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Radford graduate gives the Highlanders just a little respect

by Tilly Gokbudak

The late standup comedian Rodney Dangerfiled used to say, “I get no respect.” The saying seems applicable to the men’s basketball team from Radford University, my alma mater.

Ten minutes from now (I am writing this at 2:40 p.m., Thursday afternoon), the Radford Highlanders will take on the University of North Carolina Tarheels today at the Greensboro Coliseum. My school is a 16-seed, while the ’Heels are a top seed. I may have a slightly biased perception, but I was a bit taken back that the Highlanders got the lowest seed. They went 13-3 in the Big South Conference, which was fairly competitive. The VMI Keydets, the team which RU beat for the Big South championship, actually lead the nation in scoring this year. Our arch rival Liberty University, another Big South school, also had a relatively good year as they upset Virginia earlier in the season. Nevertheless, Radford got the lowest seed possible. Like most winning teams, the Highlanders have many great human interest stories. The team is lead by Art Parakhouski, the Big South player of the year. He is a tall guy who plays the center position. Parakhouski came to the Highlanders from Minsk, Belarus via the College of Southern Idaho. He was recuited by assistant coach Ali Ton, who hails from Turkey, my late father’s country. When Art first came to America, he didn’t speak any English and amazingly enough he only took up basketball a few years ago after playing soccer for many years. I e-mailed Ali a few weeks after Radford had won the Big South tournament. At the time, I was a bit nervous that we might have to face Duke like we did 10 years ago when our team last got into the NCAA tournament. The school from Durham won that game easily. Ali gave me an emphatic response: “Biz hic kimseden korkmuyoruz,” which means “We are afraid of no one.” The team also consists of senior forward Eric Hall, who will likely be playing in front of his family as hails from Greensboro. Other members of the team include Phillip Martin, from my hometown of Roanoke as well as Amir Johnson, Joey Lynch-Flor and Kenny Thomas. Radford is coached by Brad Greenberg. His brother Seth Greenberg is the coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies. They ironically played UNC in the first round of the ACC tournament in Atlanta last week. The Hokies played UNC quite well, but fell 79-76 to them in the waining seconds of the game. According to a recent article in USA Today, Seth texted Brad with the following message after the Highlanders beat VMI: “Put on your dancing shoes baby.”

Brad had been an NBA executive with the Philadelphia ’76ers but he was terminated a year after he helped draft Allen Iverson from Georgetown to make his team competitive again. He was turned down by many schools because they thought he was too old become a college coach. In just his second year, he has taken the Highlanders from a seventh-place team (the conference has nine schools) to a triumphant championship. There is a funky way that men’s college basketball works for small conference schools. One can see this with the Southern Conference where UNCG plays. Both Davidson and the College of Charleston had outstanding years, but both teams failed to win the conference tournament which went to Chatanooga, who hosted the event. Chatanooga barely had a winning record, but they in turn get the same No. 16 seed that Radford got even though my school won both the regular season and conference tournament. It is hard to imagine that Radford’s entire year may have been unaccounted for if they had choked at the Big South tournament. But they are in the big dance. I went to Radford University from 1993 to ’96. I went back to Radford in February to watch the Highalnders play Coastal Carolina. The school and the town are fairly similar to each other. Downtown Radford has changed many businesses, but the Taco Inn at the top of the hill on Norwood Street is still open as is the Radford Theatre, which was showing He’s Just Not That Into You when I drove by. I imagine the school has changed as well. Some of my instructors like Dr. Bill Kovarik still teach there. But, others do not. I was saddened to hear that Rita Riddle, my essay teacher, passed away a few years ago. Radford University was not actually my first choice after I finished at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke. Like many Highlanders, I had also considered going to Virginia Tech, which is 18 miles away. But, I had apparently not taken enough math classes to suit them. But looking back on it 16 years later, I am glad I went to Radford University and regardless of the score today, I am still proud of my school. Of course, if we should win today, I will proudly put on my Radford University sweat shirt and walk right into Talulla’s, a Turkish restaurant in Chapel Hill on Franklin Street. I presume it could be a while before I am served.

Tilly Gokbudak is a developmental

English instructor at Danville Community College in Danville, Va. He is a former newspaper reporter who resides in Reidsville. If any fellow Radford alumni would like to contact him about this story, his e-mail is tango74@aol.com.

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