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Tech Talk Tuesday (football season only)
When: every Tuesday from 7:05-8:30
Station:  AM 910 in Richmond

Monday, January 21, 2002
by Apex Hokie

(Editor's note: we apologize for the delay in posting this week's Hokie Hotline notes)

Monday’s Hokie Hotline featured discussions on both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. Coach Bonnie Henrickson and radio announcer Cory Provis began the show talking about the women’s team, and Coach Ricky Stokes followed in the second half of the show.

News of the Day

  • The women’s basketball team moved up to #16 in Monday's AP Top 25 poll. They were ranked #17 in the Coach’s Top 25 poll. Connecticut, whom the Hokies play twice this season, remained as the #1 team in both polls.
  • The 2002 Big East football schedule is expected to be released by next week’s Hokie Hotline show, and Athletic Director Jim Weaver will appear to discuss it.

Women’s Basketball

The women’s team was coming off a win over St. John’s on Saturday, but Coach Henrickson said that she felt that the team can still play better. She wants the team to play every time out like they did against Boston College. In the second half of the St. John’s game, she felt like the shot selection wasn’t as good as in the first half, in which the team shot 64%. She feels like the problems were addressed in an extensive film study on Monday, and they’re looking toward the Syracuse game on Wednesday night (editor's note: Tech lost to Syracuse 75-59 Wednesday night).

Tech defeated Syracuse in Blacksburg 62-56 in early January, but since then, Syracuse has posted a few quality wins, including a game against Georgetown in which they shot 13 of 22 from 3-point range. Henrickson said that Syracuse has good balance in their offense and is led by Julie McBride, a player who was leading the conference in scoring prior to the first match-up, in which she scored just 5 points.

Going into a break, the group discussed Connecticut, which defeated a good Notre Dame team, the defending national champions, 83-51 over the weekend. Connecticut is a very talented team, and has been beating some good teams very badly. Virginia Tech will face the Huskies next week at Cassell Coliseum.

The group discussed the early losses that the team suffered against LSU and Virginia. In a way, Henrickson said, those losses helped the team to understand and work on some of its weaknesses, which will only help them in the remainder of the season. She also pointed out the attention is a lot less than in a season such as 1998-99 in which Tech was the last undefeated team in women’s basketball. With the situation this year, not as many people are recognizing the team’s accomplishments.

The group discussed a number of the players, including Chrystal Starling, Ieva Kublina, Sarah Hicks and Erin Gibson. Chrystal Starling is from the Syracuse area, but Henrickson feels this year’s trip will be a lot easier for her. She’s already traveled up to her hometown last year and knows a little of what to expect. She’s already answered the questions about why she wanted to leave rather than play at Syracuse. In the past she has said that she just needed to get away from home for college.

Ieva Kublina, they said, is becoming one of the best players in the conference. She’s good on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. She’s very talented and continues to work to improve her game. Later in the show, Henrickson also talked about some plays that the team has to get Ieva some 3-point shots. She’s also likely to get more as her defenders ignore her ability on the perimeter.

Cory Provis pointed out that Sarah Hicks’s scoring has gone down in recent games while her assists have gone up. He asked if that was a plan, but Henrickson said that it wasn’t. She said that it was a result of Sarah recognizing that she didn’t have good shots and seeing an opportunity for other players. Henrickson said that she’s a good passer and understands the game well, which has led to this recent change.

Erin Gibson has become a fantastic freshman player for the team this season. Henrickson said that she is very happy with her development and said that she is a very skilled player with great footwork, a 6’- 7" wingspan and fantastic hands. She also said that Erin was the third fastest player on the team in a timed mile run. She said that she didn’t know whether to be happy for Erin or upset at the rest of the team, but that she was very pleased with Erin’s efforts this season.

A member of the audience asked about the team’s alumni weekend. Coach Henrickson said that it says a lot about the program for so many players to come back each year, and that it’s good for everyone involved. She also said that the alumni game was probably better than the "real" game that afternoon against St. John’s. Unfortunately, Henrickson said that she had to be the bad guy when she put Lisa Witherspoon and Amy Wetzel on different teams. She said that if she let them be on the same team, no one would ever come back to these alumni weekends.

Finally, Bill Roth brought up the recruiting class that has signed for next year, which has been rated in the top 10 in the country. Henrickson discussed some of the players, including at least one who may be selected for an all-American game. Roth asked about the main things that she uses in recruiting. Henrickson said that she stresses quality education, a tough Big East conference and tough non-conference games, fan support and a good environment with a safe campus. She also admitted that she probably recruits a little differently than some of the men’s teams, but that some aspects, such as education, are probably used by all of the coaches.

Men’s Basketball

Coach Stokes joined the program and began with a discussion of the most recent games, including the weekend game on the road at Boston College. He said that the team had been in the game with about three minutes left to play, but that they were a couple of plays away from being able to win it. He said that he was pleased with the effort from the players and that the team will continue to practice hard in an effort to get better and finish the season strong. Late in the show, he acknowledged that free throw shooting had been a real problem. He said the team spent about 30 minutes shooting in the back gym in Monday’s practice.

Roth pointed out that the team has committed 27 personal fouls in the past two games in a row and that some of the fouls appeared to be frustration-type fouls. Stokes said that the Big East is a tough, physical league, but that the BC game, in particular, wasn’t as physical as some of the other games that he’s seen. He said that there needs to be an adjustment when the team sees that the game is being called a little differently than they expect. He’s also told the players not to worry about the foul calls, and to "just play."

The next opponent for the Hokies is Syracuse on the road at the Carrier Dome. Stokes credited a tough 2-3 zone defense, talented players and a good program with solid tradition as the key reasons why they are such a tough team. Roth also discussed Coach Boeheim’s stubbornness with the team. He said that he doesn’t shoot around on the road and rarely ever changes his line-up mid-season. Stokes said that the team will have Tuesday off and will practice Wednesday and Thursday before traveling to Syracuse on Friday for the Saturday game.

Roth brought up the fact that Tech will play four teams this season that are coached by some of the winningest active coaches in the country. These schools include Mt. St. Mary’s, Connecticut, Syracuse and West Virginia. Like Tech, West Virginia is also struggling this year, and Roth mentioned that two newspaper writers had recently called for Gale Catlett’s job. Stokes said that Catlett was a very good coach with a great mind who was always prepared and had taken the team to the Sweet 16 just a few years ago. On the current situation, Stokes said that it "boggles my mind."

Questions from the audience covered subjects such as Mike Gentry’s work with the men’s basketball team and Mibindo Dongo’s contributions to the team. Stokes said that Gentry had been working with the men’s basketball team since the departure of the previous coach who took the head position at Ohio University, and that he thought he was doing a "fantastic job." Roth pointed out that the team appeared stronger, as evidenced by their second place standing in rebounding in the conference. Stokes said that it had been an area that they had focused on from last season.

On Mibindo Dongo’s situation, Stokes said that Dongo gives the team a lot when he is on the floor and that he needs to find him more playing time, but that it’s often difficult to have two big men on the floor at the same time in the Big East. He said that Terry Taylor has given the team a real boost in scoring, and that Dongo has often been the first off the bench. Stokes and Roth discussed the difference in the Big East conference from the Atlantic-10, and they mentioned that the Big East is often thought of as being a very physical league, but that there aren’t many teams that have a second big man on the floor. The Atlantic-10 had many teams that used at least two big men in the game at the same time, but Big East teams generally have a more athletic player at the #4 position.

Miscellaneous Notes

  • The 2001 Tech football highlight video, "Keep On Rolling," premiered following Monday’s program.
  • One member of the audience said that she had worked with two of the players, Carlton Carter and Barrett Watson, in the classroom, and that both were doing extremely well. Coach Stokes echoed those sentiments and said that the academic part of the student-athlete experience is just as important as the athletic part. He mentioned that Watson had already graduated and accepted a job in Raleigh, and that the employer had agreed to let him stay in Blacksburg while taking some classes in order to participate with the basketball team.
  • Following a break, Roth and Stokes discussed the 1984 Syracuse-Virginia game in the NCAA tournament. Roth was a freshman at Syracuse that year and Stokes was a senior on the Virginia basketball team. Stokes had to guard Pearl Washington in that game, which the Cavaliers won on the way to the Final Four, where they lost to Houston.
  • Monday was Day 835 in Virginia Tech’s continuous possession of the Commonwealth Cup, and Day 1,179 in Tech's possession of the Black Diamond Trophy.

-- Apex Hokie


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