Joey Racer walks into the room, expecting to interview with a stranger.
Instead of a stranger — upon entering the sports information office — he meets eyes with someone he’s met before, to which he smiles and extends his hand.
He is a walk-on for the Hokies basketball team, but frequently hears his name chanted by the Cassell Guard at the end of blowouts.
There’s a meeting going on in the Bowman Room, where players normally do these types of interviews. But Cassell Coliseum is empty.
Joey and I then make our way down a back hallway, toward an empty arena. We make small talk. “What have you been up to?” “How’s your semester going?” The type of things you say to a friend of a friend you only know on a casual basis.
When we sit down, right in the middle of where the student section resides, I tell Joey, “The students love you, but no one seems to know exactly why.”
Joey Racer came to Virginia Tech in the fall of 2008. He hails from Berryville; a small town in Northern Virginia, on the West Virginia border. He played for a small high school, one that competed in the single-A athletic division, and never imagined at that time that he’d end up playing varsity basketball in Blacksburg.
“Being from a single-A school, it’s really, really tough to get recruited,” he said. “And I think I realized that that wasn’t going to happen, so I just focused on playing, having fun and going to a good school.”
While he was busy having fun, Racer helped lead his Clarke County High School team to a state championship in 2007, averaging 16 points and four rebounds a game.
“He was a quality player that could shoot the ball, finish the ball,” said Brent Emmart, who’s still the coach at Clarke County. “He was a good defender, very smart. He was very team-oriented. He was never really an individualized person.
“He really helped out (in 2007) along the way by doing everything. Stat sheet stuff, grabbed rebounds, got steals. Kind of did it all, he took charges. He was a blue-collar player.”