The Hokie Hotline (football and basketball season)
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Tech Sports Tonight (football season only)
(previously Tech Talk Tuesday)
When: every Tuesday from 7:00-9:00
Station:  WXGI AM 950 in Richmond
Internet: (click on WXGI LIVE!)
Local call-in number: 345-0950
Toll free call-in number: 877-994-4950

Monday, February 10, 2003
by Will Stewart,

Monday night's Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline show originated from Miami, where the men's basketball team was preparing to play the Miami Hurricanes Tuesday night. The show featured Virginia Tech Associate Athletic Director John Ballein, women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson, and men's basketball coach Ricky Stokes.

Prior to any guests being on the air, Barek in Blacksburg called and asked how this year's football recruiting class ranks with previous recruiting classes. Bill Roth gave the standard "we won't know for several years" answer, and he talked about how strong the 1998 class was, with Vick at the top, but also with players like Willie Pile, who was ranked #31 in the state by the Roanoke Times but became an All-Big East player.

Roth noted that the Hokies didn't have any top-5 (in the state) QB's or running backs in this year's class, but did at other positions. He said that from 1988 to 1996, VT only signed four top-5 players in the state (so of the 45 players available who were top 5 from '88 to '96, VT only got four: Tyrone Robertson, Ken Oxendine, Cornell Brown, and Maurice DeShazo), while UVa signed the #1 player "like, nine years in a row." But in the last three years, Tech has signed eight of the fifteen top-5 players available.

Coach Bonnie Henrickson's Segment

Coach Henrickson started by thanking the large, enthusiastic crowd the Hokies had against Notre Dame, and she talked about how big it was to beat the Irish, who have won Big East and national championships.

Against ND, the Hokies were 5 of 26 (19%) in the first half. Bonnie said she felt the team could have worked a little harder at getting better shots and playing with better pace, and that's what she told them at half time. In the second half, Tech shot 9 of 23 (39.1%).

With three weeks left to go in the season, Tech has 16 wins and is hoping to go at least 6-2 in their last 8 games. The Hokies will next play Georgetown, who is missing one of their best players with a stress fracture, on Wednesday night in Blacksburg. Bonnie called the Hoyas "athletic and dangerous." G-Town is 13-7 overall, 4-5 in conference, and #68 in the RPI ratings (Tech is currently 24th).

The Hokies have three quality RPI games down the stretch (three against Top 20 RPI teams Villanova, Rutgers, and Boston College), which will help them make the NCAA tournament. Last year, Tech didn't have quality games as the season wound down, and they complicated their problems by losing many of them.

Roth and Burnop talked with Coach Henrickson about the round-robin way the women's play works in the Big East, with each team playing every other team at least once (on the men's side, because of the divisional split, not every team plays every other team). Henrickson likes it, though some teams only play once instead of twice. She said that there was some talk of playing every team just once and adding more out of conference games, like the SEC does, but she likes the high-RPI games available in-conference and would rather play them, instead of going out of conference.

John Ballein's Segment

John Ballein is the Associate Director of Athletics for Football Operations at VT.

Ballein said that recruiting never stops, noting that the coaches have already met and decided what they're looking for at each position in preparation for recruiting next year.

Ballein reiterated that while many fans want VT to recruit nationally, they are dedicated to recruiting in-state first, and they do it by establishing relationships with the high school coaches around the state. The Hokies have taken their offensive and defensive staffs and have "ganged up" on players the last couple of years, visiting a recruit all at once, and that has worked well. He said that the Tech defensive staff took two charter flights to Chesapeake to recruit linebacker Vince Hall.

Roth repeated the top-5 stat given earlier and asked how it is that VT is having better success. Ballein said that part of what's going on is that Doug Doughty is now ranking players better than he used to, implying that VT has always gotten good players, but now Doughty is ranking them more appropriately.

In his first full year recruiting for VT, Kevin Rogers signed four players (Barry Booker, Michael Hinton, Kory Robertson, and Corey Gordon) to tie for the lead (with Jim Cavanaugh) among the assistant coaches in number of players signed. Ballein said that Rogers did a good job establishing a relationship with Robert Prunty at Hargrave and in general, taking over for Rickey Bustle in-state.

Jim Cavanaugh was talked about as a coach that loves recruiting (Ballein said that Cav hates flying small planes, so he drives and saves VT money). Cavanaugh does a very good job establishing relationships with the coaches.

Ballein said that with regards to official visits, the Hokies can have a recruit on campus for 48 hours, and can pay for his housing and meals while he is here. If he travels with his parents, VT can pay mileage. In the case of Xavier Adibi, DJ Parker, and Chris Ellis, they flew to VT together on a charter plane and landed right in Blacksburg, enabling the coaches to spend maximum time with those players, who otherwise would have had short weekends.

Each player host gets $30 a night to pay expenses for hosting visiting recruits.

Ballein commented on some of the new recruits:

Vince Hall (Western Branch, Chesapeake, VA): Hall came to VT's summer football camp after his 8th grade year. Ballein coached with Lew Johnston at Western Branch, so he knows Johnston well. Keith Burnell, a Western Branch alum, left VT early, but he had his degree and was treated well while he was at Tech, so that did good things for Tech's relationship with Western Branch and Johnston.

Ballein said one key in recruiting Vince Hall was that late in the process, defensive coordinator Bud Foster traveled to meet Hall (despite the fact that Bryan Stinespring was Hall's primary recruiting coach), and that let Hall know how important he was to the VT program. Western Branch basketball coach Mike Donovan, whom Roth said "has seen a lot of football," told Ballein that Hall is the best football player he has ever seen at Western Branch, including Dre Bly, Shyrone Stith, and Keith Burnell.

Xavier Adibi (Phoebus, Hampton, VA): Adibi is the third younger brother to sign with VT in two years. Adibi liked VT but wanted to make his own name, and the coaches told him he could by playing linebacker and being his own guy. Roth pointed out that Nathaniel and Xavier have never played together on the same team, but have an opportunity to do so this year. Ballein also talked about Brett Warren, Blake's brother, the fourth brother to sign in two years.

Florida head coach Ron Zook was quoted in January as saying about Xavier, "You're not going to go into Virginia and get a player like that away from Virginia Tech."

Chris Ellis (Bethel, Hampton, VA): Ballein said that Ellis "felt at home" at Virginia Tech. Ballein thinks Ellis can be a big-time player and fits the mold of what VT looks for at defensive end.

James Griffin (Pasadena CC, Pasadena, CA, by way of Memphis): Griffin is already in school. Charley Wiles saw him while recruiting Jimmy Williams from Pasadena CC. Griff had committed to LSU early, but decommitted to sign with VT. Griffin is "really behind weight-wise," because it's his first exposure to a good weight program, but he's a good enough athlete to overcome that, Ballein said. They'll get him acclimated academically, work on his strength, and see how he does in spring football.

Corey Gordon (Hargrave Military Academy, Chatham, VA): A Gainesville native, Corey Gordon's family showed up with a Gators logo on their car, and Ballein joked that they would have to change it.

David Clowney (Atlantic Community, Delray Beach, FL): Clowney was recruited because his high school coach called Charley Wiles up and said that people were missing the boat on him. He had an offer from UNC that couldn't be honored because the Tarheels ran out of scholarships, and he also had an offer from Minnesota, Central Michigan, and Toledo. His coach couldn't understand why no other Division 1-A programs were recruiting him. Ballein said the situation with Clowney was very similar to the recruitment of Andre Davis. The Hokies wanted him to come in January, but when Tech lost out on a late WR recruit (Anastasio), that opened a slot for Clowney for the fall.

Michael Brown (Palm Beach Gardens, FL): The Hokies will play Brown at defensive end.

Roth asked if Ballein had ever felt better about the program and the coaching staff, and Ballein paused and said, "I do feel good, but if you start feeling good about yourself, then that's when you start to fall behind." He then talked about getting back to work to continue to improve and strive towards the unachieved goal of winning a national championship.

Ricky Stokes' Segment

Charles (in Roanoke?) called in and asked what kind of defense the Hokie men's basketball team will play against Miami. Stokes said the Hokies will play multiple defenses, mostly with an eye towards stopping 6-9 Darius Rice and guard James Jones. Charles also asked if the staff will do any recruiting down there, and Stokes said, "We can we're going to try to win the game first, though," and worry about recruiting later.

In the last two games, the Hokies had a 21-point victory over defending Big East champion Connecticut and a 17-point win at St. John's, the second-worst loss in over 360 games at home for the Red Storm.

Stokes said they felt good going into the game with UConn, because the staff and players feel they match up well with UConn, and they have had good, close games with the Huskies. With regards to the St. John's game, he talked about how tough a place Alumni Hall is to play, but the team was disappointed with the home loss to St. John's and felt they had something to prove.

Miami is 9-10 overall, 2-6 in the Big East, in seventh (last) place, one full game behind the fifth-place Hokies in the Big East's East Division. Miami is last in the conference in home attendance, averaging just 3,637 fans per game, despite having a brand new $48 million arena and two great players in Rice and Jones.

(For those of you wondering, VT is next to last in attendance, at 4,338 fans per game.)

Jonathan in Blacksburg complimented Coach Stokes on the big home win over UConn and asked what it is that makes a team whip UConn at home by 21 shortly after losing by 30 on the road at Providence. Stokes said the Hokies just didn't get off to a good start against Providence, and things snowballed.

Matt in Charlottesville asked what Stokes saw as the immediate future of VT basketball, and what Tech's chances are to compete for a spot in the Big Dance every year. Stokes said that this year's goals were a winning season and going to the Big East Tournament, and once they achieve that, to win consistently year after year.

Roth asked if it was fair for Tech fans to expect the Hokies to be on the same level, as say, Virginia, over the next 15-20 years. Stokes said he tries not to compare VT with any other program, and he repeated that he wants the team to be consistent and to go to postseason play.

Tech Notes

  • Hokie women's basketball player Ieva Kublina was named co-player of the week in the Big East for her performances against Seton Hall and Notre Dame.
  • The Hokie Hotline football recruiting show will be one week from tonight at Beamer's restaurant in Christiansburg. If you're attending in person, please arrive at 6:30 or earlier to see the season highlight DVD. After the radio show from 7:00-8:30, the football recruiting video (highlights of the players) will be shown at 8:30.
  • The Virginia Tech Sports Today TV show will air its football recruiting show this coming Sunday. The show airs at 10 a.m. on WSLS-10 out of Roanoke, and again on ComCast SportsNet Tuesday afternoon (at time 2:30 pm).
  • The Commonwealth Cup: Monday was Day 1,218 of Tech's continuous possession of the Commonwealth Cup. To celebrate this long string, grab your Commonwealth Cup T-shirt (shown at right -- click the picture to order yours for $16.95).

- Will


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