In this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re joined by former Virginia Cavaliers men’s basketball great Cory Alexander. The former McDonald’s All-American played at Virginia from 1991-1995, where he earned Second Team All-ACC honors and a gold medal at the FIBA U21 World Championship in 1993.
Cory was drafted No. 29 overall in the 1995 NBA Draft by the San Antonio Spurs, where he played for three seasons before getting traded to the Denver Nuggets for another three seasons. In all, he spent eight seasons in the league, also rotating through Orlando and Charlotte.
Cory still sits at No. 10 in UVA’s all-time assists with 401 and he still holds the freshman class record with 145 assists in a season.
Today, you’ll see him all over ACC games as an analyst across both ESPN and the ACC Network.
Streaking the Lawn: As a commentator, the abrupt end to the basketball season, and sports generally, was probably pretty jarring for you. What were your first reactions upon learning that the ACC Tournament and ultimately all of sports were cancelled?
Cory Alexander: I had already called the Tuesday night game and the Wednesday noon game at the ACC Tournament, so even though my assignment was done for the weekend, I was going to stick around until at least Friday to watch the Quarterfinal and Semifinal games if the Hoos were playing. However, there was an eerie feeling in Greensboro, especially once the NBA cancellations started and other conference tournaments had been called off, but even still, I never would’ve thought it would happen with the ACC. Once everything started getting cancelled, I felt funny leaving my hotel room, and even eating in the hotel restaurants with so much of the uncertainty that we had about COVID, and trying to take every necessary precaution. Although, I was scheduled to fly back to Richmond on Friday evening, I just jumped in the car Thursday morning, and started driving back home, only to learn that the ACC Tournament had been cancelled along the way. I had been on an airplane 4-5 days a week for the previous 10 weeks, but all of a sudden, I was no longer comfortable flying, and haven’t been on a plane since.
STL: What are you doing during this quarantine period to keep yourself busy and/or entertained?
CA: Unlike many people, I would choose to social distance even if there were no pandemic. Contrary to popular belief, I’m a loner by nature, so “Quarantining” has been right up my alley. There were so many things that I needed to do at home that I said I would do if I had the time, that I’m doing now that I have the time. I’ve also used the time to try to get back into shape. I’ve been trying to get back to my playing weight for about 12 years now, and although I’m not there yet, I’m much happier with what I see in the mirror now, than I was on March 11 at the beginning of the “Quarantine.”
STL: When was the last time you played ball with current / recent UVA players? Did the youth teach and old dog new tricks, or did you make them respect their elders?
CA: The last time I actually played basketball against UVA players, was with Tony Bennett‘s first recruiting class that included Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell, so that would’ve been the summer of 2010, (WOW... That was 10 years ago...) That day the youngsters had to respect their elders, which is also the reason that it was my last time playing against them. Didn’t want to give them a chance to get me back. I’ve worked out many of the guys since, and get challenged to shooting contests often, but I’m retired!! When I was doing radio for UVA basketball, I would play against the coaches, managers, and guys who may be redshirting, but that was half court, and I was supposed to be the best player on the floor then, so I don’t count those LOL.
STL: If you could have been an athlete in another sport at Virginia, which would you choose, and would you be a starter?
CA: Baseball!! I used to go out to the field and try to practice with Coach Womack back in the day when our baseball field was HORRIBLE. I was a really good baseball player growing up, started varsity at Waynesboro HS as a freshman at 2nd base, and hit in the #2 spot. Once I left WHS for private school after basketball season my sophomore year, I had to give up baseball, but I definitely feel like I could’ve followed in the tradition of 2 sport athletes at UVA in the 90s.
STL: What is your favorite UVA sports memory, either as a fan or a player?
CA: My favorite UVA sports memory is sitting behind the bench during the National Championship game, and being a true fan helping to cheer my team to victory. That was an amazing night, and getting to celebrate with the coaches, players, and many of the past players afterwards was just the icing on the cake. Even though I hadn’t played in a UVA uniform for 23 years, I felt like a part of the team that won that night. Still a very surreal feeling, and a night that I will never forget.
STL: Which coach or teacher had the greatest impact on you while at UVA?
CA: The person with the greatest impact on me would be both a coach and professor, which is rare at UVA, but Ethan Saliba, our athletic trainer, was then and continues to have the greatest impact on my life almost 30 years from the time I met him on my official visit in November of 1990. Ethan exemplifies everything that UVA is about, and is one of my favorite people on earth.
STL: Do you have any career advice for current students or recent alumni?
CA: The best advice I could give to current students and recent alumni is to create a plan to get to where they want to go in life, and understand that there will be obstacles that cause you to make changes to your plan, but you don’t have to abandon it. There’s never a reason to settle for where you are at the current time, circumstances don’t have to change your destination, they can just delay it. Also, treat people the way that you would want to be treated, so you don’t have to be apologetic when you meet them again, because you will.
STL: What do you see that current UVA student-athletes have on Grounds that you wish you had (facilities, resources, coach)?
CA: I love what has happened on Grounds over the last 25 years at UVA, and so many people in my industry go out of their way to tell me just how beautiful our Grounds are, but I wouldn’t trade my time at UVA (with the exception of 2 broken ankles) for anything. There was a great sense of community with the student athletes because we ALL got treatment at McCue Center, and we ALL ate together at Bryant Hall, which allowed me to get to student-athletes from all other sports, and their coaches as well. UVA student-athletes today have it great, with resources, and opportunities that are available to them, but I can’t imagine that they enjoy the experience of being at UVA as much as I did.
STL: What is your favorite Charlottesville restaurant?
CA: There are so many great restaurants in Charlottesville now, but when I spend a day in Charlottesville there are 2 places that I’m guaranteed to visit, which are Riverside (Burgers) and Wayside Take-Out. My car just somehow automatically ends up there. One for lunch, and one for dinner. I have to consider those cheat days though... Not the best for getting back to my playing weight LOL.
STL: A bonus question from Leah Smith, last week’s spotlight: What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
CA: That answer will be the same for me EVERY year... It’s The Bible!! The all-time best selling book in the history of the world. I’m not “a reader”... Although, I’ve been really good at it for a very long time, I don’t enjoy it. If the book is that good, they’ll make the movie.