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December 7, 2009

Six more inducted into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame

By: Jimmy Robertson


For most of her career at Tech, Lisa Witherspoon was the charitable giver.

But last summer, when she went to the mailbox and opened a letter from Virginia Tech, she was nearly reduced to tears. Her alma mater was giving her an overwhelming gift – induction into the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

“I had to read the letter twice,” she said. “The first time, it didn’t sink in. I was almost in tears. I’m already so proud to be an alumnus of the school. That was one special day.”

Witherspoon, who now goes by Lisa Witherspoon Hansen, was one of six former Tech athletes inducted into the Tech Hall of Fame at a dinner held Nov. 20 at the Inn and Convention Center on the Tech campus. Each of the living inductees and families of all of the inductees were introduced to fans at halftime of the Tech-N.C. State football game on Nov. 21.

Witherspoon’s statistics during her playing days in the late 1990s certainly warranted her induction. Her junior season, she became the first Tech women’s player to dish out 200 assists in a season, shattering the previous record.

Her senior season, she had 246 assists and also set a single-season record with 86 steals in earning honorable mention All-America honors by The Associated Press. Witherspoon’s senior numbers in assists and steals still stand as school season records, as does her career total of 635 assists. She ranks third in career steals (219).

“I found my role,” she said. “We had talent around me and they were much better at scoring. Getting them the ball was my role. My teammates had confidence in me and I had more success than I thought I would have.”

More importantly than the numbers, though, she and her four senior classmates (Katie O’Connor, Kelly Drinka, Michelle Houseright and Maria Albertsson) helped put Tech women’s basketball on the map. Dubbed the “Working Class” because of their work ethic and chemistry, they led the Hokies to a 28-3 record in 1999 and advanced to the Sweet 16.

“When you’re there, you’re caught up in the moment,” she said. “But to step back and look at it, it’s pretty remarkable what we were able to accomplish.”

Witherspoon, who holds a Ph.D in Education from the University of South Florida, currently lives in Tampa, Fla., with her husband and newborn daughter. She is an assistant professor in the Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science at the University of South Florida and is co-director of two research labs.


Maurice DeShazo endured some rather tumultuous times during his tenure in Blacksburg, but he made sure to leave no doubts as to where his allegiances lie 15 years later.

“Oh, I bleed orange and maroon,” he said. “I love the school. I’ve told Coach Beamer several times that, one day, I’d love to be on his staff. Everything he and the coaches taught me, I’d love to be able to give back to those kids.

“When I come up there now, I have to stay two or three days to see everyone.”

DeShazo was considered the most highly touted quarterback ever to sign with Tech when he joined the football program in 1990 out of Bassett [Va.] High School. He ultimately took over the reins as a redshirt sophomore in 1992 and went on to pass for 1,504 yards and 12 touchdowns.

In his last two seasons, DeShazo became the first quarterback to guide the Hokies to back-to-back bowl games, while passing for over 2,000 yards in both seasons. In 1993, he threw a school-record 22 touchdown passes and was named the offensive MVP in the 1993 Independence Bowl after passing for 192 yards and two scores in the Hokies’ 45-20 win over Indiana.

“That’s probably my fondest memory – going from 2-8-1 [in 1992] to 9-3 with a bowl victory,” he said. “We knew we had the players, and then when Coach [Rickey] Bustle became the offensive coordinator, that was like cheating. He knew what we could do and he just ran with it.”

DeShazo passed for 2,110 yards and 13 touchdowns during his senior season. He finished as the Hokies’ all-time leader in total offense (6,105) and touchdown passes (47) – since broken by Bryan Randall – and was third at the time in career passing yards (5,720). He also set career marks for games with multiple touchdown passes (18) and yards per completion average (14.4 with minimum 200 completions), both of which he still holds.

“I was successful because of my teammates and my coaches,” said DeShazo, who now lives in Suffolk, Va., and works as an independent car dealer. “And my high school coaches, too. They all contributed to my success and kept me humble.”


Aaron Marchetti vividly remembers his recruiting trip to Blacksburg. Then Tech head coach Larsen Bowker took the Williamstown, W.Va., native to the concourse area of Cassell Coliseum, where, at the time, the athletics department displayed portraits of every current and former All-American at the school. Bowker proceeded to tell him there were no portraits of any tennis players on those walls and that he wanted Marchetti to be the first.

“I was determined to do whatever it took to get on that wall,” Marchetti said.

Marchetti became just the second men’s tennis player to earn All-America honors – Oliver Mayo was the first in Marchetti’s freshman year – and enjoyed an outstanding career. As a freshman, Marchetti won 33 matches and was named the most outstanding rookie in the Atlantic 10, along with being named the NCAA Region I rookie of the year.

The next three years, he was the Atlantic 10’s player of the year. He won 30 matches as a sophomore and 39 as a junior while competing at the No. 1 spot. His senior season, he won 38 matches. He qualified for the NCAAs in singles and doubles his final two years and finished ranked in the top 15 in singles during both years.

“I was pretty intense and I think my intensity is what helped me win,” he said. “I was not the most talented guy in the world. I was fiery and maybe that’s not necessarily tennis etiquette. But that’s who I was.”

Marchetti and younger brother Adam put Tech on the tennis map in Marchetti’s senior season. The Hokies, under first-year coach Jim Thompson, upset No. 16 Alabama to reach the round of 16 at the NCAA Championships for the first time in school history.

“That was so memorable,” he said. “My first three years, we had lost in the regionals. To get to the sweet 16 was sweet, and Coach Bowker was there. That was the best. Playing with my brother was awesome, too.”

Currently, Marchetti lives in Overland Park, Kansas, where he is the co-director of Overland Park Racquet Club Academy and works with his brother. They help college-bound juniors work on all facets of their tennis games.


Few know this, but Brian Sharp actually began his college days at the University of Tennessee.

“I didn’t really plan on golfing,” he said. “I was going there to study engineering. Then they had the walk-on tryouts and I decided to give it a shot and wound up making the team.”

Sharp ultimately transferred to Tech and embarked on maybe the greatest career ever enjoyed by a Tech golfer. During his four-year career, he set a record for most rounds played, and started in the No. 1 position in every tournament during that time. He won four collegiate events, including the 1995 Metro Conference championship as a senior. His career stroke average of 74.14 still ranks as the sixth best over the past 30 years.

Sharp became the only Tech golfer to be a four-time all-conference pick and was one of only three golfers in the history of the Metro Conference ever to do that. He was also named the Metro student-athlete of the year and won the Medallion Award for the most outstanding male student-athlete at Virginia Tech in 1995.

“I was a decent junior golfer, but I didn’t play as much as a junior player as they do now,” Sharp said. “But I believed I could do well. I did as well as I could and I was lucky enough to win some tournaments. But I didn’t think it would lead to all this [being inducted].”

Sharp turned professional in 1995 after graduating from Tech with a degree in finance. In 2003, he came back to earn his MBA. Head coach Jay Hardwick offered him an opportunity to work as an assistant coach, and after Sharp earned his MBA in 2006, he decided to stay put as a coach.

After the 2009 season, he received the Jan Strickland Award as the assistant coach of the year (selected by the Golf Coaches Association of America).

“I was going to get my MBA and then go work for a golf equipment company,” Sharp said. “But I met my wife and she’s from Blacksburg and we love it here. I loved working with the kids on the team, so I just stayed here.”


When Chuck Noe was named the head men’s basketball coach at Virginia Tech in 1955, he inherited a program that had posted just five winning seasons since the early 1920s. As it turned out, Noe was just the man to change Tech’s basketball fortunes.

In his seven years at the helm of the Tech men’s basketball program, Noe guided the Hokies to seven consecutive winning seasons, compiling 109 victories. In 1959-60, Tech posted the first 20-win season in school history with a 20-6 record that included a 12-1 mark in Southern Conference play. The Hokies won the league’s regular-season title that season and also laid claim to the state championship with a 7-0 mark against in-state competition.

Many felt the 1961-62 edition of the Hokies was the masterpiece of Noe’s stay in Blacksburg. He guided the sophomore-laden Hokies to an outstanding 19-6 record and their fourth state title in six seasons. A 10-game winning streak matched the longest streak by a Tech team during the previous 40 years.

Noe succeeded with his organization, teaching techniques and fiery spirit. The Louisville, Ky., native was a two-time Southern Conference coach of the year – once after his first season when he took a 7-20 team from the previous season and went 14-11 and again after his final season (1961-62). That season marked Tech’s fourth straight undefeated campaign at home, running the Hokies’ home winning streak to 36 games and Noe’s record at home to 54-5 (.915).

Noe’s 109-51 overall record at Tech still ranks him second all time in victories. Six players whom Noe recruited are currently members of the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

After leaving Blacksburg in 1962, Noe went on to coach at South Carolina and VCU before embarking on a successful broadcasting career. He died in December of 2003 at the age of 79.


Virginia Tech’s cross country and track & field programs didn’t enjoy a conference affiliation or much in the way of training facilities when Gene Crane entered school in 1974. But that didn’t seem to dim the young distance runner’s dream of one day running in the nationals.

Crane made the team and ultimately took up the steeplechase as his primary event during the outdoor season. The 3,000-meter race incorporates four barriers (hurdles) and a water jump that forced the competitors to clear a total of 28 barriers and seven water jumps during the course of the race.

In 1976, Crane finished sixth at the State Outdoor Championships. The following year, he placed sixth in the event once again, this time helping the Hokies win the State Outdoor title and end William & Mary’s 14-year reign as meet champs. Crane set a school record in the steeplechase that still stands when he ran a time of 8:47.2 on the way to a third-place finish in the 1978 State Championships. That time qualified him for the NCAA Championships, fulfilling his dream.

In May of 1978, Tech joined the Metro Conference, and the following spring, Crane took second place in the steeplechase at the 1979 Metro Outdoor Track & Field Championships. He also finished second in the event at both the Atlantic Coast Relays and the State Championships that season.

Crane also made contributions to the cross country and indoor track squads. He helped the indoor team win the state title in 1978 with a sixth-place finish in the 3-mile run.

Crane graduated from Tech as an honor student in health and physical education in 1979 and went home to Richmond, Va., to train for a new goal – the Olympic trials. Tragically, he was struck and killed by a car later that month after completing a workout.