Virginia Tech Provides Injury Updates on Hunter Cattoor, Rodney Rice Ahead of Wake Forest Game

Virginia Tech Provides Injury Updates on Hunter Cattoor, Rodney Rice Ahead of Wake Forest Game
Photo Credit: Erin Smith
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Dec 27, 2022

Editor's Note: Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports has since reported that Hunter Cattoor will be available per a conversation he had with Mike Young. On site reporters including Tech Sideline's David Cunningham show a picture of Rodney Rice warming up while Hunter Cattoor appears to not be. An update is below.

There are two big injury questions currently surrounding the 11-2 Virginia Tech Hokies in regards to the status of veteran starting guard Hunter Cattoor and promising freshman guard Rodney Rice.

Virginia Tech provided an update on the status of Cattoor in a publicly released statement while also providing a further statement to Tech Sideline's David Cunningham following the release of the Cattoor news.

Cattoor is said to be "game-to-game" with a left arm injury going forward with his status for the upcoming game at Wake Forest on New Year's Eve being "questionable." Meanwhile, Rice is set to be a "game time decision" due to his ankle injury according to what a VT spokesman told TSL's David Cunningham.

The Cattoor news is definitely notable given that "game-to-game" is much different than the 6 weeks-ish timeline that was reportedly rumored by prominent Roanoke sports talk host Greg Roberts on his weekday show "Greg Roberts Live" recently. Combine that with the fact that Tech said "early evaluations are encouraging" and it seems like the injury to Cattoor may not be as bad as thought and rumored in the initial aftermath.

Of course, this could be Tech still being unsure of an exact timeline and trying to make teams gameplan for Cattoor in the short term as few know the extent of his injury outside of the program.

Regardless, both Cattoor and Rice are up in the air for the Wake Forest game with the Hokies really needing at least one of them healthy to give the Hokies some backcourt flexibility. Having only three healthy scholarship guards in Sean Pedulla, Darius Maddox, and MJ Collins would be less than ideal against a WF team that recently upset Duke and will sense a clear opportunity to add another quality win to their resume.

If that were the case, Tech likely would have to play John Camden around 10-15 minutes given his ability to play the 3 to give their backcourt some rest. This could also lead to Tech running some really big lineups that would include the versatile Justyn Mutts working at the 3 given his plus athleticism that can fill that role better than any of the other 4 regular bigs for the Hokies.

Rice seems like the more likely of the two to play against Wake Forest given that Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports had previously reported that there was optimism about him playing against either Grambling or Boston College. Given that he will have had 10 days between the BC and WF games to heal further, the odds of a debut seem fairly good.

Now it would be surprising to see him play more than 10-15 minutes but having Rice to take the load off the 3 healthy guards would be huge. You would likely still see John Camden play 5-10 minutes given the versatility he brings even if he hasn't played great in limited appearances though if Mike Young feels confident in what Justyn Mutts can do at the 3 on the defensive end, they could go big with Mutts at the 3 given how well their frontcourt has played this season. That might be a scenario that forces Tech to run some zone defense to favor their additional length in a big lineup if they choose to go that route with Mutts at the 3 in some situations.

Cattoor's status obviously seems less optimistic given the talk with the Hokies needing their two remaining veteran guards to step up in Sean Pedulla and Darius Maddox. Pedulla has played at an All-ACC level so far this season but may need to elevate his game a little more without Cattoor while Maddox has gotten off to a rough start with lots of shooting woes.

Given that Cattoor was shooting 40.3% from three, the Hokies could really use Maddox getting out of his slow start during which he's shot 27.9% from three-point range though he has found other ways to make winning plays. Even if Maddox can shoot at a 35% rate from three, that can help the Hokies keep their spacing that has helped them be an efficient offensive team especially in the paint despite not reaching their full potential with their perimeter shooting to date.

12/31 Update

Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports was told by Mike Young that veteran starting guard Hunter Cattoor will be available to play against Wake Forest for the Hokies.

Meanwhile, Tech Sideline's David Cunningham is in Winston-Salem today and tweeted out a picture from warm-ups showing Rodney Rice warming up while Hunter Cattoor was in sweats and not the warm-up gear that the rest of the team was in.

It is definitely encouraging to see Rice warming up as his debut now seems likely for this game. Meanwhile, the fact that Cattoor is not warming up with team seems to be a clear indication that he will not be available disputing the report from Rothstein earlier today.

In a request for a comment following these disputing reports, Virginia Tech has simply stated that Hunter Cattoor "remains game to game" and that he is "currently in sweats during warmups."

The loss of Cattoor would take away their top backcourt defender along with one of their top three-point shooters. MJ Collins would be pushed into a larger role with Tech needing some big defensive minutes from him while the Hokies will need Darius Maddox to find his rhythm from 3 plus a little extra from Sean Pedulla and Grant Basile from the outside to help replace what Cattoor brings to the table.

Having Rice would at least give Tech a quality backup guard who could give the Hokies hopefully 10-15 good minutes in his debut. This would certainly push MJ Collins into a starting role playing 30ish minutes in this game.

Additionally, Tech could look to run big lineups for brief stretches that would involve using Justyn Mutts at the 3, likely Grant Basile at the 4 for spacing reasons, and then either Mylyjael Poteat or Lynn Kidd at the 5. Tech may have to use some zone on the defensive end with that lineup, but Mutts has worked as a primary ballhandler at many times throughout this season and this lineup could definitely be effective offensively especially against a Wake Forest team that is weaker in the frontcourt.