John Grisham. Courtesy of IMDB.
John Grisham. Courtesy of IMDB.

It has not been strange over the years to see noted author John Grisham, a part-time resident of Albemarle County for 25 years, at University of Virginia basketball games.

While many of the attractions have involved ranked Virginia opponents, there was another reason to anticipate Grisham’s arrival earlier this week.

The cover of "Sooley."
The cover of “Sooley.”

UVa’s opponent was North Carolina Central, mentioned in Grisham’s novel, “Sooley,” about a fictitious 17-year-old South Sudanese athlete, Samuel Sooleymon, who traveled to the United States to play college ball. The character was loosely inspired by former Virginia player Mamadi Diakite, according to Grisham.

Until Monday night, Virginia had never played North Carolina Central, located in Durham, N.C., not far from UVa’s longtime ACC rival, Duke.

North Carolina Central was coming off a 16-15 season under LeVelle Moton, who was one of the leading scorers in NCCU history and later served as an assistant before taking over as head coach in 2009.

“It’s an honor to come play at Virginia,” said Moton, whose Eagles lost 73-61 after taking a 44-43 lead earlier in the second half. “That said, I felt we had some golden opportunities.”

“In my 14-year career, we’ve pretty much played every one. I don’t think we’ve ever played Virginia. I’ve always admired (Virginia coach) Tony (Bennett) and his father. I would always study their pack-line tapes and all that type stuff.

“He’s (Tony Bennett) got a lot of friends in the coaching business and, honestly, there’s not a lot of guys you’d want to be your friend, but he’s one I’d like to call my friend.”

Moton was in a hurry to get his players on the bus for the ride back to Durham but not before he advised the media that he hadn’t left JPJ before locating and addressing Grisham at court side.

  • UVa has benefitted from former transfers who have stayed more than one year, including Armann Franklin, who had a team-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers, against NCCU. Franklin is in his second year at UVa after two seasons at Indiana.

Ben Vander Pas, who began his college career at Ohio University in 1917-18, played just shy of 23 minutes in his UVa debut, contributing seven points and four rebounds off the bench. UVa’s starting lineup was the same as finished the 2021-22 season.

  • Carson McCorkle, who transferred after playing in 24 games in two seasons at Virginia, started and played 20 minutes for Wofford in its season-opening 120-48 victory over Bob Jones University. He had nine points, all on 3-pointers.

“He has impacted winning everywhere he has been,” said Wofford coach Jay McAuley, who also has transfers from Southern Illinois, Murray State and Gulf Coast State College.

Better weather?

Former UVa football standout Chares Snowden, an outside linebacker who played in two games for Chicago in 2021 as a free agent, was signed to the Tampa Bay practice squad after receiving an offer earlier this week. Green Bay and Dallas also had been looking at him.

New home

Mike Pressler, a standout lacrosse player at Washington and Lee from 1979-82 and later the head coach at VMI, Ohio Wesleyan, Duke and Bryant, is the new head coach at Highland Park High School in Dallas after announcing his retirement from college coaching.

Pressler was a four-year starter in both football and lacrosse at W&L and was the men’s lacrosse national coach of the year in 2005, when he was at Duke, and was a three-time ACC coach of the year at Duke, where he was 153-82.

Highland Park has turned out several UVa standouts, including 2022 Cavaliers captain Cade Saustad.


Virginia has taken a football commitment from Caleb Hardy, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound defensive back from McDonough, Ga. He is one of four defensive backs to commit to UVa at this point. Of the 14 players who have committed to UVa, four are defensive backs.

Doug Doughty has been writing for more than 50 years starting as a high school student in Washington,...