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Zabian Dowdell Interview | Part 1 | He Made It

Zabian Dowdell Interview | Part 1 | He Made It


Niemo spoke with the first Hokie to make the NBA in quite a while, Zabian Dowdell.  Dowdell had a banner career at VT, making the All-ACC First Team as a senior and the All-ACC Defensive Team twice.  He is 8th on Tech’s all-time scoring list, 6th in assists, and 3rd in steals.

Zabian is currently on his second 10-day contract with the Suns.  After this, they will have to decide whether or not they want to sign him for the rest of the season.  Click the audio link right below this to listen, or view the transcript at the bottom of this article.

The interview is broken up into three parts:

  1. HE MADE IT - We discuss Zabian’s tryout with the Phoenix Suns, making a NBA team to fulfill his boyhood letter (‘I Will Make It‘), and life in the NBA so far.
  2. NBA Dreamin’ (Link) – Zabian talks about not getting drafted, playing overseas, and then going to the NBA Developmental League.
  3. The Hokie from Pahokee – We talk about his time at Tech with Coach Greenberg, his former teammates, VT, and his favorite memories — including being arm-curled by yours truly.

Transcript of Part1 – He Made It:

He Made It
Niemo: Zabian, congratulations! What’s it feel like to reach your dream and make the NBA?
Dowdell: Aw man, it feels great.  A lot of hard work is finally paying off and I just want to continue to do good.
Niemo: So you’re at Tulsa [playing in the NBA D-League for the Tulsa 66ers]. You get the call from the Phoenix Suns that they want to bring you in for a tryout in early January. How many other guys were you competing with for basically one spot?
Dowdell: Yeah.  There were three other guys there but I don’t think the other guys had ever been to a training camp or anything like that. So I definitely knew I had the edge there.
Niemo: And how nervous were you going through that, or did you have sort of a quiet confidence?
Dowdell: I knew I was just confident. And, I just went in, with a clear mind and, I mean, took care of business.
Niemo: How excited were you when they told you they were going to sign you to that first 10 day contract.
Dowdell: Oh man, I mean that was like music to my ears. And I don’t think it hit me until like a couple days after that. But it was just like, man, about time. But, obviously with a 10 day contract, you don’t have a lot of security. So, I was just pretty much trying to do as much as I could in those first 10 days to have him bring me back for another contract.
Niemo: Now after you were told they were going to sign you, who was your first phone call?
Dowdell: My mom, I called my mom and let her know the good news and then I called my agent and just pretty much after that man it’s like a blur. Everyone was calling me and,  but it was definitely, a good time. Something I’ll never forget.
Niemo: Your mom’s name is Isabelle, is that correct?
Dowdell: Yes, yes Isabelle McDonald.
Niemo: Was she able to keep it together on the phone or was she more excited than you?
Dowdell: [laugh] Yeah, she might have been more excited than me man. Hey She’s been waiting for this a long time just like me. And I think sometimes she gets more emotional about it than me,  because I’m not really the type of guy to overreact . It definitely great news for her.
Niemo: I read in the Sports illustrated article about you that you had written a letter when you were 16 to yourself talking about how you were going to make it to the NBA. Did you really think about that at the time? Or was that something a few days later that sort of came to mind?Article:
Dowdell: Well, actually I hadn’t read the letter in awhile. Maybe a year or something like that because I don’t have the physical copy with me. I had it while I was at Tech and after I left some of my stuff did get all over the place. So when the writer that I talking to, he brought it up, I was like, “I have it in my email.” I had it in my email the whole time. And it’s definitely good to go back and just see where my head was at, at that time. And [laugh] it, was great. [laugh]
Niemo: [laugh] Now how did the SI article come about?
Dowdell: I guess they were trying to get something on, get the mindset of a guy who is playing with a 10 day contract. And, I think soon after I signed the contract, someone from the team called me and asked me would I do it. I was kind of hesitant at first. I didn’t want the guy to kind of put me in a bad light. But, after that, I was like, it’s fine.  And I thought it would be a great opportunity to kind of show people what guys in my situation are thinking about. And it was a great opportunity to get some free publicity for my internet business. So [laugh] it worked out well man. [laugh][Zabian’s a founder of]
Niemo: Well I know that article has been read by everyone that’s followed you over the last several years and everyone in the Hokie community is really rooting for you and was glad to get to see that and see you’re doing well.
Dowdell: Yeah, I walk by people on the street man and they tell me it was a nice article so it’s definitely being read by a lot of people, [laugh].
Niemo: Your first game [with the Suns] you don’t get to play in. The second game after you’ve been signed, the team’s down about 30 points at the end of the third quarter. Did you have a feeling you’re finally going to get in there?
Dowdell: [laugh]. Yeah, well, that game I knew was going to play. [laugh]. Things were pretty much not going our way that game and I was like, I better warm up, I might, get some garbage time. I got in and played the last quarter. That’s really  not the situation you want to be in as a player. But, for me, it was just good to get on the floor and play.
Niemo: Did it feel different at all? Or is basketball basketball?  Once you got out there it just felt normal?
Dowdell: Yeah, basketball is basketball. I mean, a lot doesn’t really changes except for the speed of the game and the intelligence of the players. But, other than that, everything is pretty much the same. I felt comfortable out there, I felt good.
Niemo: What’s it like going from sitting on the bench in Tulsa to now playing with Steve Nash and Vince Carter and going against the Celtics the other night and all those guys?
Dowdell: It’s kind of hard to put in words. Just being a fan of the game, and, watching, seeing guys out there, who are now my teammates that I watched growing up. It’s crazy. You see these guys and, you try to learn as much as you can from them because obviously they’ve had great careers and they continue to play well. So, that’s pretty much what I’m trying to. Just learn as much as I can and soak up as much as I can from these guys.
Niemo: I read in the SI article that Vince Carter was giving you crap after unc beat the Hokies?
Dowdell: [laugh] Yeah I was kind of hoping for that win so I could mess with him the next day but I couldn’t really say a whole lot back except the referees were awful for that game we’ll just leave it at that. [laugh]
Niemo: What has the team told you in terms of this second 10-day contract and then what they’re looking to do after that in terms of whether or not they’ll sign you for the rest of the season?
Dowdell: Obviously, the backup Goran Dragic ended up getting an injury so now I’m the back up. They were just like, “We have confidence in you. We’re going to put you in there and we don’t want you to be in there playing hesitant.” And that’s not really how I play anyway so they said, “Just go out there and play the game. But as far as what they’re going to do after this 10 day ends?  They haven’t really said a whole lot about it. They said that they liked me a lot but, in this business man, you really can’t believe it until you see it. But, we’ll see what happens.
Niemo: What’s been the coolest perk of being in the NBA?
Dowdell: I guess the travel. Just coming from the D League where you’re flying commercial and you might get the aisle seat or you might get stuck in the middle of a row. Now, it’s like you get off the bus, and walk straight to the plane. It’s just the small things. But, for me, I really can do without a lot of that stuff. I’m just glad to be here. That’s the biggest thing for me. I’m just glad to be here.

This post was written by:

- who has written 1275 posts on Tech Hoops.

Niemo is a member of the VT Class of '98. While not a professional journalist by any stretch, Niemo analyzes and breaks down every minute of Hokie hoop action. He also researches topics of interest such as Hokie recruits, program revenue, statistical data on the team, previews VT opponents, and discusses his favorite bourbons/Scotches. In addition to his passion for Hokie hoops, Niemo has attended 126 straight VT football home games (every game since '94), eclipsing the 100 mark in September of '09 and recently attended his 20th consecutive VT/uva game. During the final home basketball game of his senior year, he was brought onto the court and was awarded 2 passes to the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament in Philly during a timeout for being a "Super Fan" during his time at VT. The Hokie Bird made the award on behalf of Athletic Director Jim Weaver. Niemo was known to be in the front row of every home game with his familiar red afro hairdo.

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3 Responses to “Zabian Dowdell Interview | Part 1 | He Made It”

  1. vatechsports says:


  2. hokiegrad says:

    Go Zabe!

  3. H-SCokie says:

    great read! Zabe is really the guy that busted down the glass ceiling that might have been in the ACC for us Hokies. From day one, he proved we belonged and we are better to this day for it.


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