Since my last post, I am sure you are all aware of how Virginia Tech was able to defeat Clemson in overtime, but then managed to lose Saturday night at Charlottesville to in-state rival Virginia. Unfortunately I did not provide a recap for either, but following the UVa loss, I was able to talk with freshman A.D. Vassallo, and later write this piece, which debuted today in the Collegiate Times.
Freshman swingman rediscovers his stroke
February 15th, 2006
by Andrew Kinney, Staff Writer
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Despite the bundle of close conference losses Virginia Tech has been through this year, flashes of promise have been displayed among the Hokies' younger players, giving Tech a glimpse of hope for seasons to come.
Of those promising efforts, the brightest glimmer of hope has been the showcase of talent displayed by freshman prospect A.D.Vassallo.
Vassallo, a 6-foot-6-inch swingman from Puerto Rico, who can play both forward and guard, has lately been an integral part of the Hokies' offense, enjoying several strong performances in Tech's recent games. The freshman's newfound success began with a stellar showing against Wake Forest on Jan. 28.
Filling in for the then-suspended Deron Washington, Vassallo was allowed back into the starting lineup, a place he had been absent from for more than two months. Determined to prove he belonged in the starting five, Vassallo exploded for a career-high 29 points against the Demon Deacons, playing an active role in helping Tech earn its first conference win of the season.
Against the Cavaliers Saturday night on the road, Vassallo proved to be pivotal in helping keep the Hokies afloat, scoring a total of 19 points to go along with his seven assists and five rebounds. On several occasions during the second half, the freshman was able to overcome his youth, erasing any hint of college inexperience by netting several crucial baskets instrumental in keeping the Hokies close. Perhaps one of the most noticeable plays that showed the freshman's rock-solid nerves was when he was able to knock down a clutch three-pointer to put the Hokies up 75-72 with 2:33 left in overtime.
On a grander scale, Vassallo's performance against the Cavaliers was yet another strong showing to add to his recent string of success. After finishing the night with yet another solid performance, virtually everyone around him sat up and took notice.
"A.D. is playing very well -- he's getting good shots off," said Virginia Tech's head coach Seth Greenberg after Saturday's defeat. "He's getting better and is getting more confidence. Defensively, he's helping us rebound the basketball. He was able to get several defensive rebounds today, and I'm impressed with how he's come along."
Since being allowed back into the starting lineup against Wake Forest, Vassallo has started every game, averaging 16 points per game. Of his five starts in that stretch, the freshman has put up 80 points -- the same total he had scored in all 19 of his previous contests combined.
Vassallo claims the difference between his early struggles and his newfound success was due to lingering doubts in his head. Nowadays, the freshman admits to being mentally stronger when taking the court for Tech, and hopes that he can continue to be a prime contributor as the season progresses.
"I have a lot more confidence," said Vassallo, a product of Hargrave Military Academy. "I feel like a new A.D. every game. Every time I step on the court, I step on more confident. I feel a lot better playing with the guys -- I'm getting to know them, getting used to playing with them. It's helping me a lot more every single game. I'm just trying to do something different and help out my teammates. At the end of the day, I just want to win."