Few injuries this season will be more cruel than the ACL tear Virginia Tech forward J.T. Thompson suffered in practice Wednesday.
For Thompson, it's the second straight year that he won't play a single game as a result of a season-ending knee injury. And for Virginia Tech, it's the kind of star-crossed luck that has kept the program from earning an NCAA tournament bid despite four straight seasons of 19 or more wins.
Thompson, the ACC's sixth man of the year in the 2009-10 season, was likely to start at power forward despite being undersized at 6-foot-6. The fifth-year senior is an energetic spark plug-type player who averaged 7.3 points and 4.6 boards per game as a junior and scored in double figures nine times that season.
"I'm deeply disappointed for JT," Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said in a statement. "To think of all he has been through, it's disheartening that bad things happen to good people. Our main focus right now is his health and preparing him for his graduation this December.
"My heart goes out to JT. He has been a model student-athlete, despite all the obstacles that he has faced. He was back to playing at or above the level we had expected of him following last season's surgery. Now is not the time to discuss a sixth year."
What Virginia Tech will have to do now in Thompson's absence is decide whether it wants to go with a small lineup or a bigger one. Greenberg can place an emphasis on post defense and rebounding with a frontline of 6-8 Victor Davila and 6-9 Cadarian Raines, or he could use 6-foot-7, 218-pound Jarell Eddie as an undersized power forward capable of creating mismatches with his quickness.
The good news for Virginia Tech is that Greenberg has no shortage of experience mixing and matching with a shorthanded roster.
The Hokies narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last season despite finishing the year with only seven scholarship players and just one healthy body taller than 6-foot-7. Greenberg at least has more options this season as he attempts to help his team overcome the injuries and finally hear its name called on Selection Sunday.