Spurlock commits to Virginia
By Whitey Reid
Published: August 13, 2008
Sources have confirmed that Tristan Spurlock, a small forward from Montrose Christian School in Rockville, Md., is set to become a Cavalier.
The 6-foot-8, 215-pound wing is the second committment for the class of 2009, joining point guard Jontel Evans from Bethel High in Hampton. Both players play for Boo Williams’ AAU team, and Spurlock says Evans was a big factor in his decision.
“They’ve been on me the longest,” Spurlock said. “They know exactly how I play. They knew what they were getting in me and vice versa.”
Spurlock reportedly had offers from traditional powers Georgetown and Louisville on the table, as well as Clemson, Wake Forest and Villanova.
For now, Singletary still with Kings
Two weeks after he was first mentioned in NBA trade rumors, former Virginia point guard Sean Singletary continues to be listed on the Sacramento Kings' roster.
Singletary fans should stay posted.
Singletary has been mentioned in connection with a proposed trade that would send Kings' forward Ron Artest to the Houston Rockets, and those rumors are about to be revived.
Media reports indicate Artest would go to Houston in exchange for first-round Rockets' pick Donte Green, but Green reached an agreement with the Rockets on July 14 that prohibited him from being traded for a month.
That one-month period expires today, after which the Kings are expected to send Artest to Houston in exchange for Green and one-time Kings guard Bobby Jackson.
Sacramento would add one or more players to the deal, with second-round picks Singletary and Patrick Ewing Jr. considered the most dispensable.
Of the 17 players whom Sacramento has under contract, Singletary and Ewing have the fewest guarantees.
Sacramento officials have not voiced any displeasure with Singletary or linked him with a possible trade, but the Kings' backcourt situation has become considerably more crowded since the draft.
Sacramento was able to hold onto point guard Beno Udrih, whose contract had expired, and last week added former Cal State-Fullerton point guard Bobby Brown as a free agent. Brown played for New Orleans in the same summer league in which Singletary played for Sacramento.
Jackson, a combination guard, would give Sacramento a fourth guard capable of playing the point. If dealt to Houston, Singletary would be greeted by point guards Rafer Alston and Aaron Brooks, the latter a first-round 2007 draft pick from Oregon.
Two previously unheralded in-state football prospects have made commitments to ACC football programs, defensive backs Curtis Campbell from Grassfield High School in Cheseapeake and Garrett Patterson from Monacan High School outside Richmond. Campbell, who had an offer from Connecticut, said he will sign with North Carolina. Patterson is going to Duke.
n Virginia Tech football signee D.J. Coles, rated the No. 11 prospect in Virginia by The Roanoke Times, has surfaced at Fork Union Military Academy. Coles, a running back at Goochland High School who is a projected as a wideout by the Hokies, has joined fellow Tech signee Tony Gregory on the FUMA roster. Gregory is a running back from First Colonial in Virginia Beach.
Groh turns to an old frined to run the UVa defense
By Andy Bitter
Published: August 14, 2008
CHARLOTTESVILLE — After three years away from coaching football, Bob Pruett had developed an intense itch to get back in the game.
The former Marshall head man had plenty of overtures. Anyone with a national championship to his credit is sure to be pursued by a bevy of football programs, but in Pruett’s mind the job had to be just right, in position and placement.
He knew he found his match when old friend Al Groh called last winter looking for a defensive coordinator.
“It had to be the special situation,” said Pruett, adding the perfect Groh-ism to cap it off. “And I think this is one that fits my set of circumstances.”
After 40 years of friendship, the two are so close even their vocabularies match. From their time trying to gain a foothold in the coaching industry in the mid-’60s to a four-year run on the same staff at Wake Forest in the mid-’80s to running their respective college programs after the turn of the century, Groh and Pruett have maintained a close relationship, both personal and professional.
So when Groh needed a like-minded individual to fill his defensive coordinator position after Mike London took the head job at Richmond in January, he didn’t need to look far.
“I’d say that you could pretty much say we think along the same lines in everything,” Pruett said.
While a departure from Groh’s previous coordinator hires at UVa — Al Golden, Ron Prince, Mike Groh and London were all up-and-comers when they were hired — the 65-year-old Pruett, who was 94-23 in nine seasons at Marshall before retiring for health reasons in the spring of 2005, is in no way a stopgap solution.
He’s a resource, and a valuable one at that.
“He’s definitely one of those guys who you really can’t help but respect,” Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim said. “From where he’s been and what he’s done, just everything he says you soak it up like a sponge.”
“I’ve learned so much more from him this past offseason than I might have learned in the past two years,” senior safety Byron Glaspy said. “His knowledge is overwhelming, just the little things he can teach you.”
Though he oversees the entire defense, just as he did in previous stops of his coaching career at Marshall, Wake Forest, Tulane and Florida, Pruett’s specialty lies in the defensive backfield.
Glaspy was impressed with Pruett’s attention to detail. He’ll critique footwork with a dissecting eye, making sure a defensive back backpedals correctly, keeping his shoulders squared to the line at all times.
“He’s real nitpicky,” Glaspy said, “but he definitely knows what he’s talking about.”
Groh has made the defensive calls the last few years, something that doesn’t figure to change, since Pruett has not run a 3-4 system in decades. Pruett has no problem with that.
“Your responsibility as an assistant coach is to develop a picture that the head coach wants,” he said. “And if you don’t like that, then you go and get another job. As long as you’re there, you have to develop his picture, because he’s the one who has the whole scope of what he wants in the whole program.”
That extends to recruiting, where Pruett has been a boon. Known as a tireless recruiter, Pruett hasn’t slowed down with age. His contacts in the state date back 40 years, when he was a head coach or assistant at five different Northern Virginia high schools from 1963-78.
Though assigned to the Tidewater area — a hot bed for Virginia Tech the last few years — Pruett has already made inroads. The Cavaliers have more than kept pace with the Hokies in the 757 area code for 2009, securing three commits (DB LoVante’ Battle from Phoebus, DB Laroy Reynolds from Maury and RB Perry Jones from Oscar Smith).
“I think it’s a lot of fun because I try to be a people person,” Pruett said. “I really enjoy interacting with the coaches and when it’s time, with the parents and the players.”
He’s maintained that passion on the practice field as well. Though more low key than the boisterous London, who was known to throw a chest bump or two, Pruett still has an enthusiastic streak.
“The season hasn’t started yet,” Sintim said. “We’ll see if he does a back flip or a chest bump.”
U.Va.'s Clark ready for a special year
Rockbridge grad hopes to take U.Va. to next level
By Chris Lassiter • Sports Writer • August 14, 2008
CHARLOTTESVILLE — He puts the special in special teams.
Any time No. 41 is called on, Aaron Clark is ready. A senior for the University of Virginia football team, Clark has proved to be the epitome of a specialty player for the Cavaliers.
"He's an outstanding worker," Virginia special teams coordinator Bob Diaco said. "He's always energized and passionate at practice. He forces others to work up to his level. He's just a great guy."
When U.Va. demolished Miami in the final football game in the Orange Bowl last season, the night was also historic for Clark as well. The Rockbridge County High School graduate record his first career sack and had a career-high four solo tackles.
For the 2007 season, Clark played in all 13 games and had nine solo tackles.
After just completing his best offseason to date — working harder and longer than in previous years — Clark is ready to help the Cavs improve on last season's success.
"I put in a lot of hard work," the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Clark said. "I really pushed myself. The competition gets tougher for playing time every year, which is a healthy sign for a team trying to move up. Everybody's been working their tails off to get ready for this year."
Few prognosticators expect the Cavaliers to repeat last season's success, but outside expectations weren't high entering last season either. Clark and teammates would love nothing more than to shock the conference in consecutive seasons.
"We had some really key guys graduate," said Clark, explaining that the team didn't buy into the lowered expectations. "It's a motivator."
Virginia won't have to wait long to see where the program stands nationally. The Cavaliers open up the season by hosting the University of Southern California Trojans, arguably the most dominant college football program of this decade.
Naturally, more than a few people from back home have inquired about ticket availability.
"You don't even want to know," said Clark, chuckling while explaining how many calls he's fielded. "You'd pretty much have to sell a limb to get in. It's going to be a great atmosphere. I'm excited."
Burrell pushes for starting position
By Jay Jenkins
Published: August 13, 2008
The crutches that Denzel Burrell was assigned after the second game of the 2006 season did more than help the outside linebacker hop around the Grounds.
They served as a daily reminder of his gut-wrenching knee injury. They motivated him to push forward. And they also sent a resounding message to cherish every minute, every snap of college football.
“When I went down with the injury, it was so hard emotionally because it came, really, as I was just starting to get time on the field in the nickel and on special teams,” Burrell recounted. “After that I realized that nothing is promised out here. I realized I have to fight for everything I want to get.
“That offseason [in 2006] was big and last season was big after I got off my crutches. I was in weight room 24-7, just trying to get bigger and I added about 10 [pounds], which helped me a lot. There was a lot of self-motivation. Nothing is promised and I found that out when I started over from scratch.”
Burrell, now a junior, earned early playing time last year and made his first — and only — sack against Duke. But he could not crack the starting lineup as his close friend, Jermaine Dias, kept first-team status.
It was Dias, however, that meant the most to Burrell in his trek back from his season-ending injury.
“Honestly, Jermaine was a great leader,” Burrell said. “He was a quiet leader, but he showed things on the field. He didn’t scream and yell all the time, but he really taught me a lot at the position and it was an honor to be behind him.
“I was his friend off the field, as well, and he really just taught me the ins and outs of being a linebacker here in the 3-4 defense.”
Burrell caught the eye of coach Al Groh during the spring and was named one of the winners of the Rock Weir Award, given annually to the most improved players during the consolidated practice period.
“He’s a very good athlete. He has good initial quickness. He picks up speed quickly,” Groh said. “It should make him a worthwhile special teams player in that it doesn’t take him 30 yards to build up top speed.
“He accelerates pretty quickly. There is a lot of field to cover as an outside linebacker so that is an advantage at that position.”
Burrell, listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, is essentially in a dogfight for the spot opposite Clint Sintim on the outside at linebacker. And once again, the New Jersey native is battling for playing time with a close friend, senior Aaron Clark.
“It is very hard. We are both men about it and whoever wins the spot wins the spot, but it’s definitely hard because we both want to be out there,” Burrell said. “The passion we both showed in the offseason and the winter workouts was just amazing.
“It is going to be hard when they pick a starter and somebody is going to lose it, but we are going to be a better team because of it.”
Groh has said on numerous occasions that both players would see the field early on at the spot. The rotation and the pecking order, however, remains an unknown.
“It’s still to be determined based on most of the heavy work coming up [in training camp] what that rotation might be, whether we will
determine on a week-to-week basis based on the previous game … or what the matchups are or just a fatigue basis,” Groh said. “But they are both much more ready to play in the games than they have been in the past.
“From a mental standpoint, now their anticipation of what is coming up is much better. It is helping them play better.”
And playing is all Burrell really wants to do.
“I just want to be on the field as much as possible,” he said. “It is time to take that next step.”
Clark ready for his chance
By Liz Keller
Published: August 13, 2008
Aaron Clark has been waiting three years for his chance to shine at Virginia.
Now, entering his senior year with the Cavaliers, he hopes to get that 2,000-watt opportunity.
Clark, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound linebacker, has paid his dues, logging action in all 13 games last season on special teams. Despite not earning a role in a starter’s position, the former Rockbridge County standout has remained patient and dedicated.
“Right now, I’m out there practicing, competing, trying to get better and trying to get in the game. We’ve got a healthy competition right now in my spot — me and Denzel Burrell,” Clark said. “We’re really pushing each other out there. It’s fun out there, every day you know you’ve got somebody gunning for the same spot you are, so it makes you play better every day.”
According to coach Al Groh, Clark and Burrell will both see action depending on the scheme employed.
Clark, who finished with a career-high four tackles against Miami last season, hopes to join the starting group of Clint Sintim, Antonio Appleby and Jon Copper — all returning starters for the Cavaliers.
And his hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.
“He has done well,” said Copper, who has led UVa in tackles the past two years. “I know in his freshman year that he got to play right off the bat. He has been in games and it just happened that over the last couple of years that he hasn’t had as much playing time. He stuck with it and knows the defense very well and I think he will do just fine.”
Clark saw playing time as a true freshman at outside linebacker and on goal-line defense and special teams. He played in nine games, finishing with 10 tackles. In 2006, he appeared in eight games, mostly on special teams.
“Special teams really gives you a feel for the speed of the game and getting out there, getting hit, hitting people and making plays,” said Clark, a foreign affairs major. “I think that’s a rite of passage that everyone enjoys.”
In the Cavaliers’ 3-4 defensive scheme, the linebackers take on a multitude of responsibilities. And Clark said the group is up to the task.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in the linebacking corps,” Clark explained. “But it’s still our duty every day in practice and in games to go out and prove ourselves. A lot of people are really doubting us right now, so that’s a motivator. We have to go out there and really show that we are the real deal.
“We’ve got a whole new team than last year — different chemistry, different everything. So we’ve got to go out there every day and put it together.”
The Cavs are attempting to take the schedule one game at a time, but not a single person on the Grounds is going to overlook the season-opener against Southern Cal on Aug. 30 at 3:30 p.m. The Trojans were 11-2 last season and routed Illinois in the Rose Bowl, 49-17.
“It’s going to be big,” Clark said. “I think the atmosphere’s going to be incredible. We’re excited, but right now we’re focused on putting ourselves together. We’ve got to build a Virginia team before we can worry about other teams we play right now.
“Of course, everybody’s goal is to get out there and be more influential in the offense or defense, but whatever my role is, I’m excited about it. Whatever I can do to help the team.”
Clark and Virginia are still a work in progress, but the opener will provide the first report card.
Wait works for Wigger
Former U.Va. golfer uses patience in bid to make LPGA Tour
Thursday, Aug 14, 2008 - 12:07 AM
By VIC DORR JR.
TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER
Leah Wigger, a four-time all-ACC player from Virginia, is
seeking an LPGA Tour exemption by finishing among the top five in earnings on
the Futures Tour. This much can be said with certainty about Leah Wigger: The
former standout golfer at the University of Virginia doesn't have a wait
Patience and prudence are as much a part of Wigger's game as a sand wedge or a sleeve of new balls. That is why she is playing on a full-time basis on the Duramed Futures Tour instead of seeking entry to lucrative LPGA events through that most narrow of portals: the Monday qualifier.
"Patience is a key to any success at any level," said Wigger, ranked fifth on the Futures money list heading into this weekend's Greater Richmond Classic at Richmond Country Club. "You can't go [from one level of competition to the next] and expect great things to happen right away. First, you've got to watch and learn and adjust."
Wigger, a four-time all-ACC performer, chose to do precisely that - learn and adjust - after earning LPGA non-exempt status for the 2008 season at last year's qualifying school. She decided soon thereafter that her time would be better spent collecting seasoning and confidence as a Futures player than trying to catch smoke in a butterfly net on the big tour.
The decision paid instant dividends. Wigger won once and twice finished tied for second during a giddy early-season spree. In the process, she lifted herself into serious contention for one of the Futures Tour's biggest prizes: exempt status on the LPGA Tour for 2009. The top five Futures money-winners earn LPGA exemptions for the following season.
"That's what it's all about: getting your tour card," she said. After her smoldering start, "I thought, 'How stupid would it be to walk away now, when I'm in the top five, and take my chances with Monday qualifying?'"
A four-time academic All-American, Wigger isn't stupid.
"You can shoot 68 [in a Monday qualifier] and still not make it - which after a while is going to affect your confidence," she said. "Worse, if you try to qualify there and don't, you're missing out on a week's worth of golf and maybe a couple thousand dollars here.''
Wigger, 23, compared her immersion into the gypsy existence of a professional golfer to her leap from Assumption High School in Louisville, Ky., to U.Va. in the fall of 2003.
"You're thinking about golf, obviously," she said. "But you're also trying to juggle classes, homework, friends, a social life. I didn't play all that well my first year. But once I got used to [the multilayered demands placed upon Division I athletes], I started to gradually improve."
She is traveling the same learning curve today.
"The more comfortable and confident I get," she said, "the better I play. But just like in college, it's still a gradual process. There's still so much to get accustomed to: the level of competition, the travel, the responsibility."
Responsibility? "Sure. It's up to you to earn a living every week. No one's going to do it for you - you figure that out pretty quickly."
Wigger seems to have figured it out quite nicely. She finished 71st on the Futures money list as a rookie in 2007. Eleven Futures starts this season have produced five top-10 finishes and 12 rounds in the 60s.
Contact Vic Dorr Jr. at (804) 649-6442 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born: Nov. 15, 1984 in Louisville, Ky.
Attended: Assumption High School in Louisville (2000-03), University of Virginia (2004-07)
Amateur highlights: Four-time all-ACC performer . . . first All-American in U.Va. women's golf history . . . delivered 20 top-10 finishes, and one victory, as a collegian . . . four-time NGCA academic All-American . . . runner-up at the 2005 NCAA East Regional and the 2005 NCAA Championships.
Futures highlights: One top-10 finish in 10 starts in 2007 . . . five top-10 finishes, including a victory at the American Systems Invitational in Daytona Beach, in 11 starts in 2008 . . . currently in fifth place on the Futures Tour money list . . . ranked second in subpar rounds (16 of 34).
Quotable: "When I was a freshman [at Assumption], I went to the first day of basketball tryouts. I looked around and said, 'You know what? I'm not sure I want to run the risk of getting injured here.' I felt like I had a better chance of getting a college scholarship through golf."