By Jeff White
CHARLOTTESVILLE — The stars of the last basketball team Jeff Jones coached at UVa — classmates Curtis Staples and Norman Nolan — still talk to each other a couple of times a day.
There’s a lot going on in their lives.
Nolan, who averaged 21 points and 9.2 rebounds as a UVa senior in 1997-98, is back on Grounds finishing work on his degree. Between classes, the 6-8 power forward works out with Tony Bennett’s players at John Paul Jones Arena, and senior Mike Scott in particular has benefited from his low-post battles with Nolan.
Staples, a 1998 graduate of Virginia, is busy, too. The former UVa great — he finished his college career with 413 3-pointers, then an NCAA record — recently was hired as boys basketball coach at Virginia Episcopal School in Lynchburg.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Staples said Thursday afternoon. “It’s a good opportunity to go in there and do some of the things I really like doing.”
His impact will be felt outside the school’s athletic department as well. He’s also a program development officer at VES, whose headmaster, Tommy Battle Jr., is a UVa alumnus, too.
In addition to assisting in recruiting and admissions, Staples will help develop, expand and enhance programs at VES, and try to raise awareness of the school in the surrounding communities.
“He brings instant credibility,” Battle told the Lynchburg News & Advance. “He’s a man of many talents.”
A 6-3 guard from Roanoke, Staples was best-known at UVa for his profilic outside shooting. Before another guard from the Star City, Duke’s J.J. Redick, broke his record for career 3-pointers, Staples stood alone atop the NCAA’s all-time list, and UVa retired his jersey in November 2006.
After graduating from Virginia, Staples played professionally. He stayed in active in the game in other ways, too, running basketball camps and coaching AAU teams.
He takes over a VES basketball program that needs rebuilding. But Staples has already added three players with Division I potential, he said, and expects the Bishops to be competitive in the Virginia Independent Conference.
“I think there’s going to be a huge turnaround this season,” he said.
Work and family obligations kept Staples from attending many games at JPJ last season, but he talks regularly with Jason Williford, one of Tony Bennett’s assistants, and Mike Curtis, Virginia’s strength-and-conditioning coach for men’s basketball.
Williford and Curtis played for Jones at UVa, and “we were all together a couple weeks ago when J.J. turned 50,” Staples said.
Staples is also close with Ritchie McKay, Virginia’s associate head coach. Staples played for the United States at the 1997 World University Games, and the team’s assistants included McKay, then head coach at Portland State.
“And then when he came to Liberty, it was like our paths crossed again,” Staples said.
McKay spent two seasons as head coach at Liberty University in Lynchburg before joining Bennett’s staff at UVa in 2009.
Staples, 34, is confident better days are coming not only for his program at VES but for Bennett’s at UVa.
“That’s the only way to look: up,” Staples said. “I think they assembled a great staff there.”