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March 7, 2012
By Bill Hass
ATLANTA (theACC.com) - Injuries have put such a different spin on this year's ACC Tournament that it might come down to which team has the most healthy players left standing.
After Virginia Tech practiced Wednesday at Philips Arena, coach Seth Greenberg said center Victor Davila, who had been listed as questionable, will not play in the tournament. The Hokies open with a 7 o'clock game Thursday against Clemson. Davila, who had missed the last six games with what is described as a hip-groin injury, is a senior averaging 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds.
"I feel so bad for the kid," Greenberg said. "He's given us so much the last three years ... and for him not to have an opportunity to have closure, it's disheartening as a coach."
Davila had three procedures done and nothing has helped. Greenberg said his best hunch is that the injury is a sports hernia.
Two teams have issued statements declaring players are out for the four-day event. For Duke, it's 6-11 junior Ryan Kelly, who sprained his ankle in practice Tuesday. He will be re-evaluated March 12 for his availability for the NCAA Tournament. His loss hurts the second-seeded Blue Devils where they can least afford it, in the front court. Kelly rotates with Mason Plumlee and Miles Plumlee, although he's more of a perimeter-oriented big man.
For Virginia, freshman guard Malcolm Brogdon is through for the season with a broken bone in his foot. He underwent surgery Wednesday. Coach Tony Bennett, who had already lost post player Assane Senen to injury and then suspension, is down to a seven-man rotation. Paul Jesperson is the perimeter sub and Darion Atkins is the interior sub. Both are freshmen.
"I told (the players) the stage is set," Bennett said. "It would be even more memorable or more special if you can push through and get to post-season play, do well in the ACC Tournament. The greater the challenges, the greater the reward and how much more gratifying it is."
RAINES EMERGES: With Davila out, the Hokies have gotten good play from 6-9 Cadarian Raines. In those six games Raines is averaging 11 points and 4.7 rebounds.
"We're getting him the ball more," Greenberg said. "He's playing more minutes, playing through his mistakes, he's gaining confidence, he's got a big body, he's doing a nice job of catching the ball in traffic, he's playing off the ball screen really well."
Raines played a limited role as a freshman, averaging 1.5 points and 1.8 rebounds in 21 games because he was bothered by a bad foot. He hurt it again early last season and appeared in only four games, gaining a medical redshirt.
He endured two surgeries on his left foot but the bone didn't heal until electric shock therapy stimulated more circulation. Raines said everything feels fine now and he never doubted he would eventually get on the court.
"My family and everybody stayed with me and made sure I had a positive attitude," he said. "I never really thought that I was done, I was just waiting on my opportunity to come back.
"In the beginning (of the season) I felt like I was playing catch-up but now I've got my opportunity and I feel like I'm ready. I learned that it can be taken away at any time and I should just be gracious for my opportunities that I get. I've got two more years to show everybody I can play basketball and I'm happy about that."
By the way, Raines said he didn't feel the shock treatment because he was put to sleep.
"I don't really know what they did to me," he said, "but it worked."
GOOD HEALTH NEWS: The one team to get good news on the injury front was Clemson. Coach Brad Brownell said guard Tanner Smith, who took a hard fall in the regular-season finale against Florida State, has been cleared to play against Virginia Tech.
Smith said he landed on his neck and upper back and a whiplash effect left him woozy. He missed two days of practice and then went through several tests for a concussion, which he passed.
"I'm feeling a lot better," he said. "I was able to practice fully today, all the contact stuff. I just made sure I didn't do anything crazy and get my head hit. I'm not light-headed at all.
"I've taken it smart and kind of slow. I was going to make sure I did everything I could to get back on the court. Luckily it wasn't as severe as it could have been."
PROUD SON, PROUD DAD: There will be a Hall of Famer in Phillips today when Barry Larkin comes to watch his son, freshman guard Shane Larkin, play for Miami against Georgia Tech in the 9 o'clock game.
Barry Larkin, who was in the most recent class elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, lives in Orlando and has been able to see his son play most of the Hurricanes' home games.
Shane Larkin said his father was a pretty good basketball player, a defensive-minded point guard who was recruited by Maryland. He never saw any tape on his father and only remembers one story.
"He did tell me he dunked one game," Shane said. "He surprised himself because he only dunked one time ever. He tried it again on the next play and he got hung up and he was done trying to dunk."
As for playing baseball, Shane Larkin gave it up at age 7. He said a coach criticized his batting style, which involved a lot of bat-waving, just as he had been taught by his dad and fellow Cincinnati Reds Tony Perez and Pete Rose.
"It just really upset me and I never played baseball, ever, after that," he said.
Shane Larkin knows no matter what he does in basketball some people will always just consider him Barry's son. And he's OK with that.
"I'm very proud to be his son," he said. I know we're not in the same sport, but it's a great accomplishment for him to be recognized as one of the best baseball players ever to play the game. He deserves it; he put in the work, he was never commercial, he was never `oh, look at me, I'm a superstar.' He was low-key and just did the job and it paid off.
"I think I'm establishing myself. He was a great athlete and I'm always going to be his son, I'm always going to have a Hall of Fame dad. It's just something I had to learn to brush off my shoulders and not worry about it."
As for the way his game has developed, Larkin said he has had his ups and downs.
"I've had some good scoring games and not played well defensively, I've had some good defensive games and not played well on the offensive end," he said. "Trying to get consistent in every game is something I really need to work on and hopefully for the rest of the year I remain consistent on both sides of the ball."
COOL RESTORED: Although Florida State's Bernard James is moving on from his ejection for kicking Virginia's Joe Harris two weeks ago, he was willing to discuss it Wednesday.
Most people were surprised that the 27-year-old former Air Force veteran, who served a tour in Iraq, would lose his cool like that. And frankly, he was, too.
"It was a really hard collision and the way he fell he was on top of my leg, I just reacted," James said. "It was a horrible reaction and I tried to stop myself but I still nipped him a little bit. I knew I was getting ejected as soon as I did it.
"I felt like an idiot. I guess I let my emotions get the best of me. We were in a heated game and it was really physical. How I've carried myself all along, maintaining control, I learned there's not any malicious intent when things like that happen. So just keep it under control and keep playing."
Bill Hass is a long-time observer of ACC sports. His career at the Greensboro News & Record spanned 36 years, from 1969 until his retirement in March 2006. He is now writing "Bill Hass on the ACC" for theACC.com. His weekly columns will keep fans plugged in to the Atlantic Coast Conference.
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