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Va. politicians applaud work of Casteen
By Jerry Ratcliffe  / Daily Progress sports editor
July 27, 2003

Scattershooting around the ACC, while wondering if Virginia Tech will send UVa president John T. Casteen III a Hokies football jersey ...
Casteen was one of the three men who were shown appreciation last week during a Hokie Club dinner in Richmond attended by around 1,000 Tech boosters. Tech coach Frank Beamer presented Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner a Hokies football jersey. Tech AD Jim Weaver thanked Warner, Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore and Casteen for their efforts in getting the Hokies admitted into the ACC beginning next July 1.
Last month, Weaver and Tech president Charles Steger thanked Casteen for his work during an ACC press conference in Greensboro, N.C., introducing the Hokies and Miami Hurricanes as the new league members.
“This crowd and Hokie fans ... also owe, and I know it’s going to be hard to applaud, but also owe President John Casteen,” Gov. Warner said to the applauding crowd, as Roanoke Times reporter Mark Berman wrote. “Because they [at UVa] went the extra mile. And they didn’t need very much convincing,” Warner said with a grin.
A video board at the dinner read: “ACC Bound! Thank you Governor Warner, Attorney General Kilgore, President Casteen.”
Hard at work
Steger told the crowd, “President Casteen has been working hard on behalf of Virginia Tech with the ACC for a long period of time. Governor Warner helped other people who may not have been as enthusiastic about Casteen’s activity as Casteen was, to persuade them it was the right thing to do. There were a lot of people in the state who were not enthusiastic about what President Casteen was doing, and Governor Warning helped with that.”
A lot of those people were Virginia boosters, who are still upset with Casteen’s actions. Many of them feel that the UVa president acted without concern for Wahoo alums and supporters and are still disappointed that Casteen has not given an explanation for his role in the process.
Kilgore, a UVa season-ticket holder and a graduate of Clinch Valley College, now known as the University of Virginia’s College at Wise, had this to say to the Hokie crowd about his part:
“Since I’m not going to be met with open arms at David Harrison Field at Scott Stadium and the Carl Smith Center anymore, I thought I’d start lobbying for a new suggestion I happened to see on the Virginia Tech football message board: Kilgore Field at Warner Stadium.”
Geez, I wonder if there will be a Casteen Avenue nearby?
Up and coming
During the recent ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro, Ga., league commissioner John Swofford boasted about several of the conference’s accomplishments on the gridiron over the past year.
One of the key improvements has been a dramatic increase in attendance. Last year the ACC reached an all-time high in football attendance, averaging 50,000 fans per game for the first time in league history.
Consider that’s with Wake Forest and Duke included in the mix, places where fans just don’t seem to care about what kind of teams are put on the field.
Seven of the league’s nine schools will sell 30,000 season tickets this season. If Tech and Miami were in the league, that would be nine of 11.
Last season, seven of the ACC’s nine teams were in bowls, the highest percentage of any conference in NCAA history. The league had a 4-3 record in those bowls. Also, the ACC has had a record 13 teams in bowls over the last two seasons and eight wins.
Eight of the nine league teams return their starting quarterback this season, a rare occurrence in college football.
“The quality of coaches we have in this league is extraordinary,” Swofford said. “This is arguably the best coaches as a group we’ve ever had in this league. Next year, add Larry Coker and Frank Beamer to that and it gets even better.”

Short yardage ... Virginia coach Al Groh has been a strong proponent of a college football playoff because he believes there are too many meaningless bowl games. “I don’t want to become a lone dog barking at the moon over this thing but any coach who has ever been involved in playoffs on any level will tell you how much they miss them,” Groh said. “[Former ACC Commissioner] Gene Corrigan lives near me and is an advocate of a playoff series. He commented that when the NCAA basketball tournament expanded to 64 teams people said it would be the end of the NIT. Well, the NIT recently grew to 40 teams.” ...Guess that wouldn’t mean an end to the bowls.
...Among other items that came up at the ACC Kickoff was the announcement the “halo” rule is no longer in effect, but that illegal contact with punt returners will be given an automatic 15-yard penalty. ...In an attempt to protect players from the heat in training camp, the NCAA has ruled that players will be gradually advanced into full-pad practices during a five-day period and that teams cannot hold two-a-day practices on consecutive days. ...The ACC has six bowl affiliations for the coming season: a BCS game, the Gator, Peach, Tangerine, Continental Tire Bowl and a new one, the Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho on Jan. 3, most likely against the WAC champion. Brrrrr.




Billet's back in rhythm
By Andrew Joyner  / Daily Progress staff writer
July 27, 2003

It passes on the transaction wires almost anonymously: Player X is transferring from school Y to school Z.
In some cases it’s major news, in some cases not.
While such moves frequent the news at the conclusion of the basketball season, little thought is given to them after the fact.
NCAA regulations mandate that a player has to sit out a year when transferring. Thus, transfers almost become an afterthought until they actually return to the court.
It’s that simple, except for the players who have to endure the process.
For them, the transition is tough and the year away from competitive basketball even tougher, considering most have spent a large bulk of their lives playing in games constantly.
Such is the case for UVa senior guard Todd Billet, who transferred from Rutgers in April 2001, sat out the 2001-02 season and returned to the court last year.
Billet averaged 13.5 points per game last season and made 41.8 percent of his 3-point attempts. The numbers were good — but not gaudy or overly impressive — and Billet’s play was solid, but not necessarily consistent.
The 3-point shooting touch that was praised upon his arrival from Rutgers was sometimes there, sometimes not, as Billet’s initial season at UVa was marked with as many peaks as valleys.
In Billet’s mind, it’s clear why.
“I think sitting out a year really kind of messes with your rhythm. The transition from my freshman to sophomore year at Rutgers was so small. I came out of the gates my sophomore year and was head and shoulders above what I did as a freshman,” Billet said. “I think that’s very important. If you can take your confidence from one year to the next, you can come out and hit the ground running.”
Billet, a self-proclaimed gym rat from a basketball-playing family, falls short of letting the word rusty enter his vocabulary when discussing this past season, but a subtle inference can be made.
Billet graduated from UVa in May with a degree in economics and will compete next season as a graduate student. He has no more academic commitments until the fall, but still spent the first summer session in Charlottesville, working on his game and playing pickup games with teammates, both old and new.
“I just wanted to play with the guys and hang out with the new freshmen and make sure everyone is on the same page and working in the right direction,” Billet said. “The whole team was around and it went pretty well.”
All of Virginia’s five incoming freshmen were there for at least part of the session and Billet tried to keep a watchful eye out for their progress.
“When the freshmen are coming in, they need some direction. They’ve just come out of high school and it’s a whole new game. They’re away from home and there’s a lot of freedom,” Billet said. “It’s important for the older guys who know what it takes to be successful on the court and in the classroom to help them out. … Just give them a positive influence.”
Billet was pleased by the effort, not just of the newcomers but the returnees as well.
“There were no missed classes and they weren’t late for any workouts. … Everyone was pretty serious about their classes and their workouts, too. It was definitely at a high level,” Billet said.
Billet returned to his native New Jersey earlier this month and is currently competing in the Jersey Shore League, a league comprised of several former and current collegiate players.
If there is one point of emphasis for Billet this summer, it’s refining his point guard skills. Billet was trapped between the two backcourt positions last season for the Cavaliers, whose lack of a true point guard had Billet swapping between two dual roles. The end result was a struggle at times in both areas. Billet compiled 108 assists but also committed 93 turnovers.
Even with the addition of freshman T.J. Bannister, Virginia’s point guard situation remains uncertain because of several factors, including the status of Majestic Mapp, who is still not 100 percent after multiple knee surgeries caused him to miss two and a half seasons.
While Billet’s role for next season is undefined, he’s resolved to make himself a viable option at either position.
“I think my role will be a little more defined. I’m just preparing myself. I want to be a leader on the team, getting guys together on the court, prepared for situations and know what has to be done,” Billet said. “As far as position, I’ve been working on getting better with the ball and ballhandling and all that kind of stuff so I’m ready to play point guard. Ready to shoot the ball. I want to be ready to do all the things I might have to do.”
One role that should change next season for Billet is on the perimeter. With swingman Devin Smith as Virginia’s only other consistent outside shooter, opposing defenses were able to key on Billet, a 6-foot shooter who would be aided by a little more space to square to the basket.
Of Virginia’s three incoming perimeter players, two — J.R. Reynolds and Gary Forbes — were solid 3-point shooters during their high school careers.
“I think they will bring a lot to the team. We have three perimeter players who are all good athletes and can shoot the ball. I think they can give the backcourt a big boost,” Billet said. “On offense, you want to be able to spread the defense out and the more weapons you have on the perimeter, the better it’s going to be. Not just for the other shooters but the big guys inside as well. It will create more opportunities for teammates to get open looks and shots.”
According to Billet, those newcomers bring something other than just additional talents. Their arrival, coupled with the departure of four players that began the season on the roster last November, gives the team a new look of sorts after a 16-16 season in 2002-03.
“Any time there is a new season, there’s new life. We have a 0-0 record and new guys on the team. They’re guys that are hungry and eager to play. That’s always exciting and every team should be optimistic at this time. It’s up to us to capitalize on this opportunity and take advantage of it,” Billet said.
“I think that the goal of this year’s team is to try to overachieve. You can do that by working a little harder than the rest of the teams and playing together and unselfishly. That would be a sign for a great year for us, I think.”




ACC plans for 11
Tourney, schedule options weighed

The first ACC men's basketball tournament to be held in Washington will be notable for another reason. The March 2005 event at MCI Center will cap the ACC's first hoops season as an 11-member league.

The ACC's inaugural tournament for 11 - Virginia Tech and Miami join the league next summer - is likely to look a lot like the Big Ten's annual get-together. The ACC tourney would still run from Thursday through Sunday, but under the format Associate Commissioner Fred Barakat favors, it would include two more games, both on the first day.

The top five seeds would receive byes into Friday's quarterfinals. On Thursday, the No. 8 seed would play No. 9, No. 6 would meet No. 11 and No. 7 would take on No. 10. Friday's round would match the No. 1 seed against the 8-9 winner, No. 4 vs. No. 5, No. 3 vs. the 6-11 winner and No. 2 vs. the 7-10 winner.

The semifinals would follow on Saturday, with the championship game Sunday afternoon.

Athletic directors and faculty representatives from the ACC's schools will ultimately decide which format is adopted for the expanded tournament. The Big Ten, which has 11 members, uses the model Barakat believes would work best.

"This is not official," said Barakat, whose has been polling ACC coaches and gathering information about potential plans. "This is just something I'm putting together, but I don't know any other way to do it [with 11 schools] other than leaving teams home, and that's not our philosophy."

During a question-and-answer session with reporters Tuesday in Greensboro, Ga., ACC Commissioner John Swofford said the conference hadn't decided which scheduling model to use with 11 basketball teams. Currently, each of the ACC's nine teams plays a 16-game conference schedule. To keep that double round-robin format once it expands to 11, the ACC would have to adopt a 20-game conference schedule for each team.

That's a possibility, Swofford said Tuesday, and Barakat agreed.

"I do know that 20 conference games would be very helpful for our television package," he said, "because certain rivalries and matchups would be there every year."

The ACC receives about $30 million annually from its TV contracts for basketball with Raycom and Jefferson-Pilot Sports. The league might renegotiate those deals after Miami and Virginia Tech come aboard.

Currently, each ACC team generally plays 11 non-conference games per season, Barakat said. With a 20-game conference schedule, an ACC team could only schedule seven contests outside the league. But playing more conference games could well improve a team's RPI and enhance the appeal of its season-ticket package, Barakat said.

"There's some benefits," he said.

In the Big Ten, each team plays a 16-game conference schedule. Every team plays a home-and-home series with six of its counterparts and one game against each of the remaining four.

The ACC is considering two models for 16-game conference schedules, Barakat said. Under the first model, a team - call it Team A - would have two "permanent partners" with which it would play a home-and-home series every season. Of the other eight schools, four would play a home-and-home series with Team A, and the remaining four would meet Team A once.

The following year, the positions of the schools that aren't Team A's "permanent partners" would be switched. Over a two-year period, then, Team A would play its "permanent partners" four times apiece and each of the other teams in the ACC three times.

The other model being considered, Barakat said, would involve a three-year rotation and would give each school four partners. Under this format, over a three-year period, Team A would play each of its "permanent partners" six times and each of the others four times.

The ACC has distributed these models to its athletic directors, Barakat said, and is "letting them talk about it internally. It's their decision, whatever they want to do. It's my job to come up with ideas, not to tell them what to do."

The conference's athletic directors will meet Sept. 10 in Greensboro, N.C.

"I'm sure that meeting will give us some kind of timetable" for resolving these basketball issues, Barakat said