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Zabian Dowdell Interview | Part 3 | The Hokie from Pahokee

Zabian Dowdell Interview | Part 3 | The Hokie from Pahokee

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.

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The interview is broken up into three parts (audio is linked above, transcript is below):

  1. He Made It – We discuss his 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’ – 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.

Here’s the transcript from Part 3 – The Hokie from Pahokee.

Niemo: I read in the SI article that you picked number 22 in honor of Jamon Gordon, is that right?
Dowdell: Yeah, yeah. I wanted to, kind of, do that for him, and also for my uncle.  But me and Jamon, obviously, Jamon is like a brother to me and his dream was to make it here, too. And it’s kind of like both of us are here now. So, I definitely wanted to kind of do that in honor of him.
Niemo: How much do you stay in touch with him and some of your other former Hokie teammates?
Dowdell: Yeah well, me and Coleman talk every now and then. I played with Deron last year, in the D League for a couple games. I think Jamon probably I talk to him more than any of my other teammates. But, like, Shawn Harris I still keep in touch with him. Marcus Sailes. I still keep in touch with the guys. Man, that was a great time at Virginia Tech. We, going from a freshman to a senior, making it to the Big East Tournament my freshman year and then, making it to the NCAA Tournament my senior year, we shared a lot of great memories together.
Niemo: Is Deron still 160 pounds, or has he put on weight yet?
Dowdell: [laugh] Yeah, Deron hadn’t gained a pound when I saw him last time. So, yeah he’s still, the same old skinny Deron.
Niemo: [laugh] Now you almost didn’t end up at Virginia Tech, you were originally looking at south florida when Seth was still there, is that accurate?
Dowdell: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, I tell everybody, if Coach [Greenberg] had stayed there then, that’s probably where I would have ended up going. And I was pretty much set on going there, but obviously he made the move to Virginia Tech. And I was able to come along with him. And I’m definitely thankful for that.
Niemo: How tight is your bond with Coach Greenberg?
Dowdell: Ah, I say me and Coach have a really good, really good relationship. I can go to him and talk to him about anything. I mean, we came in together. We came to Tech together. [laugh] So that’ll always be something that we have together, to kind of help build the program from the ground up. That will always be something that we can say, we went in it together and we went through the hard times.  We went through the good times and, I mean, we came out with a good product.
Niemo: Don’t you think you were destined to be a Hokie being from Pahokee, Florida?
Dowdell: [laugh] A lot of people say that, man. I definitely think it’s ironic [laugh] that the name of my hometown rhymes with the mascot of the school, but hey, it happened that way. And I, you can definitely say it’s destiny, man. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I mean just all of the support that that I get from the Hokie Nation, man, it’s second to none. And I don’t think people, I don’t think people realize how good that makes me feel, or makes anyone feel, when you can go somewhere and if there’s a Hokie anywhere in the area, that you’re fine. I don’t have to worry about anything so, it’s definitely great to be a part of the Hokie Nation.
Dowdell:
Niemo: What was your favorite moment at Tech?  There were a lot of great ones. There was our first year in the ACC with your shot against duke to beat them after we lost to them by 35 there and then your senior year beating unc twice. But what was your favorite moment?
Dowdell: Looking back at it I think the best moment for me was going back to duke, after we had lost in the last seconds with the half-court shot from Dockery.  Just going back there and winning that game, that that was like, that was the biggest thing. Because I can remember after that game [the year before], a lot of guys were dealing with a lot of personal issues, and the season kind of took a turn for the worse after that. And, just kind of, just being able to go back there and accomplishing what we accomplished that night, that kind of took a lot of weight off our shoulders.
Niemo: You mentioned a lot of the personal things guys were going through your junior year. You had Allen Calloway, who developed cancer, and unfortunately has since passed away. And, Coleman’s dad battling cancer. And A.D. Vassallo’s host mom. How did you guys rebound from that season and come back your senior year? What got you guys through that?
Dowdell: Ah man, I mea, I guess the best way to describe that situation is experience is the best teacher. And a lot of things at that time they hit us at once during our season and  we really weren’t prepared for it. I mean, it’s so hard to kind of go out and play the game that you love and enjoy it when you’re dealing with so many other serious issues. So it definitely made us stronger and it made us come together more as a team. I can remember that season and next. In my senior year we were more like a family. We’d go out to eat together, we’d hang out at each others’, and stuff like that.  I feel like that, is a big reason why we were successful because we became more of a family other then just being teammates.
Niemo: And I’m sure that season’s helped Coach Greenberg out a lot, this year, having to deal with, not the personal matters you guys did that year. But dealing with losing 5 scholarship players this year, 4 to injury and 1 to transfer, and having to find a way through that in the season.  That’s been really tough.
Dowdell: Yeah, that’s always tough, a guy can go out. But, I mean, Coach has been around long enough to, he knows how to kind of work out the kinks so, I never worry about that as far as the coaching side of it with him.
Niemo: Speaking of that, how much do you keep up with the Hokies’ basketball team?
Dowdell: It was kind of tough my first couple of years out. I checked, I looked at it on the internet and just do that. But now I can actually watch the games, the ESPN games, and just kind of keep up with them a lot better now. And I’m definitely always going to be as close as I can to the program. And I definitely want to see those guys do well, and have as much success, because, as a guy that has been there, been to the tournament. As a college basketball player, that’s like the ultimate experience, and, hopefully they can pull it off this year, and I mean, I’m behind them 100%.
Niemo: Are you in touch with any of the current players? Do they talk to you for advice or anything?
Dowdell: I twitter a couple of the guys back and forth and just try to let them know that I’m in their corner.  A lot of players leave and then they just forget about the current players. But, I mean, I just want to let them know that I’m not that type of guy.  That if they just want to talk, I mean, I’m here.
Niemo: You got your degree in property management. How much did that mean to your mom?
Dowdell: Everything, I mean, she always brags about this because, I mean, coming from Pahokee not a lot of people make it to college, let alone get a degree. So that’s definitely something that I’m proud of and [laugh] just looking back at some of the things I’ve done, man, I’ve definitely been blessed. God has definitely  been good to me.
Niemo: Your website which you mentioned earlier, SportsAgent411.com. How did that start about and how’s that doing?
Dowdell: Yup. Yes, It’s actually going pretty good.  It came about, me and a friend of mine, we were kind of brainstorming about a couple of ideas, trying to think of some stuff we can do besides basketball and, the idea kind of came up.  A couple of ideas came up that we still have in the works. But that was one of them. And, man, I definitely think it’s a great idea. It’s the only site out there like that. So, we’re definitely looking for big things with that.
Niemo: I don’t want to get you in trouble if you have a lady in your life, but have the NBA groupies started showing up yet?
Dowdell: Man, what? I really don’t go out a lot.  I’ve never been the type of guy to go out a lot, and party a lot. So, I really haven’t had a lot of time to party or anything like that.  But I do have a girlfriend so yeah, I mean I pretty much focused on her.
Niemo: She right next to you right now, isn’t she?
Dowdell: No, she’s actually back in Richmond right now.  So right now in my situation I think it’s best that I just focus on what I need to get done to stay here.  I mean have a lot of time to have fun and stuff like that man so that’ll come.
Niemo: Final question for you. What was the best advice you got in the years when you were still trying to make the NBA? What really stuck with you?
Dowdell: You know, I think one of the best things a player told me, and this was at Suns training camp this year, Chucky Atkins, obviously he’s a veteran guy.  We were playing pick-up and, I think he had been there a couple of days but he really didn’t know who I was.  He was kind of asking about my situation and stuff and he was like, he went through the same kind of situation.  Had to wait a couple years after school before he got his chance at the NBA and he made the most of it and he was just like, man, the best thing you can do is just keep playing.  Just keep your head up.  I just think coming from a guy like Chucky who’s been on this level and, just for him to say that to me he could have just been like, man, I’m competing with this guy for a spot. I don’t need to help this guy at all but he reached out to me.  Man, that was real big coming from a guy like that.
Niemo: So any final thoughts you’d like to say to all your loyal Hokie fans out there that are rooting for you?
Dowdell: Ah, man, I just wanted to let everybody know that I appreciate your support and everywhere I go I’m proud to say that I’m a Hokie.
Niemo: Well, thanks to you now I’ve arm curled 2 NBA players. You along with Greivis Vasquez.  So thanks for adding to my resume [laugh].
Dowdell: [laugh]. Hey, I saw that picture’s online, man. That picture’s actually online. I don’t know when the last time I saw it, but, I actually remember that day, man. And, I was like, wow. [laugh]. That was kind of funny, man. [laugh].
Niemo: [laugh]. There were a couple of cocktails preceding that. [laugh]
Dowdell: Yeah. I know that. [laugh].
Niemo: That’s become an ongoing joke even with the guys today, and I’ve gotten pretty much everyone except for Malcolm. And that’s because I had arm curled Jeff Allen right before him, and I threw out my back in the process getting him up. [laugh]. So, oh well.
Dowdell: [laugh] Yeah. Wow, wow. Jeff is a pretty good, pretty big guy, man. [laugh]
Niemo: Zabian, thank you so much for your time and hopefully, like with Anthony Mason and Kurt Rambis your ten-day contracts will turn into a 14 year career like it did for them.
Dowdell: Yeah, well that’s the plan, man. And, I appreciate the support from the Hokie Nation, man. And I’m going to try to continue to make them proud.
Niemo: Thank you, Zabian!

This post was written by:

- who has written 1216 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.

Contact the author | Visit the author's website | Follow Niemo on Twitter

  • chrishokie

    Thanks Niemo. I really enjoyed the interview with Zabian. His last game against Milwaukee was kind of rough. Contracted Jeff Allen disease and got 5 fouls in 11 mintues. Ha! They have won both games he has played in this time around. Hopefully Dragic will stay hurt a little longer and he will continue to get meaningful minutes behind Nash.

  • Bryan

    Zabian is the man! Thanks for all the great Hokie memories. It was always a pleasure to watch you play.

  • King

    http://www.azcentral.com/sports/suns/articles/2011/02/05/20110205phoenix-suns-rookie-zabian-dowdell.html

    This article says he’s been picked up by the Suns for the remainder of the season.

  • chrishokiethis issue

    King – great news! thanks for the link

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