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#10 Bill Matthews | 10 Greatest VT Players of All Time

#10 Bill Matthews | 10 Greatest VT Players of All Time

Each Friday we will count down the 10 greatest basketball players in the history of Virginia Tech.  Let’s kick things of with Bill Matthews, a great low post player and an even greater Hokie.

Bill Matthews | 6’5″ Center | 1952-56

Career Numbers:

  • Points: 1652 (14th)
  • Points per Game: 16.5 (13th)
  • Rebounds: 1379 (2nd)
  • Rebound Average per Game: 13.8 (2nd)

Of Note:

  • Nickname: “Moose”
  • 3 year captain
  • Averaged 18.8 rebounds per game his junior year (3rd highest average in school history)
  • Head Coach of the basketball team for two years (1962-64), compiling a 28-19 record
  • Later coached the golf team
  • Worked in the VT Athletic Department until 1986, finishing with 35 years of Hokie service as a student, athlete, and employee
  • Inducted into the VT Sports Hall of Fame in 1993
  • Passed away in 2008 at the age of 73: TechHoops.com ArticleRoanoke Times Article

Why He’s in the Top 10:

This was actually a very tough decision.  There were a couple of other players that seemed to be just as worthy as Bill.  And while this list is about PLAYERS, it could be said that his service to the University helped in terms of forming a tiebreaker.  (More details on who he barely beat out when the ‘Best of the Rest’ are announced with #6.)

In terms of what got him on this list as a player, it is the gaudy rebounding numbers.  Bill snagged 840 rebounds in his final two seasons, including 18.8 per game during the 1954-55 campaign.  He followed his 470 rebounds in his junior year with 370 (14.8 per game) in his senior year as the team got a lot better.  Yes, the game was different back then and guards did collapse to help as much on the boards.  But still, lots of other Hokie big men played in this era and didn’t put up anywhere close to the numbers Matthews did.

Bill wasn’t just a ‘Dennis Rodman’, though.  He could score, too.  Matthews averaged 16.5 points per game over his career (13th best all time) and was in the top 10 in scoring until Zabian Dowdell bumped him in 2007.  He currently sits in 14th place (Vassallo, Delaney, and Allen have since passed him).  Bill also erupted in the scoring column one cold February evening…

Greatest Game: 2/23/56

In Bill’s next-to-last home game in his career at Virginia Tech (the Hokies played in War Memorial back then), he scored 46 points against the citadel in a 103-47 woodshed-beating.  Those 46 points still rank as the 4th-highest single game scoring mark in VT history.  The win moved the Hokies to 13-10 and clinched a winning record for the squad, the first time in five years the Hokies had done that.

Team Record: 28-74 (27%)

Virginia Tech was ricky stokes-bad during Bill’s first three years.  The team went a combined 14-63 during that span.  At that point Coach Red Laird did not return and Chuck Noe took over.  Noe, Matthews, and the Hokies equaled their win total from the past three seasons combined, going 14-11 in Matthews’s senior year.  This got Virginia Tech basketball going.  Noe would produce seven straight winning seasons before moving on and Tech would have just one losing season over the next 30 years.  Matthews and the 1955-56 Hokies can be credited for laying the foundation of winning.

Summary:

Bill was a great player but had an even greater impact on the University over his life.  He loved Virginia Tech with all his fiber.  Still, put his numbers up against anyone, and this is a top 10 Hokie basketball player of all time.

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.

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  • RickandBach

    I can’t believe they used to play in War Memorial haha people don’t even like to play pick-up there these days

  • chuck

    Some of my greatest basketball was played in the summers in WarMore…

    Gotta say i don’t respect the high rebounding #s of that era for Pros or College…so many misses, such inaccurate shooting.

    I am of the opinion that because of the evolution of the game, players from that era would not compete well in the modern game. I doubt this guy would play a minute, particularly not at Center…a 6’5 Center, really?

    I have a feeling you just wanted to rep all eras. You stretched a bit here.

    I use a peremptory challenge to exclude the good Hokie Matthews from consideration.

    Service to VPI notwithstanding. Let’s see what you got for #9…

  • chuck

    Gotta remember pace factor. And that it created an atmosphere of gunning up the first open shot and lots of misses…team shooting %s in the 30s….look back at some of his teammates if you can. I wouldn’t be surprised if several guys avg 7 or more rebs, with a couple in double digits.

    • Niemo

      Chuck – but he averaged almost 14 rpg for his CAREER, not 7-10. So you are just making my case. He was one of the best of the best. And averaged almost 19 per game for an entire season. Yes, there were more opportunities back then, but he took advantage of them.
      And keep in mind – this is a list of the 10 best players based on how they did in their era – not how they would today. I cannot punish someone for the fact they played when they did. And 6’5″ was a reasonable size for a center back then. I stick by my selection.
      As for the top 9, they were pretty easy. I knew #10 was a bit of a crap-shoot.

  • chuck

    No perhaps my syntax was poor…i was saying if you look at the rest of the team, you’ll find others will high rebounding averages.

    I wasn’t intending to make your case. Historians have stated that this era was a whole lot of first shot misses, and inflated rebounding averages.

    And i do think you have to weight the era based on externalities such as competition faced, travel demands, and style of play.

    I know you can’t transpose one guy’s game into another era, but you have to imagine that a 6’5 Bill Matthews would be required to be a small PF at best in today’s game, and probably wouldn’t be athletic enough to compete against today’s athletes (again lending to weighing the era itself).

    Plus, dude, i can’t abide by this guy having records of : 4-19, 3-24, 7-20, 14-11….sounds like he had plenty of misses to rebound :)

    The same reasons you have Matthews will be the same reason you nominate Chris Smith…and it’s just inflated #s with bad team records in a weird era. Caution!

    Can’t wait to see the next 9…i feel i’ve acquitted myself…sorry for the confusion in my last post.

    • Niemo

      Well Chris Smith was a heck of a player…

  • chuck

    I would just like to think that we wouldn’t have any guys on here with a career record of 28-74.

    Starting to worry we might see Dennis Mims, Terry Taylor, and other Ricky Stokes era ballers on here by that criteria ;)

  • chuck

    Also, not to be crass, but judging by Mr. Matthews spectacles above, could it have been possible many of those rebounds came by folly of his own hand?

    /Moses Malone style, except with a .400 FG% as opposed to a .625%…Moses had a purpose when he bricked in order to get a bunny of a putback…this guy just had 20/400 vision.

    • Niemo

      Chuck – I’m pretty sure Mr. Matthews was pretty old in that photo. I couldn’t find any of him from his playing days, so no idea how he looked back then.

      As for the career record, I did take that into consideration. For example, Bryant Matthews was a great player on some very bad teams. But Bryant only a real star for one year. Bill was very good for three years.

  • chuck

    And here i was, thinking that was his graduation photo.

    The difference between Bryant “3rd Man In” Matthews and Bill here is that Bryant’s teams were unquestionably more successful (hard to believe i know) against tougher competition.

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