No offense to the other new members of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame who will be inducted this weekend in Portsmouth, but I’ve got a special place in my heart for one of this year’s picks, Frankie Allen.
I never saw Allen during his playing days at Roanoke College, 1967-71, but one of my earliest memories as a paid sportswriter is from the 1973-74 school year, when the Charlottesville Daily Progress sent me to Fredericksburg to cover an Albemarle-Stafford boys’ basketball game.
Allen was the head coach at Albemarle and I still remember mentioning something in my lead paragraph about the road to Stafford leading me past a palm readers’ establishment. I’m not sure how I worked that into my story, but I don’t doubt that it was contrived.
As the first male African-American student at Roanoke College, Allen was a pioneer but he never wore that distinction on his sleeve. He was always quick with a laugh, as well as a knife and fork, a couple of passions that we share.
Allen hasn’t posted winning records at all of his stops but the fact that he’s been the head coach at four Division I basketball programs (Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Howard and Maryland-Eastern Show) shows the regard in which he’s held as a person.
I continue to promise him that I’ll make it up to UMES one of these days – not just for the basketball. With Frankie, I know the eating will be good.
Allen is one of three inductees with Tech ties, along with radio voice Bill Roth and former football star Cornell Brown, but when you look at all the inductees – including ex-Richmond basketball coach Dick Tarrant, ex-James Madison and stock car pioneer Leonard Wood – it’s obvious there’s no shortage of good candidates.
Also making the hall this year were 12-year National Football League offensive lineman Robert Pratt and former Olympic sprinter Lawrence Burton, a first-round NFL draft pick.
IT’S UNLIKELY THAT and Virginia Tech football fans have heard the last of Alex Figueroa, a Virginian and former first-team Washington Post All-Metro selection who enrolled at Miami for the second semester.
Figueroa, a 6-foot-3, 231-pound linebacker, is a 2012 graduate of Brooke Pointe High School in Stafford who was injured in last summer’s Virginia High School Coaches’ Association all-star game.
Figueroa had signed with Shepherd University, a Division II program in Shepherdstown, W.Va., one of the few scholarship programs to recruit him when it appeared he would not meet NCAA eligibility standards.
As the result of a shoulder injury, Figueroa, who apparently had made tremendous academic strides in his final semester at Brooke Point, did not enroll immediately at Shepherd. Fork Union Military Academy coach John Shuman said the injury would have prevented Figueroa from playing in the fall, but that he had talked about enrolling at FUMA in January.
I swear that I also heard something about Figueroa coming to Division III Ferrum at one point.
Shuman said today that Miami had received a tip about Figueroa and that Hurricanes’ secondary coach Paul Williams had stopped by Fork Union to inquire about him.
“He’s not here,” said Shuman, who knew enough about Figueroa as a player that he recommended him as an ACC-caliber talent. And, said Shuman, it happened that Figueroa had made an 80-point jump in the SAT.
So, how’s Figueroa progressing at Miami, where he enrolled in January?
“YOU KNOW, I KEPT WAITING for him to hit a wall, whether it was in the offseason program, whether it was with his heights, whether it was academics [or] missing something,” Miami coach Al Golden said in an ACC coaches’ teleconference Thursday.
“I just kept waiting for him to hit a wall and he never did. He’s a mature kid, obviously. His parents are Marine. [He’s a] very disciplined young man, very competitive, very tough.”
Figueroa runs well and Golden sees him getting up to 250 pounds.
“We’ve kind of thrown away the freshman tag because he doesn’t act like it at all,” Golden said. “Basically, he started from the first practice to the last and did the same in the off-season program.
“He’s on a mission right now. We’re going to let him continue to grow and do his thing.”