2022 Women's Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship

Baha Mar Hoops: Virginia Tech's Kitley Is The Center Of Attention

Baha Mar Hoops: Virginia Tech's Kitley Is The Center Of Attention

Virginia Tech's Elizabeth Kitley just might be the best center in college basketball, and her play to open the 2022 Baha Mar reinforces that.

Nov 21, 2022 by Kyle Kensing
Baha Mar Hoops: Virginia Tech's Kitley Is The Center Of Attention

Opening-day competition at the Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flaming Championship reinforced an increasingly undeniable truth: Elizabeth Kitley delivers everything a team could want from a traditional center, and then some. 

In particular, Kitley demonstrated the capacity of her game over one impressive sequence early into Virginia Tech's 82-74 win over Kentucky. She knocked down a jumper for the first two of her 25 points on the day, grabbed a rebound and sent the outlet to turn the Wildcats' miss into a quick, transition 3-pointer for the Hokies, then recovered the loose ball from her own block of Adebola Adeyeye's shot at the rim before drawing a foul. 

Consider that less-than-two-minute stretch the proverbial elevator pitch for why Kitley just might be the game's premium post player. 

"I feel like I missed a lot more than normal, but I think when I do miss my moves, it helps to get offensive rebounds, putbacks," Kitley said in her postgame interview. "That's what keeps me going: Working hard to get easy points, and the other stuff will come with it." 

In the context of Virginia Tech's Baha Mar Hoops Pink Flamingo Championship win, Kitley's old-school commitment to the glass helped the Hokies convert a critical 19-10 advantage in second-chance points. From a big-picture perspective, Kitley's board work on both sides of the ball is central to Tech's potent offense. 

"We're always one of the top rebounding teams in the conference. That's what we thrive on. You can rebound the basketball, you can kick it out, you can go and start your fast breaks," Hokies coach Kenny Brooks said before the season at ACC media days. 

Kitley has always been an excellent rebounder and a tough rim-protector on defense. But early into the 2022-23 campaign, she's taking her play in both those phases to new heights. 

Her rebounding percentage, per HerHoopStats.com advanced metrics, is up 3.4 percent from a season ago — and last season, she was among the nation's best players in that category. 

Kitley's shot-blocking percentage is up 3.1 percent from last year, and her player defensive rating is No. 16 among all Div. I players. 

And, of course, Kitley is still very much a standout offensive weapon. If that wasn't abundantly clear when she scored 42 points in Virginia Tech's NCAA Tournament matchup with Florida Gulf Coast last March — Eagles coach Karl Smesko said following the contest, "that's why she's an All-American post player" — the Hokie center is confirming it now. 

The FGCU game is also pertinent to Virginia Tech's performance this season in that the Hokies are looking for the historic NCAA Tournament an early-round loss to the Eagles denied them a season ago. 

The Baha Mar contributes to Brooks' vision of using the early portion of the 2022-23 docket to prepare Virginia Tech for March. 

"We felt like we came up a little bit short last year in being able to host," he said during ACC media days "If you're able to host it gives you a better path to get to the Sweet 16. I think we came up a little bit short. We wanted to strengthen our schedule not only for that purpose, but also to prepare us, prepare us for the ACC, the regimen of that schedule."

Certainly challenging games are important for preparing a team for the level of competition it will see late in the season, but those games only contribute to an NCAA Tournament profile when they lead to some quality wins. 

Kitley's all-around terrific play against Kentucky, and the Hokies' second Baha Mar contest against Missouri, are building blocks for the program's aspirations as the campaign unfolds. 

And at the center of it all throughout will be Elizabeth Kitley.