Courtesy Ace Custis

Former Hokies basketball great Ace Custis still going strong as coach

Ace Custis was a former all-American at VT as a player and now, he's still making an impact on the basketball court. This is the second of a two-part series.

            The character of @Ace Custis' modesty goes hand-in-hand with his personality of enthusiasm. When he played at Virginia Tech, from 1993-97, Custis’ personality showed on the basketball court.

Custis, an assistant coach at Maryland-Eastern Shore, went on to play professionally in for 15 seasons, in the NBA, CBA, USBL and in Japan, Phillipines, Qatar, Lebanon, Syria and Indonesia. In 2013, he began his coaching career, on the staff at Virginia State.

            “When I am having fun, I do not feel like I am working,” Custis said. “It is hard work and I should enjoy the process. We had success winning the [National Invitation Tournament] NIT when I was there because the team enjoyed each other.

            Custis said that he believes there will be better results if you are enjoying the game and having fun. Guillory shared a story from their time together in college that exemplified Custis’ playfulness.  

            “Ace’s thing was that we had to keep winning so we can save more per diem money,” Guillory said. “When you’re on the road you get per diem, so you would have extra money to bring back to Blacksburg if you saved it. He had so much enthusiasm when we spoke in the huddle about getting per diem money and continuing to win.

            Custis said the highlight of his four years, as a Hokie, was when his team won the 1995 NIT championship game. He continued to say how he wants his players to have that same mindset of loving the sport that he had in college. He hopes this mindset will help them in achieving great results throughout their entire career. 

            “He is not the type of coach that yells just to yell; he is not aggressive like that,” Pitt said. “In fact, he never really looses composure.

            Pitt described Custis’ honesty as a coach, whether the team won or lost a game: If Custis is disappointed in the team he will simply say what went wrong and how to correct it. According to Custis, if he slacked off while playing at Virginia Tech, the head coach would reiterate what is expected of him as a player. Now, Custis uses that same tactic as a coach at UMES.

            “When you look over at him during a game on the sideline, you gain confidence,” Pitt said. “He is always calm and under control, no matter what time or what the score is in the game.

            With all the experience and expertise Custis has gained from his time at Virginia Tech, he said he is very grateful for his roots in Blacksburg. At the end of the day, Custis is proud of his alma mater and firmly believes, “Once a Hokie, always a Hokie.” He visited for the 2016 Spring Game, which showed he is still channeling his experience as a Hokie while coaching at UMES.

            “When I came for the spring game, and saw myself on the Hall of Fame, it was amazing and a reflection of my time,” Custis said. “It brought back memories of sweat and tears, but also fun moments.”  

            The humbled Custis acknowledged all of his accolades with Virginia Tech, but explained how he thought his success during his time as a Hokie was a team effort. When he looks up at the Hall of Fame, he said he sees all of his teammates up there with him.

However, Custis said he used the recent reflection from the 2016 Spring Game to be a better coach at UMES. Even though he was a star, he said it was not about him being a Hokie or a Virginia Tech basketball player, but the teamwork that made his experience incredibly enjoyable and successful.


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