Why Darius Maddox and Sean Pedulla are Key Pieces for Virginia Tech Now

Why Darius Maddox and Sean Pedulla are Key Pieces for Virginia Tech Now
Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics

Will Locklin | @@locklin_will

TLP: Writer
Mar 06, 2022

To the casual observer, sophomore Darius Maddox and freshman Sean Pedulla don’t seem like vital pieces to this Virginia Tech squad. Take a mere glance at their season stats and you won’t come away very impressed. Pedulla is averaging 4.8 points per game and 1.1 rebounds per game. Maddox averages 6.0 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game on the season.

What close watchers and everyday followers see; however, are two players that take advantage of every opportunity they're given and make this Hokies team better every single time they step on the court. Pedulla and Maddox provide the team with a certain juice and boost of energy as the clips below will showcase.

Maddox Spot-Up Shooting:

Maddox has been utilized in this Virginia Tech offense the most as a catch and shoot three-point shooter on the wing and in the corners. He’s been nothing short of fantastic in this role by any kind of stat, metric, or eye test model you want to use. Maddox shoots 53% from three on the season albeit on just 2.1 attempts per game. Even with a low volume, he still ranks in the 98th percentile on spot-up jumpers according to Synergy Sports data.

There’s a myriad of clips to pull from Maddox’s arsenal of drained triples on the season but here are two important ones. In the first one against Georgia Tech, he rises and fires with textbook shooting form. Maddox always keeps his legs balanced with a fluid release and follows through on his threes. In the Miami game, this was the definition of a pressure shot that took a lot of guts. Even with all the pressure, Maddox’s shooting form remains pure.

Maddox Shooting Off Movement:

Another aspect of Maddox’s three-point shooting is his proficiency to hit shots on the move. Tech will give him some quality looks by having him run off a screen and fire away. Against Cornell, there’s a DHO (dribble handoff) action with Maddox receiving the ball from Aluma.

In a more recent game against Louisville, they run a stagger screen (two screens off the ball) for Maddox and he naturally buries the top of the key three.

In the last clip, he gets a side ball screen from N’Guessan and goes into a one-dribble pull-up shot. Maddox ranks in the 75th percentile in shooting efficiency coming off ball screens.

Maddox Cutting/Off Ball Play:

These two clips display the most underrated part of Maddox’s game, his cutting and off-ball movement.

In the first play, Virginia Tech is trying to move the ball and create a good look in the flow of their offense. The pass to Pedulla isn’t there so Maddox swings it to Alleyne. When his defender leaves his bubble, Maddox cuts into open space against the 2-3 zone and hits the mid-range jumper.

In the second play, Maddox loses the ball as Louisville doubles to try and get a steal. Even after nearly committing a turnover he still stays in the play by popping out for an open three. These plays show how Maddox’s constant activity without the ball can keep the Hokies' offense churning.

Maddox Self Creation:

The most intriguing aspect of Maddox’s game this season has been the flashes of off-the-dribble shot creation. These flashes have been there even from game one against Maine. There we see him go to a hesitation in and out dribble towards the baseline. Maddox recognizes there’s no looming rim protector. So he spins back to his left which sheds his defender and finishes at the rim.

Part of Maddox’s 10-point run to spark the Hokies in Atlanta was this sweet drive and finish. He gets a side ball screen going towards the baseline from Aluma. Maddox takes it all the way to the cup with his left hand and initiates the contact. He caps it off by adjusting in midair for a tough finish through contact. In the final play, Maddox gets the ball from a N’Guessan DHO, and a bigger defender switches onto him. He doesn’t settle for a three. Maddox shakes the taller defender with a crossover behind the back dribble into the shot which he sticks with a hand in his face.

Pedulla Shooting Range:

A pillar of Pedulla’s production comes from catch and shoot threes similar to Maddox. He shoots the pill at a 46.8% clip from deep and ranks in the 85th percentile in spot-up jumpers. What makes this even more impressive is the range Pedulla has on his long ball. He’ll fire away off the catch even if he’s a few feet behind the three-point arc. This shooting range was particularly prevalent as Tech tore apart Syracuse’s zone defense and in Pedulla’s 20 point outing in Tallahassee.

Pedulla Passing:

He’s not the primary or even secondary ball-handler for Virginia Tech but even with that said, Sean Pedulla can pass the ball. In the first clip, the Hokies swing the ball around the perimeter, looking for a hole to attack in the zone. Pedulla attacks the closeout off the catch and forces the middle defender on the backline to step up. Once they rotate over he’s able to make a slick left-handed bounce pass to Mutts who is waiting in the dunker spot for a flush. In the 2nd half, it was more of the same. Pedulla once again attacks the closeout which forces the help to come then he punishes Syracuse for not rotating quickly enough to cover Aluma. In the final clip, Pedulla initiates a fake DHO which forces a switch as he drives baseline. This rim pressure results in an FSU defender rotating to the rim which shuts down the drive. But since the defender left his man for this to happen, Tech still has an advantage. Pedulla feeds the relocating Cattoor to capitalize off the advantage that his rim pressure created.

Pedulla Pull-Up Shooting:

Where Sean Pedulla can separate himself moving forward is with his impressive flashes as a pull-up shooter. He’s a small 6’1'' but is still able to generate enough space from his defender to rise into these difficult off-the-dribble threes. Part of his 6-7 from three-point shooting clinic against FSU included these kinds of shots.

In the first play, nobody is open so Pedulla pulls the rug from under his defender with a left to right cross into a between the legs dribble which creates enough space for a comfortable shot.

Similarly, he goes into that sudden between the legs move against NC State. It’s effective because Pedulla gets pretty low to the ground when crossing from right to left which shifts his defender's center of gravity around.

Pedulla Self Creation/Defense:

Even with limited touches, Pedulla can still put the ball on the deck and finish. Among his many clutch plays against Miami, this was one of them. Down by six, he receives a screen from Mutts but is undercut by a Miami defender on his way to the rack. The defender is much bigger than him but Pedulla still drives into his chest and kisses one off the high glass while taking all of the contact to his upper body.

In the next clip, we see Pedulla's craftiness to break a potential trap with a shifty move. He also uses a nice pass fake to get Maddox’s man to bite off his path to the rim. It’s completed with good use of his body to shield off the defender from his backside for a clean rim finish.

The most under-the-radar play from Tech’s massive win over Miami in Coral Gables came in the form of Pedulla’s on-ball defense on the final possession. He starts at the point of attack and navigates around the screen. Pedulla slides his feet well and keeps his hands up ready for a shot to go up. When his man loses the ball, he plays even peskier defense and forces a desperate pass. All of this stellar defense was the catalyst for Miami taking a poor shot attempt and Virginia Tech sealing the comeback victory.

Maddox/Pedulla:

To cap off why the Hokie faithful should be excited for these guys’ future, here are two plays where they play off each other perfectly.

In the first, Pedulla gets an inbound pass from Cattoor. Aluma motions to screen but slips out which gives Pedulla room to turn the corner and drive into the paint. With a free lane, the defender guarding the corner has to help off enough to deter Pedulla’s drive. As soon as the corner defender shuffles over Pedulla rifles a bullet pass to an open Maddox in the corner and it’s time to feast for the Hokies offense.

The second one is similar although this time Pedulla slashes in transition. He makes a tough jump through a couple of defenders and whips a pass around the third for an open Maddox triple again.

Both of these plays are key as Pedulla's development as a slasher and ball handler will only lead to more opportunities like those for Virginia Tech’s offense in the future. Sean Pedulla will pressure the rim and force help which will lead to light out shooters like Darius Maddox to cash in from downtown.

Darius Maddox and Sean Pedulla have proven this season that they aren't only the future for the Hokies, but they also are key pieces for Virginia Tech right now.