March 04, 2012

By mikebarber

BLACKSBURG — As the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team rode the bus back from Duke last week, after another down-to-the-wire, punch-in-the-gut loss, the only senior to play for the Hokies that night said something to his teammates.
“He said, ‘It’s R.I.P to Zo after two,’” sophomore Jarell Eddie recalled Dorenzo Hudson saying on the ride from Durham on Feb. 25.
Now, Hudson has just one regular-season game remaining, and it’s his final home contest in Cassell Coliseum.
“I think I was kind of reminding myself,” Hudson said. “‘It’s coming to an end.’”
Virginia Tech hosts North Carolina State (19-11, 8-7 ACC) today at 6 p.m., senior night for Hudson, Victor Davila, walk-on Joey Racer and Hudson’s cousin, JT Thompson.
Davila has missed the last five games because of a groin injury. It is unclear whether he’ll give Tech any minutes tonight, though coach Seth Greenberg said he’d be open to giving Davila a ceremonial start if that’s all the 6-foot-8, 242-pounder could do.
Racer has seen action in just five games.
Thompson has missed the past two seasons after a pair of knee injuries.
Hudson, meanwhile, has played in all 30 games this year, overcoming a foot injury that cost him last season and soldiering through a collection of maladies in the past few months, including a strained knee.
He came off the bench for a stretch, battled through a scoring slump and has endured a string of last-second losses that have all but assured he’ll leave Tech without ever reaching the NCAA Tournament.
The Hokies (15-15, 4-11 ACC) have seen their last six games come down to the last shot of regulation or go into overtime. They are 2-4 in that stretch and have lost three straight.
They followed the 70-65 overtime loss at Duke up with Thursday’s 58-56 heartbreaker at Clemson.
There only chance at the NCAAs would be an unlikely Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title.
Through it all, Greenberg said, Hudson has been a lead-by-example player during practices and games.
“He’s just been an unbelievable teammate,” Greenberg said. “Anything and everything we’ve asked him to do, he’s done and accepted it with a smile on his face, both feet in, committed, just trying to help us win. Not everyone can do that. That’s a special person that has the ability to almost be a chameleon and fit in any situation.”
Greenberg said repeatedly during the season that the Hokies are missing a “high energy” player and a “tone setter.”
Hudson, asked if he felt that was a criticism, said he agreed with his coach.
“It’s very true,” Hudson said. “I have been trying to do that. I think when he says ‘high energy guy,’ he wants the guy to come up and get big time dunks, block shots, stuff like that. Right now, we don’t have that on the team.”
That’s a role Hudson said his cousin, Thompson, could have filled if not for the knee injury.
But Eddie said Hudson provides the unusually-young Hokies with plenty of energy and veteran leadership, in both practices and games.
“He brings a lot of intangibles that you all don’t see,” Eddie said. “He talks to us in the huddles. He’s been in a few situations more than we have.”
Hudson also brings plenty of tangibles. The 6-5, 220-pound Charlotte native, who spent a season in prep school at Hargrave Military Academy, has scored 1,170 points in his career at Tech.
This season, he’s second on the team in scoring at 11 points a game.
Hudson will get to play at least once more after tonight. Virginia Tech is currently tied for ninth in the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference. The tournament begins Thursday in Atlanta.
For Hudson, it’s a final chance to end his career of “ups and downs” on a high note.
“We have got a lot better in the last month and a half or so, losing close games,” Hudson said. “I feel like if we get the right matchup, we can go in there and try to shock some people.”
And if not, it really will be R.I.P to Hudson’s Tech career.