Tech Talk Live Notes: Virginia Tech Gets A Week Off

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Tyrece Radford, Virginia Tech
Tyrece Radford has improved a lot in his short time at Virginia Tech. (Grant Pearrell)

Tyrece Radford

On how the team stays focused in the classroom with so much else going on…

We have our advisor, Alise [Svihla], who keeps us on track when we’re on the road and when we’re here. She helps us stay ahead in our classes; that’s what she’s all about.

On what he wants to pursue after basketball…

I’m majoring in public health, but I’d like to stay around the game as a physical therapist or a trainer.

On how his life has changed this year after redshirting last year…

Life is good. It’s different. Where I come from, there are a lot of distractions. In order to succeed in life and reach the goals I want to in life, I had to get away from them.

On what he learned in his redshirt year…

I learned from leaders like Justin Robinson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Kerry Blackshear. They helped me slow the game down in my head. Knowing that it was a big jump that I was making, sitting out was a big thing. I knew sitting out one year, I was going to be behind. A lot of people didn’t think I was going to be able to play at this level, so I took that and asked questions about things I didn’t know to try to put it together. It turned out to be fine.

On how some of the struggles he’s encountered have impacted his life…

I took a couple of losses, but I just live slow. I try not to take things too fast and stay to myself and be cool in everything.

On growing up in Baton Rouge…

It was different. It was fun, of course, with Mardi Gras and everything. Like I said, if you want to actually do something, you have to get away from it. You’ll have a little too much fun.

On his game-winner against UNC…

It was big. I know I didn’t score the whole game, but I was just prepared and ready for the situation. When you do get in, it’s your time to shine and you just have to be ready.

On his energy…

It’s just in me. I want to see this team go forward and bring it every game. Hopefully, if I can bring the energy every game, we’ll get off to a better start in those games. Having that type of energy is outstanding and it comes from my team and my coaches pumping that energy into me, so I can go do it every night.

On his nickname, Boots…

The story behind it is crazy. Buzz Williams gave me the name last year. I was walking out of the practice facility back to my dorm, and he just rode up on me in his truck and told me, ‘Your new nickname is Boots.’ I was like, ‘Where does that come from?’ He didn’t tell me until probably midseason. Back in the day, boots were made out of tough leather and I was a tough person. I reminded him of that type of leather.

On Cajun food…

I love it. I like pastalaya. It’s like jambalaya, but it’s made with pasta shells. You can eat it cold or hot and it’s very good.

On his dunk against Wake Forest…

It was a play that Coach drew up. He had just put it in before we went to Wake. I catch it on the wing, look off and drive baseline. That’s what I did, and when I went to the goal, I just thought, ‘I have to try it.’ On the way up, he fouled me and hit my arm. Both his arms actually went across my chest and I lost the ball. I don’t know how I found it, but I just did and continued to dunk. It turned out to be a monster dunk.

On his relationship with Landers Nolley…

When I first came here, he was the first person I talked to. Our relationship got stronger, and as the year went by we just grew closer. We’re roommates, that was everything right there. We were roommates and it just grew from there.

On the “freshman wall” …

I hit the wall hard last year. My conditioning I had here was way different than what I did in Baton Rouge. I was calling my dad in the summer and telling him that I can’t do this.

On bonding with the young guys…

They have a lot of questions. They’re trying to learn from us, and I have to remind them that I’m a freshman too, but I’ve just been here a year longer. I try to help them out as best as I can.

Virginia Tech, Ace Custis
Ace Custis is back on the bench in Blacksburg. (Jon Fleming)

Ace Custis

On being honored this weekend as part of Alumni Weekend…

This past weekend was great. It’s always great to have the old players back, unite, share some old memories and see the players that we have on the roster here today. Just to see everybody back and having a joyous weekend made for a great time.

On the former players he interacted with…

The only teammate I had back was Damon Watlington. He graduated in 1996 and I graduated in ’97. We went back as far as the class of ’63. They had stories about playing in War Memorial and other Cassell experiences. Then, I showed them around the locker room, and we laughed and joked about how much times have changed and how much progress the facilities have made.

On the environment in Cassell…

My first game back on the sideline felt a little different. Over the last five years, I was coming as an opponent with Maryland-Eastern Shore. We were getting beat by 30 or 40 points. The experience was a little different. To be back at home at Virginia Tech on that sideline and see the crowd cheering and the enthusiasm at the beginning of the game when Enter Sandman plays, it’s like a new experience for me every time I see it.

On the NIT Championship team…

I stay in touch with them through social media, and I have everyone’s phone number. We were a very close team. When I got married 17 years ago, my entire team, including the coaches, were at my wedding. Not only were we close on the court, we were close off the court. We went to every sporting event together, we were at the cafeteria together, we did everything together. When we went on the court, we were one. That allowed us to do some special things as a group.

On how much fun it is to coach young players…

Basketball has given me the opportunity to travel the world; I have a lot of frequent flyer miles. I have played in many countries and have the experiences that very few have. It is full circle to come back here to Virginia Tech and share my experiences with the players and go out there and shoot around with the guys. It’s really exciting. The game has changed. Now, you have more three-point shooting and small ball, but it’s still basketball. You still have to put the ball in the basket and play defense, but to see the evolution of the game, it’s really changed.

On getting his opportunity at Virginia Tech to coach…

From the days of high school, I always wanted to be a coach. I always tried to notice the details. Some of my players used to ask why I was so involved in film sessions. I used to take the film home and watch film to try and break it down from a different level. As time went on, father time is undefeated. As time went on, my body started to break down and I always wanted to have a smooth transition into the coaching field. In 2012, when the last horn went off when I was in Japan, I sat on the bench a little longer because I knew that was it. The coach gave me the opportunity to re-sign with the team, but towards the end of the season I knew that this was it. When we lost in the semi-final game, I tried to embrace the moment. I got a little teary-eyed because I knew that would be the last time I would play competitively.

That summer of 2012, I went down to Atlanta to try and meet some coaches and get into the field. I was able to go to Virginia State at the Division II level, and it was everything that I expected it to be. It was something that I always dreamed of, but it was a lot of work as well. The hours that coaches put into it and the preparation of game plans and practice plans, it was a lot. At that level, I was also doing laundry and ordering uniforms. After that year, I was able to go to the Division I level with Maryland-Eastern Shore. They gave me the opportunity, and I was there for five years.

I always had the dream of coming back to Virginia Tech. The slogan is ‘This is Home’ and I always wanted to come back. I had conversations with previous coaches, but it never evolved or grew into an opportunity. When Coach Young got the job this April, I reached out to him and we had a conversation. I knew him previously because we played against Wofford. He won the game, but we had a conversation and he said he would try to see what he could do for me. No promises were made, but we stayed in contact throughout the summer and as it was about to happen, he gave me a call and said, ‘Sit tight, something may be coming.’ I called my wife, and I was on my road to Blacksburg.

On what he’s trying to implement in terms of life skills with the players…

I just try to be a mentor to the guys and a bridge from the coaches to the players. Sometimes they need someone to lean on and a different voice. I try to be that voice for them, and I also can be a different eye who sees things differently as well.

On where the name, Ace, came from…

Ace came about when I was about six or seven years old. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather; I did everything that he did. If he went fishing, I would go fishing. If he cut the grass, I would cut the grass. He always said I was his number one Ace. My mom didn’t like that because my name was Adrian, but as time went on, I started playing little league sports and everybody started calling me Ace. When I came here to Blacksburg, it was still Ace. My head coach, Bill Foster, probably didn’t even know my real name. Everybody just called me Ace.

On playing in the Metro Conference and the Atlantic 10…

That was great experience. I enjoyed the Metro more than the Atlantic 10. The Metro was more physical, and I wasn’t that skilled of a player. I wasn’t very talented, but I played hard and did things the right way. If you were taller than me, I wanted to be faster than you. If you were shorter than me, I wanted to dominate you with my size. The Metro was just more my style of play.

When we moved to the Atlantic 10, I kind of struggled a little bit more. A lot of teams played zone, and I wasn’t a great shooter from the outside. I had to find different ways to score the ball. I enjoyed the Metro more than the Atlantic 10, but it was great experience to play in both leagues. Would I have loved to play in the ACC? Of course. It’s the best league in basketball with the history of the league. I always followed it from afar and was amused.

On the Jackson Brothers…

Jim and Dave Jackson? They played a lot harder than I did. I played hard, but they played on the borderline of insanity. Those guys were so competitive. We used to do drills and practice, and everybody would have left the gym, but we would play one-on-one or a shooting contest. The relationship that we established over the years, we became very close.

Christian Webster, Virginia Tech
Christian Webster is working for his second head coach in Blacksburg. (Jon Fleming)

Christian Webster

On the coaching staff under Mike Young…

It’s been a lot of fun. I think Coach Young, that first opening banquet, I had to thank him again for keeping me on and letting me stay here in Blacksburg. We’re having a lot of fun. We’re in a little skid right now, but I’m learning so much from Coach Young, Coach Jackson, Coach Frazier and Coach Giltner. It’s just a fun group to be a part of.

On attending Harvard…

It was tough. My first class I took was an economics class. I was like, ‘What the heck am I doing?’ I got out of economics. I really wanted to study business, but Harvard didn’t have a business major. I did economics, and they’re looking at graphs and I’m thinking, maybe I picked the wrong place. I switched to psychology. I always knew I wanted to get into coaching, so I figured I’ll try something a little easier, but it was still tough.

On how his psychology degree has helped him with coaching…

It helps a lot. I was actually joking with Ace the other day about how as a coach, you’re a coach, a mentor, a psychologist and a therapist. When things are going on in guys’ lives, they want to talk. You have to give them guidance and steer them in the right direction, so it helps a lot.

On how he got into coaching…

It’s pretty crazy. It happened so fast. I graduated from college and went home to call agents to figure out where I was going to play overseas. The next thing I know, one of the guys that coached me took another job and I get a call from Coach [Tommy] Amaker the next day asking me to come back up to Cambridge. I figured, why wait? I wanted to be a coach at some point, so to get the opportunity to be an assistant coach right away was something that I couldn’t pass up.

On recruiting players to Blacksburg…

We really don’t want to talk about recruiting as selling something. We think of it more as presenting kids with an option. I think Coach Young and the success we’ve had with the last coaching staff, going to the NCAA Tournament three straight years, it kind of sells itself. To have a guy like Coach Young who was [Sporting News] Coach of the Year last year, and being in the ACC is huge. The ACC is a big deal. I wasn’t good enough to play in the ACC, so to be a part of it now is pretty cool. These guys want to play in the best basketball conference and that is the ACC.

On finding kids with character…

Coach Young says it all of the time. When we first got together, he said, ‘I don’t want to coach bad guys. Life is too short to coach bad guys.’ That’s the kind of kid that we target and that’s one of the first things that I ask a coach is, ‘What kind of kid is he?’ That’s what’s important, and I know that I’ve only been doing this for seven years now, but that’s a huge deal.

On how the transfer portal has changed college basketball…

It’s changed the game with the kids having the autonomy to be able to throw their name in that portal and try to figure it out after that. They have all of the power, and it’s changed college [sports].

On Pittsburgh…

They’re a heck of a team. Coach Capel has done a great job with them. If Hokie fans remember, last year it took an exceptional game from Kerry Blackshear to get out of there with a win. I think it’s going to be the same way this year. It’s going to be a battle. Like you mentioned, their two guards, Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens, are exceptional. We’re going to have our hands full trying to stop them.

On Landers Nolley…

I was trying to talk to him before the game and get him revved up. I think he puts a lot of pressure on himself with the success he had earlier in the season. Teams are starting to figure him out, in a way. It’s the middle of the season, and we’re in the thick of the ACC. It’s a copycat league, and if somebody sees a team do something that works against us, they’re going to do it too. Just trying to show him film and get his confidence back and getting shots up in the gym allowed him to come out scorching.

On what they’re going to do in practice this week…

Just get back to us. We had a really good practice this morning. We’re just trying to focus on the Hokies. We’re not focused on Pitt or our next opponent, we’re just working on us this week, and getting the guys’ bodies in order and taking few days off to focus on schoolwork for a minute and get away from it, is important. We’re also focused on how we can get better and it’s been good so far.

On Tyrece Radford…

It’s incredible, some of the rebounds and tip-ins he’s had. I did not see that when he first got here. He’s improved more than anybody on the team. P.J. Horne and Wabissa Bede have also improved a lot, but Tyrece is a different kid from when he got on campus. In his first workout, the kid probably shot four airballs. I was like, ‘Wow.’ Now, you can’t take him off of the floor. His improvement has been incredible.

On seeing the improvement of his players…

It’s pretty cool just being a part of their lives and having guys come up to you and valuing your opinion on things. Them valuing your opinion on their game is pretty special.

On staying in touch with former players…

I actually saw Ty Outlaw today. He’s in town because he has a break from his Greek team. We caught up, and it was pretty cool. I think Justin Robinson will be in town this weekend. I keep up with those guys, especially online. I’ll check their stats and whether they won or lost, and I’ll shoot them a congratulatory text or words of encouragement as often as I can.

On his journey as a coach…

I never would have thought that seven years ago when I was graduating that I would be an assistant coach in the ACC. Even at Virginia Tech, because when I was in high school Erick Green was one of the guys that I came out of high school with. I remember him coming here and thinking how cool that was. Now I’m here and I never would have imagined that.

On whether this is a down year for the ACC…

I don’t know. When you look at the standings right now, there are so many teams in the middle. There are three really good teams and then a bunch of teams in the middle. We’re one of those teams. If you win a couple of games, you could be right back up at the top. We just try to keep the guys encouraged and just focus on us.

On the atmosphere in Cassell…

It’s really cool. I’ll never forget Jalen Cone when he came on an unofficial visit two years ago. All he kept saying was, ‘Cassell was rocking and those students were amazing,’ Now, he’s on the court experiencing that. It’s definitely something that helps us in recruiting when they see all of the students in black or white or orange and they’re jumping up and down before the game. It’s really cool and there really is nothing like it.

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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Didn’t know that Radford gave the actual story behind his nickname. Very few people really knew the actual meaning. Most people heard that he was “from Louisiana, which looks like a boot” before. I didn’t think he liked to tell the real meaning.

  2. Glad to have coaches that are positive, care for the players, and care for the school. Good job guys! Glad you have become Hokies.

  3. Good Interview with CW – thanks for the write-up. “It’s a copy cat league….” You might want to work on scoring against the zone this week!

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