motions his hand up for the ball. His teammate throws an excellent entry pass and again we see Poteat’s large catch radius with him bringing the ball in with one hand. This physical nature earns him a trip to the line.
Back in the first clip, Poteat isn’t able to screen properly, but he still makes the most out of the possession by being super physical with his man and calling for a post touch. Poteat seals his man off and gains good positioning before his post-up. He swings his left shoulder around his man to get in front and also uses his arm well to slightly shove him out of position. Once he gets the ball it takes one strong back down to nearly slamming it down. Poteat’s aggression is rewarded with free throws.
Like in the last couple of clips, Poteat gains position in the post which results in a basket at the rack. But this one is a bit different and incorporates some new elements to his game. Poteat screens and rolls into his man and gets tangled up. He then can still grab the ball while being held and having to move a few steps to his right side. Once he grabs the ball with one hand, Poteat gets low on his post-up and can explode up. He takes a major gather, swinging his elbows to create some separation, and steps right into his finish.
In the final offensive clip, we see a scoring flash from the perimeter. Normally, this is when Poteat would flip the ball to a guard and screen for him or run a dribble handoff action. But Poteat anticipates his defender expecting this and takes advantage of his overplay. He goes to a spin back to his right and puts the ball on the deck. Poteat takes it in off the dribble and powerfully gets to the basket. When he’s there Poteat finishes while being pulled down.
Agility for his size and weight stands out as Poteat’s best trait on the defensive end. He showed the ability to not just be a stationary big who stands in the paint but can go out and defend higher up on the perimeter. Poteat was able to shuffle his feet quickly to stop guards in the pick & roll. He also made an effort to not just hedge out on screens but recover in time back to his man. Let’s see some clips that illustrate his defensive value.
Right away, we can see the activity from Poteat. He swipes his hand in for the ball but isn’t able to make a clean deflection. Once the screen comes, Poteat plays at the level and rushes to trap the ball handler. He cleanly cuts off a lane to attack so the handler is forced to retreat and re-use the screen on the other side. Poteat reads this the entire way and not only chases him to the other side but beats him to the spot. He uses excellent footwork and a low bend of his hips to get in front.
I particularly love how quickly he’s able to slide his feet horizontally and how he stays attached with physical hand movements. The brilliant defense results in what should’ve been an offensive foul with a push-off. Nevertheless, his defensive engagement forces a contested shot and a miss.
Another key way Poteat defends well in the pick-and-roll is by recovering from aggressive coverages. Rice sent Poteat up to the level of the screen quite often and these hard and soft hedges are coverages most college teams heavily use, including Virginia Tech. In the first clip, Poteat plays near the level of the screen and shuffles his feet enough to his right so the guard lane is cut off.
This allows an easy pocket pass to the roller, but Poteat’s quick recovery prevents a basket. Poteat gets back with a swivel of his hips and some ballerina-like footwork to gain positioning. This choppy footwork combined with his excellent verticality to keep his arms straight up and not foul makes an easier shot more difficult.
The last clip focused on the recovery, but this one displays how to properly hedge out on a ball screen. Poteat waits out even closer to the level of the screen. Since the screen is a bit farther out, the handler is given a bit more space to drive and Poteat is on his heels. But he isn’t because Poteat does a remarkable job of backpedaling and staying in front to cut off a drive.
The use of his hands stands out and is a big reason Poteat didn’t get blown by. He’s able to lightly touch the handler which forces him back. The use of his hands, quick feet, and solid hip fluidity result in no created advantage. Rice’s backline properly rotates to tag the roller, and Poteat can get back in position. Finally, Poteat plays great ball denial in the post which shuts down another potential scoring chance.
Poteat uses these defensive tools in other ways too. When put in the pick-and-roll matrix, he can play a bit further down in a high drop and contest a shot from a ball handler. Here, Poteat can’t get up to the level in time but can still influence the play. He quickly slides closer to the baseline to force and meets the handler for a shot. Poteat gives a good contest on the tough mid-range shot and it’s a miss.
Furthermore, in the next clip, Poteat does an even better job at playing the cat and mouse game of P&R basketball. Poteat doesn’t rush out to greet the handler at the level. Rather, he waits for him to begin a drive. His active feet and ready hands force the handler to shoot a tough low efficient shot.
Poteat’s get-up speed on his jumps is quite good for his weight. 260-pound humans don’t usually go from a squatted defensive position to a seamless two-footed jump like this. He moves gracefully, and we can see more great use of his wingspan by not getting his arms into the airspace of the shooter to cause a foul.
Post defense is an area that didn’t show up too much in the film for Mylyjael Poteat but based on this flash and his other traits, there’s a solid chance he’ll hold up well on the block. First and foremost, Poteat is a difficult player to move off the block. Not many players can move a 260-pound individual with force.
In this clip, Poteat puts his hand on the hip of his defender to start and takes two back downs straight to the chest. The offensive play gains nothing from the moves and can’t hit the shot. Poteat does a fantastic job of keeping his arms straight up and contesting the shot well without fouling. Verticality like this is a major tool for big men on the defensive end, especially for protecting the rim which Poteat has shown flashes of.
It remains to be seen how impactful Poteat can be as a true shot deterrent at the rim, but there are a couple of strong flashes of potential. First, we see Poteat play at the level of a screen and stay on the handler. The offensive player gets rid of the ball and skips it to the weak side of the court. Once the Rice defender bits on a pump fake, that causes a chain reaction and a free lane to the basket.
Poteat moves over from the wing into the paint, but hurries his pace when he sees his teammate get blown by with nobody to protect the paint. He weaves through a few defenders and can explode up for the help side block that gets a few fans excited.
The second clip is my favorite of the entire report because it encompasses many if not all of the defensive traits discussed so far. Poteat gets put into an action and must play this perfectly to not allow an advantage. Off the handoff into a ball screen, Poteat waits for the handler to turn the corner. He goes from an east/west position to sliding his feet north and south towards the basket. His hips have never swiveled faster and watch how he bounces up and down with choppy but quick footwork to keep himself between his man and the basket.
Then, Poteat also uses his wingspan well here, stretching his arms out wide to try and get a deflection if there’s an early pass. Poteat’s activity disallows a shot attempt at the rim but that’s not all. Once his teammate gets blown by on his closeout, Poteat can react in time by shifting his hips back and setting his feet with his arms up contesting a shot or ready to take a charge. Then to cap it all off, Poteat deters another bad shot at the rim. He steps up and forces yet another miss by protecting the rim with verticality and a great arm adjustment.
To cap off the breakdown of Mylyjael Poteat, let’s take a look at a couple of steals and big-time hustle plays from the big man. In the first clip, the ball is jarred loose by a teammate, and Poteat dives for it on the ground. The ball ends up in UAB’s hands but Poteat still impacts the play by contesting the missed shot at the rim. In the second play, Poteat gets a steal and pounces on the ground for the ball. He runs the floor and takes in a one-handed rebound. He tries to put it back up and in, but is fouled and earns a trip to the charity stripe.
Check out all of Will's insightful scouting reports on Virginia Tech's incoming high school recruits and transfers here.