- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 20, 2007

BLACKSBURG, Va. — When he was still in high school, Virginia Tech senior guard Zabian Dowdell used to pray that a growth spurt would catch him up to his two college-ball bound older brothers.

That never quite happened. At 6-foot-3, Dowdell is still the smallest of his brothers. But those family pickup games helped prepare him for his future with the Hokies.

“I never played with guys that were my age,” he said. “I always played with older guys, like my older brothers that were always taller than me. It was something I just learned to do. I used to try to shoot over my bigger brothers. Those guys are like 6-6.”

Dowdell now uses his knack for making shots in traffic to benefit Virginia Tech’s program.

“He has great, terrific ability to create space where he can get a shot off,” Virginia Tech coach Seth Greenberg said. “He’s good off the dribble, he can take a little step back and create space. And he’s not the most athletic guy in the world. I mean, he can barely jump over a phone book, but he’s got very good change of speed. He understands how to change speed and change direction.”

The 22-year-old from Pahokee — a tiny town in southeast Florida — has helped Virginia Tech post a 13-5 overall record (3-1 ACC) and earn a spot in the national rankings for the first time in more than a decade.

Dowdell led the Hokies to a pair of wins against top five teams and conference rivals Duke and North Carolina over an eight-day period beginning Jan. 6.

Greenberg recognized Dowdell’s game-changing potential when the latter was a skinny, under-recruited point guard being entertained by the former, then the coach at South Florida.

“At the point I took the job [at Virginia Tech], I told him he should still go to South Florida,” Greenberg said. “And he basically said that he wanted to come play for me. Then we brought him here for a visit, and he was the first guy we signed.”

Greenberg liked the look of the long-armed lefty, and the trust that his first recruit had in him. But that single signing ultimately assured the Hokies a pair of backcourt threats. Another Florida southpaw, flashy Jamon Gordon out of Jacksonville, had committed to Virginia Tech before Greenberg’s hiring. When coach Ricky Stokes was fired, Gordon reconsidered his decision to sign early.

“It kind of felt like some people never really cared if we won or not,” Gordon said. “Plenty of times I wanted to leave. We talked about it all the time. Like, ‘If you weren’t here, I wouldn’t stay here much longer.’ He one of the main reasons that I did come.”

Both Gordon and Dowdell have scored more than 1,000 points for the Hokies. Dowdell ranks sixth in the ACC in scoring, averaging 17.3 points a game. He also shoots 82 percent from the line.

With his team’s success, basketball fans at Virginia Tech have finally started to take notice of Dowdell this year.

“I remember dribbling the ball down the court, hearing the ball bounce,” Gordon said. “Now I can’t even hear myself think. It feels so different.”

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