FanWatch: Bill Stringfellow (Hoo in W. Africa)

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Imagine if you couldn’t see but a few games a year. Not just in person. What if your beloved Cavaliers were only available to you on television a few times a year? Scary thought, huh? Well that’s the real-life experience of one of The Sabre’s own, Hoo in W. Africa. Bill Stringfellow only sees a few games a year in Bamako, Africa, but he has remained a tried and true Cavalier fan, following the Wahoos from afar.

Bill Stringfellow could be the Sabre’s ‘farthest away’ winner. Thus his screen name: Hoo in W. Africa

Name: Bill Stringfellow
Sabre Username: Hoo in W. Africa
Edge Member Since: 2003 (I think)
Age: 54
Residence: Bamako, the capital of the Republic of Mali (West Africa)

Occupation: Program and/or project manager in the field of international development

UVa Ties: I’m a 1973 UVa grad. My father was also an UVa grad (& played on the basketball team). My grandfathers, several uncles, and various cousins were/are also UVa grads. I have bled orange and blue from my youngest days.
Distinctions: None that I can think of, except that I might reside farther from Charlottesville than any other Edge subscriber (unless there is one somewhere in Asia).

“The FanWatch Fifteen”

1) Favorite Cavalier Sport?

Football and men’s basketball tie for first. Since my father played basketball at UVa and since I grew up in basketball-crazy North Carolina, basketball might be slightly ahead. That said, there is something special about a Saturday afternoon at Scott Stadium.

Men’s lacrosse is a great sport and isn’t too far behind. Of course, it’s much harder for me to follow lacrosse from this part of the world than it is for the major sports.

2) Favorite Cavalier Athlete and Why?

(Past) Barry Parkhill, “BP”

Because:

  • He took UVa to the next level in basketball in the “modern” era (during the 1971-72 season, when we started 18-1, before fading to a 21-7 record and a first-round NIT loss).
  • He was (and undoubtedly still is) a very modest person who always had time for others.
  • He loved UVa. After his 3rd/junior year, Barry finished 3rd in the voting for National Player of the Year (behind only Walton and Bibby of UCLA) and could easily have gone pro and made a bundle. (There were 2 pro leagues at the time, which resulted in bidding wars for the top players.) But he didn’t. One reason was clearly that he loved the “U” and wanted to lead UVA to even greater heights.
  • And he is from my generation. (He was a classmate and a fraternity brother.)

Sean Singletary has earned the adoration of quite a few Hoo fans in his career.

(Current) Sean Singletary : His toughness and heart separate him from the rest, as well as his talent. Biscuit was also a warrior and would be a close 2nd among “current” players.

3) Favorite Cavalier Coach and Why?

(Past) George Welsh. He did the impossible with UVa football, making us consistent winners for the first time in the “modern” [post-Art Guepe] era, and he did it the right way. We all owe him a never-ending debt of gratitude.

(Current) That’s a very tough choice because there are lots of great coaches. Dave Leitao is rapidly becoming my favorite coach, but since it is only his first year at the U, I don’t really “know” him well enough to pick him. I’ll go for our 2 Brians: Brian Boland, whose men’s tennis team has become an overnight powerhouse, and Brian O’Connor, who has had 2 very successful seasons and has injected a contagious enthusiasm into our baseball program. Parenthetically, my hat’s off to AD Craig Littlepage for having hired (and having kept) these 2 coaches at UVa.

4) Most Memorable Cavalier Sports Moment?

That’s a tough one, as several come to mind. I had 2 equally memorable moments at basketball games I attended at Carmichael Auditorium in Chapel Hill. Unfortunately, we lost both games after stirring comebacks.

In the 1st game, which took place in the early or mid-1960’s (in Carmichael’s 1st or 2nd year), we made a big comeback to cut a double-digit Carolina lead to 2 in the closing seconds. Carolina had a 1-and-1 opportunity to seal the game, but missed. One of their players got the rebound along the baseline & stupidly heaved a pass back toward the mid-court line. UVa’s Jim Connelly intercepted the pass and went down for the stuff at the buzzer, sending the game into OT.

When Connelly dunked at the buzzer, I went berserk. Family friends – big Carolina fans – had graciously invited me to the game and I was sitting with them in the 2nd row, almost on the court. I found out later that my loud celebration had actually gotten my friends, members of the Rams Club, into trouble for having given a ticket to a loud 13- or 14-year-old fan of the visiting team. The story ended badly when Carolina’s 3rd team All-American, Bobby Lewis, made a shot at the end of OT to win the game for the bad guys. I felt horrible for Connelly, as I had seen he and the Cavs lose a heart-breaker a year or 2 earlier at Woolen Gym in double overtime.

Amazingly enough, the same family friends invited me back many years later, in 1984 (the first post-Ralph year), probably figuring that I had become better behaved in my old age. And the seats were far from the court this time. Anyway, the Cavs fell behind by at least 21 points in the 2nd half with some 12 minutes to play. I was so dejected at the time that I actually started paying more attention to the conversation with my friends than I did to the game.

However, we made an incredible comeback, fueled by Othell Wilson, & cut the deficit to 2 with about 5 minutes to play. But Jordan made a big jumper at that point to stop the hemorrhaging and Carolina restored a 7-point lead going into the final minute of play. We made a bucket to cut the lead to 5 and then pressed in the backcourt. Carolina inbounded the ball, but we deflected the next pass, which popped up in the air and ended up in the hands of Jimmy Miller (I think), who laid the ball in and got fouled. He made the foul shot and all of a sudden we were within 2 once again with about 30 seconds to play.

Carolina came back up court and set up in the 4 corners. The Cavs were amazingly patient and refrained from fouling. And somehow we managed to steal the ball. We raced the ball up-court and Othell pulled up for a long jumper (it would have been a 3-point shot in today’s game), but missed. There was a battle for the rebound on the sideline – the ball kicked way out – and it went out-of-bounds to Virginia with about 6 to 8 seconds left. We got the ball in, but couldn’t run any kind of play and Rick Carlisle ended up with the ball along the baseline. He went up for a shot (against Jordan, I think) and had to double pump to keep it from getting blocked. It hit the near side of the rim, caromed to the far side of the rim, and then popped back out on the near side (grazing the near rim again, I think) as the game ended. Despite the heart-breaking loss, I suspect that the comeback generated an enormous amount of confidence in our players. (Parenthetically, I can’t think of any other team that defended the 4 corners as well as Terry’s teams did.) Of course, we went on to the Final Four that year, where we lost in OT to Houston, a game I listened to back in Chad (on the Armed Forces Radio Network).

Another memorable event was my learning in Chad that UVa had won its first ACC Tournament (and basketball championship) in 1976. Just after the tourney my father sent me a telegram informing me that “UVa WINS ACC”, but without any details. It was so memorable because it was so unexpected (we had finished 7th during the regular season, I think). A week or so later I received an envelope from my father, filled with clippings. I ripped it open hastily, only to read the RTD headline, “UVa falls to Maryland”, at which point I was ready to strangle my father because of the sick joke (which would not have been beyond him). It turns out, of course, that we had lost to Maryland in the final regular season game. The clippings of our magical tournament run, during which we beat 3 Top 20 teams on consecutive days and arch-rival Carolina in the finals, arrived a few days later and I must have read them 10-15 times.

5) Tailgating Must Have?

I’ll have to blank on this one since I have only had an opportunity to go tailgating at UVa on 3 or 4 occasions in the last 31 years. (My generous uncle and aunt, season ticket-holders, have invited me to join them on those occasions when I happen to be vacationing in the States during football season.) That said, I remember the joys of tailgating from my younger days, when my father would take us to games in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Durham, and occasionally Charlottesville. It’s hard to beat a good potato salad.

6) Favorite Sportswear?

My white UVa cap and T-shirt. (White caps are a good idea in the kind of heat we have here.)

7) Describe the Perfect Sports Day/Weekend

Well, Saturday might not have been a perfect sports day, but it wasn’t bad. It was only the 2nd basketball game of the year broadcast on my ESPN (“Atlantic”) package, so I got to see us take on the Blue Devils live. Because of the 5-hour time difference, the game doesn’t start here until midnight, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. My wife & kids won’t have to put up with a nervous, cranky husband/father, who constantly screams at the refs (for which I am notorious within my family). The perfect day would, of course, have ended with a victory at Cameron.

8) One Thing Most People Might Be Surprised to Learn About You

I coached a men’s basketball team that won 2 national club championships in Chad. (And, no, I don’t really know much, if anything, about coaching.) Along the same lines, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the 1980’s to be an assistant basketball coach at Dudley High School in Greensboro (when it was a top team under coach Steve Hankins), but very reluctantly turned down the offer and returned instead to Africa.

Mamadi Diane and Stephane Dondon would be welcomed dinner guests.

9) Dinner with any Cavalier Athlete?

I’d like to have dinner with one or all of the UVa players from this part of the world (French-speaking West and Central Africa), such as Mamadi Diane (from next-door Senegal) or Stephane Dondon (who was from, or had a connection to, the Central African Republic, where I once lived).

10) Pep Band or Marching Band?

This was not one of the burning questions I have faced over here. My most recent memories of the Pep Band date back to basketball games at the U in the late 60’s and early 70’s. And although I am not a big fan of marching bands in general, I’ll reserve judgment on ours until I’ve had the opportunity to see it perform at Scott Stadium.

11) Favorite Thing About TheSabre.com? or Best Sabre Memory?

My favorite thing about The Sabre is… its existence. Being so far away and not having easy access to coverage of UVa sports, I probably depend on The Sabre more than most. I also appreciate being with a lot of like-minded people who share one of my passions, getting their points of view on UVa sports, and occasionally giving mine.

I have particularly enjoyed The Sabre’s in-depth analyses on football and basketball, like the ones written by Coach Welsh or like Kris’s recent piece, “Chalktalk: Getting to the Line.”

12) Favorite Book or Magazine?

I don’t get any magazines here in Mali, so I’ll choose a book: Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, a historical novel about several protagonists at the battle of Gettysburg.

13) What’s in your car CD player right now?

My 1989 Toyota, bought locally, doesn’t even have a CD player! But I do occasionally listen to music on my computer CD. Recently I’ve been listening to a Malian musician named Habib Koïté (pronounced “kwa-tay”). He’s an internationally known guitarist who has played in the States before.

14) Pet Peeve?

Malian drivers, especially the motorcyclists. You’d have to see it (how people drive here) to believe it!

15) Cavalier Sports Fantasy

Why, a national championship in a major sport, of course. My first thought was to think of football and a win over USC or Texas in the championship game. However, on second thought, I’ll go for a national championship in basketball, beating Carolina or Duke in the championship game. Having grown up in Greensboro as a rabid anti-Carolina fan, I’d really like to beat Carolina in the finals. But rooting against the Heels these days isn’t as fun as it used to be because Roy is just too likeable a guy (remember, among other things, his gracious post-game remarks at the press conference in Charlottesville on Jan. 19?). No, I’d like to be Duke in the finals, with a big comeback late in the game, capped off by a last-second, game-winning shot – preferably Sean shooting over J.J. Apart from the joy of winning the big one, I would also enjoy seeing Coach K try to deal with losing to the protégé of his old nemesis, Calhoun.

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