Virginia Tech loses leading rebounder Chris Clarke for season with torn ACL

Clarke drives through the lane during a February loss at Miami. (AP)
Clarke drives through the lane during a February loss at Miami. (AP)

One day after arguably its biggest win of the season, Virginia Tech received a similarly big blow: Chris Clarke, a starter and the team’s leading rebounder, tore his left ACL in Sunday’s game, and is out for the season.

Clarke, a multi-talented sophomore forward who plays bigger than his 6-foot-6 frame, was averaging 11.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game in nearly 29 minutes. He also led the Hokies with 1.3 steals per game.

The announcement from the program comes less than 24 hours after the Hokies beat No. 12 Virginia in double overtime Sunday night at Cassell Coliseum, a win that definitively pushed them onto the right side of the bubble.

“Our hearts hurt for Chris,” coach Buzz Williams said in a statement. “He has worked really hard to become an outstanding player and an incredibly important teammate to what we are trying to build. I am confident that he will turn this situation into good and return next year an even better player, better student and better person.”

Clarke was emblematic of Virginia Tech’s strength. He is an outstanding athlete, could guard multiple positions, and more than held his own playing as an undersized four for Williams and the Hokies. That’s not to say Virginia Tech doesn’t have other weapons who can step up in his stead; it does, and is one of the more balanced teams in the ACC. But Clarke was a key contributor for a team that still needs wins to secure its postseason fate.

The victory over Virginia pushed Virginia Tech’s record to 17-7 overall and 6-6 in conference play. The Hokies travel to Pittsburgh Tuesday before trekking west to take on No. 8 Louisville on Saturday.