Tuesday, April 1st, 1997

I took a long Easter weekend, but a quick perusal of the papers on my return revealed quite a bit of Hokie news that occurred over the weekend, and some of it was good news - very good. Seeing as how I've got your undivided attention, with the message board being down for the weekend, here's your latest Hokie fix, without further ado!

(and there are no April Fool's Day jokes here, because Hokie sports is serious stuff!)

Ace Gets Scouts' Attention at All-Star Game

As you may have heard (I neglected to report it here at Hokie Central), Ace Custis was invited to participate in the East West All-Star Game sponsored by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The game took place at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis on Friday, and was described by Jack Bogaczyk of The Roanoke Times as "a staple of the Final Four weekend."

The players that are invited to play in this game are among the best in college basketball. We're talking pro prospect material here, and in a game won 105-94 by the East, Ace put in a great performance for the East squad. The Hokies' #20 started for the East and finished with a signature double-double: 18 points and 10 rebounds. One NBA scout who attended the game said the next day that the two players who helped their NBA stock the most in the game were Ace and Thaddeous Delaney of the College of Charleston.

The weekend also included tickets to the Final Four, so Ace was doing more than just playing basketball out in Indianapolis - he was having fun, too. Next up for most NBA prospects is next weekend's Portsmouth (Va) Invitational, followed by the Nike Desert Classic in Phoenix in mid-April and the NBA Pre-Draft Camp in Chicago in late May. Custis is scheduled to participate in all of those events.

Orange Bowl Hospitality Chairman Full of Praise for the Hokies

Saturday's Roanoke Times also included a great letter to the editor from Christopher E. Knight, the Orange Bowl Hospitality Chairman. I had heard that Knight had some very complimentary things to say about the Virginia Tech football team, and he did Tech the favor of spelling out in detail how great the team was in Miami. I wasn't able to find the letter online, but it is a much-needed booster shot for beleagured Hokie fans, and I'm a pretty fast typist, so here is Knight's letter, verbatim:

"On behalf of the Orange Bowl Committee, I just wanted to comment that all Virginians should be proud of the fine group of young gentlemen which visited us this past Orange Bowl season. During my past 18 years of working with the Orange Bowl I have not been associated with a finer group of young men who displayed themselves with such outstanding character and stature as the Hokie team.

"With all the adverse publicity which apparently has appeared in the local media, I wanted to point out what was observed by those of us on the committee who worked with Virgina Tech.

"Not just a few, but the entire team of young gentlemen participated in the 7 a.m. prayer breakfast which is held annually as part of the Orange Bowl Festival. Over 20 seniors made a hospital visit during their precious free time for the purpose of brightening up the day of young sick children in our community. The team hotel stated that they wished that all of their guests had the Southern manners that the players exhibited during their stay. There were no complaints, only numerous compliments on the way the Hokie team dispalyed themselves while in Miami.

"Although Virginia Tech may not have won the football game, they certainly are winners in the eyes of all of us on the Orange Bowl Committee."

Christopher E. Knight
Chairman, Orange Bowl Hospitality

There's not really a lot I can add to that folks, except to tell you that the other day, I saw a story on Channel 10 about Ken Oxendine, Jay Hagood, and two other Hokies visiting kids at a local elementary school. They spoke to the kids and signed little plastic footballs for them. Later, there was a scene in which Oxendine was being interviewed, and he spoke about how sports figures are role models, and how important it is to put forth a good image, and ... well, you know what a class act the Ox is. Let's just say that I didn't jump out of the crowd at the Roanoke Airport after the Miami game and give him a big bear hug because I thought he was a jerk.

Football Team Holds First Scrimmage

The football team scrimmaged on Saturday, and unfortunately, Tech's heir apparent at QB, Al Clark, didn't distinguish himself. Al completed just two of eight passes for 16 yards. As for the other signal-callers, Mike Kocicka was 3-for-4 for 13 yards, while redshirt freshman Nick Sorenson was 2-for-4 for 40 yards, including a 28-yarder to Shawn (The MAN) Scales. There was no mention of running back stats in the report I saw.

All in all, it was a day for the defense. Rover Phillip Summers and linebacker Sean Ruffing, both redshirted as freshmen last year, each had a sack. Summers had four tackles and Ruffing three, while Pierson Prioleau had an interception (not sure who it was courtesy of).

Keener Returns to Tech as Hussey's Assistant

That answers that question (the question? "Who is going to be the new assistant on the Hokie basketball coaching staff now that Bobby Hussey is the head coach?"). Tech has hired former Hokie assistant Dean Keener away from Southern Methodist to fill the vacancy.

At least, that's what The Roanoke Times was reporting on Sunday, although it had not been officially announced by any of the parties involved (Tech, Hussey, or Keener), and there was no confirmation on Monday from the newspaper.

Keener was a part-time assistant on Bill Foster's staff until two years ago, when SMU hired him for a full-time job. An interesting side note is that Keener was a player for Hussey when Hussey coached at Davidson. Chris Ferguson is Tech's other full-time aid, while Scott Davis is the part-timer (I don't know if Davis was a candidate for the position Keener is going to be hired into, but I imagine that if he was, being passed over like this can't be easy for him to take).

In any event, Keener is the man, although it still isn't official, to my knowledge. Hussey must have seen traits in Keener as a player and as a coach that he liked enough to go after him.


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