Four-seed Hokies, Kitley have special connection
Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks remembers feeling special, and lucky.
He was in Atlanta watching an AAU basketball tournament, one of several dozen coaches hoping to lure a program-changing recruit to his school, when someone with no chance of being that player ambled past.
“Raven was at the game and she was going to the bathroom,” Brooks said Thursday of Elizabeth Kitley’s sister, “and I remember she ran past all the coaches and she took like two or three steps past me, and she put the brakes on and she backed up and she said, `Hi, Coach Brooks’. And she waved at me and she took off, and the other coaches were like, Who was that?
“And I’m like, yeah, we’re in good shape with Liz.”
Raven Kitley. Elizabeth’s older sister, is autistic and especially connected to her sister’s career, and the Hokies. It’s been huge for Virginia Tech.
Elizabeth Kitley, the two-time Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, led the No. 4 Hokies to a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament this season. They’ll face No. 16 Chattanooga on Friday.
“She’ll definitely be here cheering us on, as she always is, and hopefully we can make her proud and happy,” Kitley said.
The Hokies will be facing a familiar face. Mocs coach Shawn Poppie spent six seasons as an assistant for Brooks, the last three as associate head coach.
“I tell you what, this past season, I have watched from afar as a fan.” Poppie said. “Obviously being here for six years and getting to know the kids and being so close to Coach Brooks and the staff, I have been a fan all year.”
The other game will feature eighth-seeded and two-time national champion Southern Cal and ninth-seeded South Dakota State. The USC team is in the tournament for the first time since 2014.
“They’re a team that likes to run in transition, get really quick buckets. They’re really, really good three-point shooters. Everyone on the floor can shoot, and I think that’s different from what we’ve faced,” Trojans guard Destiny Littleton said.
The Jackrabbits are thrilled for the opportunity.
“Any time we can meet up with another opponent, it’s fun,” Myah Selland said. “We have spent the last 21 games playing very familiar faces, so I think we are excited to play somebody new. Our coaches have done a great job of getting us prepared for that but yeah, really excited for this opportunity.”
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By HANK KURZ Jr.
AP Sports Writer