2003-2007 | Guard | 6’3″ | 200 lbs. | Pahokee, FL
All-Time Hokie List:
- 8th in scoring (1785)
- 6th in assists (380)
- 3rd in steals (241)
- Named First Team All-ACC his senior year, the first Hokie to accomplish this
- Two time All-ACC Defensive Team
- Made his NBA debut with the Phoenix Suns on 1/11/11
- One of the original arm-curl victims of Niemo
When his career was all said and done, the Hokie from Pahokee, Zabian Dowdell, had written his place in Virginia Tech basketball history. He ranked as one of the ten greatest players in the program’s history, if not top five. Possible jersey retirement some day? Zabe currently ranks 8th in points. He ranks 3rd in steals and 6th in assists. That all is a pretty good resume for Seth Greenberg’s first VT recruit, and an unheralded one at that.
Zabian played his high school ball at Pahokee High School. It was destiny that he would become a Hokie. Greenberg was recruiting him while at south florida, and kept after him once he moved on to Virginia Tech. Despite averaging 23 points, 8 assists, and 7 rebounds his senior year and being first team all-state in Florida as a junior and senior, Dowdell was not highly recruited. Part of this was due to a broken ankle the summer before his senior year that cost him a chance to showcase his talents. That injury likely was Virginia Tech’s gain. Zabe eventually signed with Greenberg, and befriended Jamon Gordon while playing in the Florida-Georgia All-Star Classic against Coleman Collins.
“I think that Jamon and I can play together real well in the backcourt and Coach Greenberg said he thought we could play at the same time,” Dowdell said in this Scout.com interview. “Jamon and I roomed together this past weekend and I had met him earlier in Ft. Myers (City of Palms Classic during Christmas).”
That turned out to be true as both Jamon and Zabian became instant starters their freshman year in the Big East. Zabe started 28 games that year and, like Jamon, won Big East Rookie of the Week during the season. However, Dowdell was just a ‘chucker’ (stealing a Seinfeld reference) his freshman year. He shot just 38% from the field and 31% on three-pointers.
Dowdell showed his great work ethic during the summer before his sophomore year and came back with a new and improved stroke. He became one of the ACC’s leading three-point shooters, hitting 66 three’s at a 42% clip. Zabe led the team in scoring at 14.4 per game and was named Honorable Mention All-ACC in VT’s first year in the league.
As with many of the Hokies in 2005-06, Zabian hit a slump. Whether it was due to all the off the court issues or not, we will never know. But Dowdell’s jump-shots looked flat for much of the year and his three-point percentage dropped to 36% and just 42% overall. He was VT’s leading scorer again and nabbed 70 steals, 5th best ever by a Hokie in one season.
Once again, Zabian cranked up the summer workouts and came back to Blacksburg as a better three-point and free throw shooter. He has hit an amazing 48% from the field, outrageously high for a guard, and 42% on three’s. He’s also hit 83% of his free throws and he has gotten to the line 50 more times than in any previous season. This has helped VT win close games that they lost in the past thanks to clutch free throw shooting at the end of games. Dowdell has reinvented himself to a degree, shooting fewer, but better, three’s and going to the hoop a lot more. The result has been an average of almost 20 points per game in ACC play, good for fourth in the league.
Another interesting fact about Zabian is he scored in double figures in his first 41 ACC regular season games, showing amazing production game in and game out. As of now, he has scored in double figures in 44 of 46 ACC regular season games.
Strengths: Very good shooter who also can get to the rack. Solid inside/outside combination. Good speed and vision on the fastbreak. Tremendously quick hands on defense that leads to a lot of steals. Decent ball handler. Good passer while driving, leading to easy buckets. 2:1 turnover ratio this year, which is very good. Clutch free throw shooter. Wants the ball at the end of games.
Weaknesses: No glaring weaknesses. Dowdell’s height allows him to match up well against almost any other guard. He will need to improve his ball handling to run the point in the NBA, but he has improved in this area. Zabe also is not consistent from the outside and has reduced the number of three’s he takes. Needs to improve getting open without the ball.
Greatest Game: For me, Zabian’s finest effort was in the game at unc this year. In that game, Zabian had a career-high 33 points on 7/15 from the field and 17/19 from the free throw line. But it goes beyond that. Dowdell basically carried the offense, scoring 23 of VT’s 28 points over a 17 minute stretch. He also had six of Tech’s eight points in overtime and helped stop Ty Lawson’s attempt at the end of overtime to win it, and the Hokies won 81-80 in their first trip to Chapel Hill as a member of the ACC. This win showed the win in Blacksburg was not a fluke, and that VT could play with anyone anywhere.
Favorite Moment: My favorite Zabian moment is his three-pointer he hit with 16 seconds left to put VT ahead of the #7 duke blue devils in 2005. The blue devils were unable to hit a shot to win the game at the end, and VT had a 67-65 landmark victory that helped turn the program around. It was sweet revenge for a 35 point loss earlier in the season to duke. Dowdell was as clutch as could be that season, and when that three went up, you knew it was going in. He was automatic.
Quote: “I am really excited about coming there and it seems like the perfect place and the perfect situation for me,” said Dowdell his senior season of high school. Boy, was he right, and what a great treat it has been to watch him play in Chicago maroon and burnt orange.
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