Catching Up...With Ron Virgil

CN catches you up with your favorite former Cyclones.

Twenty years ago Iowa State recorded one of its biggest wins in men's basketball history.


Ron Virgil left his mark on that game, helping No. 7 seed Iowa State knock off No. 2 seed Michigan 72-69 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome in Minneapolis.


"What I remember is no one gave us a chance, including the announcers on TV," said Virgil, 42. "(The announcers) said we looked like a junior varsity team compared to Michigan."


Virgil, a 6-foot-4 forward, scored 14 points in the game, six more than his average, to help engineer the upset. Virgil used his quickness to bother Michigan superstar big man Roy Tarpley.


"I thought they were playing a zone on us," Virgil said. "Roy Tarpley (Michigan power forward) was guarding me. Jeff Grayer told me, ‘Go to work on him.' So I did. That was a memorable game for me."


While the win was historic, it meant even more to then-coach Johnny Orr, who coached Michigan to the National Championship Game. Orr left Ann Arbor with a bad taste in his mouth toward the Michigan administration because of salary issues.


"(Orr) never said anything, but I can just imagine how he felt," Virgil said. "All (Orr) ever told us before games were to go out and play hard. He said even if we lost by 50, if we played hard that was the main thing."


The game also had a special significance for Virgil, who did not start until his senior season.


"It was pretty exciting because a lot of my friends and family got to see me play on TV," he said. "It was a great time (for the players). It was a big step for ISU basketball."


Before ISU could make an historic leap, they had to fend off pesky No. 10 seed Miami (Ohio) in the first round.


Future NBA star Ron Harper led the Redskins with a 26.4 PPG scoring average.

Harper came up big against the Cyclones, and Miami looked poised for the upset.


"I remember with 10 minutes left in the game we were down, and I was standing at half court," Virgil said. "I just told myself, ‘We can't lose this game.' The year before we lost in the first round. I didn't want to do that again."


Luckily, ISU came back and knotted the game to force overtime. In overtime with two seconds left, Jeff Hornacek hit a 25-footer to give the Cyclones an 81-79 win and a date with the No. 5-ranked Wolverines.


Virgil, who was nicknamed Ice Man for his hero affinity for George Gervin, said he thinks about the Michigan win often when upsets occur during the NCAA Tournament.


"Of course I do," he said. "That game proved you have to go out and play. If you don't, you aren't going to win. You aren't going to win because of your name. I think Michigan overlooked us a little bit, and we snuck up on them."


Virgil came to Iowa State, as Orr was on his way to rebuilding the program. Virgil was a valuable reserve for three seasons before finally cracking the starting lineup.


"I was pretty good in high school, but then I got to college and everybody on the team was All-State."


"Not everybody could start. I wanted to contribute to the team any way could."


After his time was done at ISU, Virgil gave up basketball for a career in business.

Virgil, a Chicago native, returned to his hometown. He is now a supervisor at Motorola in Elgin, Ill.


Virgil and his wife Loretta have been married for 10 years. They have two daughters, Enjoli,11, and Lashawnad ,22, who was Loretta's daughter from a previous marriage.

Virgil also has a grandson Jalen. (two-and-a half)


"I tried to get a job and become a family man," Virgil said.




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