Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 14 No. 5 | April 2022

From the moment Ace Custis walked the campus, he knew Virginia Tech was where he wanted to be. Years later, Custis sits on the Hokies’ bench at Cassell Coliseum, where he looks up into the rafters and sees his No. 20 jersey retired. Back, where he wanted to be. “I always wanted to come back here,” Custis said. “It [was] a dream of mine. I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been back in Blacksburg.” Custis played for the Hokies from 199397, becoming the third player in program history to score 1,000 points and snag 1,000 rebounds. “People joke about it all the time,”Virginia Tech forward David N’Guessan said. “[You have to] listen to him and respect him because he’s a legend around here.” Custis had plenty of individual accolades, but it came with team success, too. “I always wanted to see the team excel,” Custis said. “If the team excelled, I was always happy. I just went out and tried to play my best each and every night. I could only control one thing and that was my effort.” The 1994-95 Hokies finished the regular season 20-9 and felt they deserved a spot in the NCAA Tournament. But they didn’t get in. Instead, having to settle for the NIT. “We all had a chip on our shoulder,” Custis recalled. The Hokies ran through the tournament to set up a championship matchup against Marquette, a game that Custis will never forget. With 0.7 seconds remaining in overtime, junior forward Shawn Smith stepped up to the free-throw line with the Hokies down one. He sank both. “It was a surreal moment,” Custis said. “When that shot went through and the horn went off, I could say we were the 65th best team that year.” Virginia Tech flooded the floor in excitement to celebrate a monumental feat, but the job wasn’t finished. The next season, the Hokies didn’t forget how close they were to the NCAA Tournament. “We wanted to leave no doubt that we should be in the NCAA Tournament,” Custis said. “Throughout the year, it was one game at a time. We played Hokie basketball.” Virginia Tech left no doubt, finishing the regular season 22-4 and ranking as high as No. 8 in the country, etching a spot in the Big Dance. The Hokies took down Green Bay in the Round of 64 before bowing out to the eventual champions, Kentucky. Continued on page 22 20 Inside Hokie Sports