Chris Graham: The Top 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Ralph Sampson and Ricky Stokes
We’ll start here with one linking the two: Ralph Sampson probably doesn’t have 462 blocks if not for Ricky Stokes and fellow “Blitz Brother” Othell Wilson.
The way Stokes, the 5’8” guard on teams in the Sampson era, tells it, he and Wilson knew they could overplay their guys on the perimeter knowing that if they’d get beat, well, there was a 7’4” tower to clean things up for them.
“You couldn’t lose. You could just run around and cause havoc. And if they beat you, you can always come from behind. But and a lot of times, as you well know, Ralph intimidated people. So it was just a great time. He didn’t make mistakes,” Stokes said in a recent installment of “The Jerry Ratcliffe Show” with Chris Graham.
That’s thing #1 you didn’t know about Ralph Sampson and Ricky Stokes.
#2: Ralph wants to lead an effort to build a statue outside JPJ in honor of Terry Holland.
“Coach Holland is like a father figure to me. Mrs. Holland is like a mother figure to me. And just the way from 1976 through the Wally Walker years and going back to Barry Parkhill years with that preceded Coach Holland. He took it to a new level, obviously, but he laid the foundation,” Sampson said.
“There should be a statute, there should be something in Coach Holland’s honor at the University of Virginia, and I’m gonna be pushing for that before he leaves us, and hopefully that’s many, many years to come.”
#3: Ricky and Othell used to heckle Kenton Edelin trying to shoot free throws after practice.
“Kenton was not a good free throw shooter, as you can remember,” Stokes reminds us. “Matter of fact, in practice, if you remember U Hall, he would stay after practice to shoot free throws, and we would get up in the stands and rebound, and we would make fun of Kenton because he was missing shots.”
Edelin then found himself shooting a one-and-one, with UVA up 46-44 in the final minute of the 1984 Elite Eight against Indiana.
“Lo and behold, Kenton had to make two free throws for us to go to the Final Four. And as luck has it, and God willing, Kenton makes the free throws,” Stokes said. “They go down, shoot the last shot. I don’t box out, I get the rebound, rush down court, throw the ball up, and then I realized, you know what, I might want this ball.”
#4: Ralph’s favorite band:
“My favorite band? Yeah. Always got hyped up in games with with a group called Frankie Beverly & Maze. That put me in the mood the night before the game to go do my best.”
#5: Ricky’s daughter, Sydney, was a manager for the UVA men’s basketball team.
“She’s the only one of our family members who did not initially go to UVA,” Stokes said. “She went to Syracuse, and hated it. Nothing against Syracuse, but she came back, and it was nice having her back.
“She said she was going to work in the basketball office. And I’m always the last to know, but she was a manager. I can’t thank Coach Bennett, Coach Sanchez, Coach Williford for welcoming her into the basketball family. And I can say those guys treat the managers a whole lot better these days that we probably did. But it was nice having her, and kudos to the players in the staff for welcoming her to the team.”
#6: Ralph’s favorite player of all time?
“You know, most of the time I joke with people that I’m my favorite player. Because you know, I wanted to be good,” Sampson said. “But when I look at things, Julius Erving and Bill Russell are my top two people that I respect. When I got inducted into the Hall of Fame, I wanted four people to be on the podium with me. Julius Erving, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley are my four top players.”
#7: Ricky eats dinner with his brother, Bobby, every night
“He’s quite the chef,” Stokes said of his older brother, who was the first Black basketball team captain at UVA, playing from 1975-1979. “My dad’s here as well. So, you know, it’s one of the joys in life, to be able to sit with your father and your brother and your favorite beverage and just watch a game. It never hurts having a doctor in the family as well.
One other memory involving his brother.
“He used to beat me every day. We would play basketball every day. And he never let me win,” Stokes said. “I was telling people, that’s probably one of the most life lessons in life that he never let me win. You think a big brother will let you win one time, but he never would let me win.”
#8: Ricky was headed to Richmond
“I had gone to all their camps, and I think they had an extra scholarship, is what I’d like to say,” Stokes said. .
UVA had recruited Stokes and Othell Wilson in the same class.
“I tell the story all the time. They said one of you would play a lot, one of you wouldn’t. And the first time I saw Othell play, I turned to somebody said, Oh, Othell’s going to play a lot, and I’m going to play a little,” Stokes said.
“I thought I had made a mistake, and my dad said, Now, you’re going to stay regardless. The best advice I could have gotten, my high school coach, George Lancaster, said, just find a way, and lo and behold, I was able to find a way, and the rest is history.”
Another quick memory involving Stokes and Wilson.
“One thing Othell and I did in the offseason is, we always played together. So, can you imagine if we went to the Dell or went to Slaughter, we would never play with anyone else. We always played with each other. We had a natural chemistry.”
#9: Ralph’s most memorable moments.
“The high school moment was when R.E. Lee and the Harrisonburg Blue Streaks were tied going into the Valley District tournament, and they were going to flip a coin they see who got first seed. And Coach Hatcher and Coach Bergey said no, let’s play a game., let’s just play it out. So, we had a chance to come to University Hall with 11,000 people at a high school game, to play against Mike Madden and R.E. Lee, and then we ended up winning the game. That was that was pretty big for us. You know, we played in front of big crowds, but coming to University Hall and playing a high school game there for me was fairly huge.
“Going into college, walking on The Lawn and graduating, because I stayed. I could’ve gone to the NBA out of high school, but I stayed four years. Walking The Lawn on a rainy day was probably the most memorable moment. I had a great college career. There’s a lot of basketball moments. Played against Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan and that core as well. But being able to see a picture where I’m actually three feet over top of everybody on The Lawn, it is raining, was kind of a really, really good moment.”
#10. Red Auerbach and the million-dollar briefcase.
“Cedric Maxwell tells a story that Red came to them, came to him and Larry Bird and said, We want y’all to go down and help us recruit Ralph Sampson to come to the Celtics. And then they opened up the briefcase, he showed them the million dollars and said, what are we going to do, go down with this and get him?”
Imagine Ralph Sampson with that Celtics group.
Story by Chris Graham