FOSTER TAKES CHARGEOffice of Sports Information
In preparing for his first year as head coach of the men's basketball team, Bill Foster had to deal with the loss of three players and the indecision of 1990-91 rebounding leader John Rivers, potentially an important element in this year's campaign. Despite the ups and downs, he never lost his enthusiasm.
"By nature, I am an optimistic person," Foster says, "and I have every reason to believe we will do well. Success, however, is not always measured by wins and losses, especially when you are starting a new program. If we play hard and represent the university well, that will say a lot."
The season started with some disappointments, including losses to Richmond, California, and William and Mary, but it had its bright spots as well. The Hokies beat George Mason, and then scored an exciting overtime win over George Washington just before the team took a break for exams.
Since Foster replaced Frankie Allen last April, he has confronted plenty of adversity. The most serious blow came when it appeared he had lost Rivers. The forward, who also is a tight end on the Tech football team, announced early in the fall he had decided to pass up his senior season of basketball. Rivers led Tech in rebounds last season with 9 per game. He also added 9.7 points per game. Foster went about preparing the team under the assumption he had lost what was possibly his best returning player. "We will go on without him," Foster said at the time. But then in late October, Rivers decided he simply could not stay away from the hardwoods, a decision that almost certainly will bolster the Hokies' inside game.
Tech will, however, have to make do without swingman Dirk Williams and guard J.J. Burton, both of whom are not in school this semester. Neither one played a prominent role on last year's team, although Williams did show promise his freshman year in 1989-90. The team also lost Rod Wheeler when he was suspended for a year for violating team policy.
Tech also is facing a realigned conference with newcomers South Florida, UNC-Charlotte, and Virginia Commonwealth University replacing departed Memphis State, Cincinnati, and South Carolina.
Foster is working with seven returning players, two transfers, and two walk-ons as he attempts to install an up-tempo game utilizing the fast break when possible. "It is my responsibility to create a game that will be fun for the players and entertaining for the fans," he says.
Foster got his first chance to evaluate the players--with the exception of the walk-ons--in August, when the team took a nine-game tour of the Netherlands and Germany. Tech won four of the games, and Foster was excited about the improvement he saw as the tour progressed.
Foster also was high on the play of forward Thomas Elliott and 7-foot center Erik Wilson. Elliott scored 35 points in a victory over a Russian team, and wound up averaging 16.9 points for the nine games. Wilson rebounded better than at any time last year, when he was second on the team with 5.2 grabs per game. He also contributed points.
"Thomas appears to be reaching his potential now," Foster says. "He showed signs of getting there last season, but he was far more consistent on the European trip."
Other returnees who took the European trip were guard Donald Corker, center Jimmy Carruth, and forward Corey Jackson. Transfers in the traveling party were guard Steve Hall, who came to Virginia Tech from the University of Washington, and forward Johnnie Toolley, who came from Arkansas-Little Rock. The walk-ons, who did not make the trip to Europe, are forward Kevin Krush and guard Andy Reed.
When Foster first came to Tech, he immediately spotted three areas in which the Hokies needed marked improvement, points he stressed during the European tour. "First, we must be a more disciplined team and take better shots," Foster said. "Second, we need to improve our three-point shooting. Finally, we must spend a lot of time in the weight room and become a more physical team."
The new coach also is stressing chemistry.
"That's big with me," Foster says. "Chemistry is important both on the court and off. You can't have good chemistry on the court if players aren't sticking together in their academic pursuits and in other ways. If we can have 10 guys playing as a team when the other club has just six or seven, then we've got a good chance to win."
1992 Basketball Schedule Jan. 4 OLD DOMINION 1 p.m. Jan. 8 at UNC-Charlotte 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11 VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH 3 p.m. Jan. 16 at Tulane 8 p.m. Jan. 18 at Southern Miss. 3 p.m. Jan. 23 EAST CAROLINA 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 LOUISVILLE 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1 at South Florida 7 p.m. Feb. 5 UVA at Roanoke 7:30 p.m. Feb. 10 at George Mason 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13 SOUTHERN MISS. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15 TULANE 1 p.m. Feb. 20 at VCU 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 SOUTH FLORIDA 3 p.m. Feb. 24 at Liberty 7:30 p.m. Feb. 29 UNC-CHARLOTTE 5 p.m. Mar. 2 at East Carolina 7:30 p.m. Mar. 7 at Louisville 2 p.m. Mar. 13-15 Metro Conference Tourn.,Louisville, Ky.
Five inducted into Sports Hall of Fame
The Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame in October inducted four former athletes and a former Virginia Tech information director for their achievements and contributions to the university. Inducted were:
- Mac Banks, one of the greatest sprinters in the history of track and field at the university; now an assistant professor of management at Mississippi State University. When his athletic career ended in 1972, Banks held records in the 100, 220, and 400 yard dashes.
- Al Casey, a running back whose slashing runs helped make Virginia Tech's 1932 football team one of the country's best. Casey was elected to the Virginia State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1982, shortly before his death.
- Lewis Mills, the point guard who captained the Hokies in 1959-60 and helped change the course of Tech basketball. Mills became head coach at University of Richmond from 1963-73, then went to Virginia Commonwealth where he served as athletic director until 1986. He is currently director of sales and marketing for H.I. Management Services Inc. of Richmond.
- Joe Moran was the hard-hitting center and captain of the Virginia Tech football teams of the mid-20s and a Texaco sales executive. He lived in Dublin, Ga., until his death.
- Wendy Weisand served as Virginia Tech's sport information director for 22 years, until he left to act as curator of the Virginia Tech Newman Library archives. Now retired, Weisand still resides in Blacksburg.
Virginia Tech Magazine Volume 14, Number 2 Winter 1992