Virginia Tech's Jarell Eddie didn't know as of Tuesday afternoon if he will start Thursday night against No. 6 Duke, or if he's destined to come off the bench for a third consecutive game. He's still trying to find a comfort zone shooting the ball in either role, but he might be getting closer.
After scoring 17 points last Saturday in Tech's 90-86 overtime loss at North Carolina State, he may be regaining some of the poise that vanished after enduring inconsistent shooting in the months of December and January, and through the first two weeks of February.
His teammates could use some of that potentially renewed confidence rubbing off, as Tech heads into one of its most challenging games of the season against Duke (22-3 overall, 9-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) in the midst of an eight-game losing streak.
"You've just got to embrace whatever role coach gives you," said Eddie, a 6-foot-7 junior who's averaging 13 points per game while shooting just 40.5 percent from the floor.
"You've just got to take it. I signed up to play basketball (at Tech), and roles are going to be changed and switched around sometimes."
If Tech (11-14, 2-10) aspires to hang with Duke, which is 11th in the nation in points per game (78.1), first in the ACC in turnover margin (plus-3.84 per game), second in the conference in field-goal percentage (47.2) and third in 3-point field-goal percentage (40.4), it'll need more of what Eddie had to offer in Raleigh, N.C.
Eddie's effort at N.C. State included 11 points in the last 10 seconds of regulation and in overtime. He shot 7 of 13 from the floor in the game, including 3 of 5 on 3-pointers. It was only the fifth time in Tech's last 20 games he'd shot better than 42 percent from the floor.
"Hopefully, that was a wake-up call," said Tech's Erick Green, who is leading the nation with an average of 25.3 points per game. "I think he wants his spot back. He wants to be on the court and he's going to have to start producing. I think that was a wake-up call for Jarell and I think he'll be back for Thursday night."
Duke had a six-game winning streak snapped Saturday in an 83-81 loss at Maryland. While Green has a shot to win ACC player of the year honors, the possible player of the year favorite will be in Blacksburg on Thursday in the form of Duke forward Mason Plumlee, who is averaging 17.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game while shooting 59.5 percent from the floor.
Plumlee is second in the conference in scoring, while teammate Seth Curry is third with 16.9 points per game. Guard Quinn Cook is chipping in 12.3 points per game.
Green certainly has the attention of Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.
"As a result of his ability to score, he creates opportunities for his teammates to score because he draws so much attention," said Krzyzewski, whose team has beaten Tech in four consecutive meetings. "To draw that attention and still score the way he does is remarkable."
While Green continues his prolific scoring, Eddie is just hoping some of his success at N.C. State can carry over.
In Tech's three games before N.C. State, against Maryland, Georgia Tech and at Virginia, Eddie shot a combined 2 of 21 from floor, including 1 of 14 from 3-point range. His frustration boiled over Feb. 9 in Virginia Tech's 64-54 home loss to Georgia Tech.
After missing his first six shots, including all four of his 3-point attempts, Eddie went to the bench with 17 minutes, 18 seconds left in the game. He slammed a water bottle to the floor in frustration, causing it to burst and create a mess that delayed the game for clean up.
He wouldn't return to the floor in that game, playing just 12 minutes. It was also the last game he's started.
"He just hasn't been playing up to my expectations for him, and (walk-on) Will (Johnston) has come in and is playing by my standards a little better than Eddie," said Tech coach James Johnson, who acknowledged he was pleased with Eddie's performance against N.C. State. "I've got to play the guy who I think is giving us the productivity we need at that certain time."
Eddie, who is shooting 35.2 percent from 3-point range and also averaging 5.9 rebounds per game, plans to make improvements after Tech's nightmarish season is over.
"I've had some good games, had some bad games — just inconsistent," Eddie said. "That's something I'm going to really work on in the offseason. … This season for me has been a tough one. I've got a lot of room to improve."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times