Work ethic drives this Lady Hokie
by Ed Moore
You can take the player from the court, but you can't take the court out of the player. Right now, Virginia Tech's Christi Osborne is probably practicing on some court in her native Burlington, Ky. She is spotting up from three-point land or working on one of those patented drives to the hoop in which she pulls up, twists her body in the air, and, leaning to her right, hits all net.
Christi Osborne works the game, plays the game. Since she arrived in Blacksburg, Osborne has never let up, wringing the maximum effort from her lanky 5-10 frame. She has parlayed her work ethic into a host of athletic and academic awards.
As a freshman in 1991-92, Osborne was a unanimous selection to the Metro Conference's All-Rookie team. She started 20 of the Lady Hokies' 28 games when injuries sidelined several starters. Osborne announced her presence by scoring 18 points against Illinois in the third game of her collegiate career. From there, she scored in double figures 13 more times. Tech's youngster netted 20 points against Virginia Commonwealth and twice hit double figures in rebounds in conference games. She also averaged 5.1 rebounds per game mostly by racing through the defense for weak-side rebounds.
In the Metro Tournament, she collected 14 points and seven rebounds in Tech's upset win over UNC Charlotte and notched 20 points against Southern Mississippi to earn Metro All-Tournament honors. She was the only freshman named to the team.
Between seasons, she worked out on the Kentucky courts. As a freshman, she knocked down nine three-pointers, but knew she could improve her range from behind the arc. As a sophomore this past season, Osborne sank 24 treys in 60 attempts to help the Lady Hokies finish 12th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage. Tech head coach Carol Alfano, the 1993 Metro Conference Coach of the Year, said, "Christi is one of the best kids I've ever coached in terms of work ethic. She constantly is trying to improve her game. Last year, she was the perimeter player we went to for the three."
As a sophomore, Osborne averaged 13.7 points per game and dished out 3.3 assists per game, which ranked her eighth in the league. When Virginia Tech played Tulane, she set a career-high with 21 points. Osborne improved on that record with a sensational performance against Louisville in which she sliced through the Lady Cardinal defense for jump shot after jump shot on her way to a 24-point outing. She also set career bests for assists with eight and steals with four in that game as Tech beat Louisville for the first time in six meetings. Later in the season, the Kentuckian rifled in 27 points at Southern Mississippi to break her personal record a third time.
She was named to the All-Metro Conference second team along with classmate Jenny Root. Virginia Tech won a school record 20 games, finished second in the Metro to record its highest finish ever, and delighted the home folk by winning 12 straight games in Cassell Coliseum.
Osborne continued her conference hot streak by being named to the All-Tournament Team at the Metro's championship event for the second year in a row. In the first round, she blitzed South Florida for 23 points and 13 rebounds and scored 12 points against Louisville in the semifinals. She has now been named to the all-tournament team in the last four tournaments in which Tech has played. The forward earned honors at the Duke Classic and Diamond Club Classic in between her Metro Tournament performances.
The rising junior's academic accolades are stacking up almost as fast as her athletic awards. Osborne, an early childhood development major, was named to the GTE District III Academic All-America team in February with the help of a 3.88 cumulative grade-point average. She was the only sophomore named to the five-person team. In earning a place on the team, she joined Amy Byrne as the only Lady Hokie to win All-Metro and GTE District III Academic All-America honors in the same year.
The Metro Conference named her the female Student-Athlete of the Month for December and named her to the Commissioner's List at the tournament awards banquet after she posted a 4.0 grade point average during the fall semester.
"There is never an assignment she won't handle," Alfano said. "On a given night, we may ask her to score, guard the other team's best player, or get the ball inside to our post players. She is the consummate team player."
Coach Alfano labels Osborne a "rare kid in a coaching career." On Tech's last visit to Richmond, the fans at VCU said she is fun to watch. She is both a team player and a star. She has worked hard to make it that way.
Men's basketball: future looks brighter
by Jack Williams
Although Virginia Tech's freshman-dominated team struggled to a 10-18 record last season, Metro Conference coaches seem to be in agreement that a bright future lies ahead for the Hokies.
"I think in the years ahead the Metro Conference title may be decided in Blacksburg," said Tulane's Perry Clark after the Green Wave had scored a close victory in Cassell Coliseum last campaign.
Southern Mississippi's M.K. Turk echoed those sentiments, also after a win in Blacksburg. "This is a tough time for Virginia Tech right now," he said. "But it's a plus for Tech playing so many freshmen. They have a bright future."
Coach Foster agrees the best lies ahead, but that does little to ease the sting of this past year's late-season woes. After easing above .500 with a 8-7 record in early February, the Techmen lost 10 of their last 11 regular season contests.
The Hokies, however, showed perhaps their best form of the year in the Metro Conference Tournament at Louisville. It was there that the team seemed to come together and the result was an upset win over 21st ranked Tulane, 64-55. Freshmen played key roles with Shawn Smith, Shawn Good, and Jim Jackson combining to score 37 of the team's 64 points.
The Hokies were 8-6 in nonconference games in 1992-93. The highlight of the regular season came in mid-year, when Tech toppled arch-rival Virginia at the Richmond Coliseum, 59-56. Tech trailed, 40-24, with 17 minutes left in that game, but staged a furious rally to outscore the Cavaliers, 35-13, the rest of the way.
Tech had five freshmen playing key roles throughout the season, and one of them, Shawn Smith, was instrumental in the win over Virginia. He scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. It was his three-point play with 47 seconds left that iced the win for the Hokies.
Smith had some other big games, too. He had 16 rebounds in a loss at Tulane-the second highest total ever recorded by a Tech player in a Metro Conference game-and made the conference all-freshman team.
Each of the newcomers performed well at times, but their inconsistency and lack of experience really showed as the season progressed. Two freshmen, Jim Jackson and Good, were regular starters. Smith and another first-year man, Damon Watlington, started nine games each. The fifth freshman who saw extensive playing time was frontcourter Travis Jackson. All of these players should become even stronger forces on the upcoming team.
Tech also will have the services next season of four other new players. One of the best is Ace Custis, who sat out with knee problems last season. Two other freshmen, Delwyn Dillard and Dwayne Archbold, were redshirted last season. Entering the Tech program as a freshman this year will be a highly-touted 6-10 frontcourter from San Antonio, Texas, Brandon Price.
While the freshmen were battling for a place in the Tech system last season, junior guard Jay Purcell emerged as the team's leader and best player. He finished the year averaging 10.3 points and 3.9 rebounds a game. He dished out a team-high 101 assists. Purcell had a career-high 25 points in an early season win over East Carolina, and he tallied 21 against West Virginia and 16 against Southern Miss in contests played late in the year.
Foster, in his 26th season as a head coach, got his 450th victory in February last season when the Hokies defeated old rival Virginia Military Institute, 74-44, in Cassell Coliseum. Foster goes into the new season with a career coaching record of 451 wins and 283 losses.
Ed Moore is assistant sports information director.
Jack Williams is director of sports media relations.
Virginia Tech Magazine Volume 15, Number 4 Summer 1993