The state high school all-star games descended upon Hampton Roads in 1993, showcasing future pros such as Tiki and Ronde Barber, Cornell Brown, Seth Greisinger and Joe Smith. Crowds of approximately 6,000 attended the football and boys basketball contests.
In short, the week, coordinated by the Virginia High School Coaches Association, was a rousing success, clearly meaningful to fans and, most important, to elite high school athletes.
Friday night, all-star week bid farewell to the Peninsula, at least for three years and perhaps permanently.
With no major college signees on the rosters and about 2,000 spectators in the stands, the East football all-stars defeated the West 35-16 at Darling Stadium behind former Tabb quarterback Dan Schiele, a preferred walk-on at James Madison.
After 21 years here, the games and accompanying coaches' clinics are moving to Lynchburg's Liberty University for at least the next three years, and there's no guarantee they'll return.
Alas, as attendance — Monday's boys and girls basketball games at Christopher Newport's Freeman Center attracted fewer than 500 — suggested, all-star week lost its mojo here. Liberty's facilities and Lynchburg's central location may energize the event, but its prime — the 1999 football game alone featured 10 Virginia Tech recruits — has passed.
The reasons are well-documented. Major Division I coaches, especially football, prefer that incoming freshmen attend a summer semester to get acclimated academically and to begin team conditioning. Many also cringe at the thought of injury.
But the purpose here is to review all that the all-star weeks brought, not to lament their departure.
That first year, Tiki Barber, or Atiim K. Barber as all-star records call him, scored on an 89-yard run and 42-yard reception. He and Ronde starred at Virginia and in the NFL; Brown was an All-American at Virginia Tech and, like Ronde Barber, won a Super Bowl ring; Smith was the No. 1 pick of the 1995 NBA draft following two seasons at Maryland, and after a journeyman Major League career, Greisinger is in his seventh season pitching in Japan.
In 1994, Virginia recruits Anthony Poindexter and Aaron Brooks headlined the football game, along with Virginia Tech signees Ken Oxendine and Dwight Vick. Wake Forest-bound Tony Rutland competed in basketball.
A placekicker/punter, Virginia Tech recruit Jimmy Kibble, shared MVP honors in 1995 by making three field goals, including a 55-yarder. His co-MVP was future North Carolina All-American and St. Louis Rams All-Pro cornerback Dre Bly.
But the most notable performance was authored by current Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Brandon Inge. Injured during an attempted stolen base, he was briefly hospitalized, allowed to return to the lineup and struck out the all-star game's final batter.
Other exceptional star takes: Penn State commit-turned Virginia signee Antwoine Womack rushed for 176 yards and three touchdowns in 1997. Two years later, Tennessee-bound point guard and current ESPN analyst Kara Lawson contributed 17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals to a West victory.
In his first football appearance since the Christmas Day passing of his mother — she died from an aneurysm — Macho Harris won 2005 all-star MVP honors with a two-way effort that presaged his Virginia Tech career.
But the games showcased more than Bowl Subdivision recruits. En route to prolific William and Mary careers, quarterbacks Lang Campbell in 2000 and Jake Phillips in 2004 passed for 216 and 210 yards, respectively.
Reggie Williams had 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting in the 2004 all-star basketball contest but had little time to revel. He left immediately after the final buzzer for 6:30 a.m. physical training at VMI, where he would twice lead the nation in scoring.
Other recognizable names who competed in all-star weeks here: current NFL players Antoine Bethea, Kam Chancellor, Ahmad Brooks and Tyrod Taylor; NBA veteran and two-time ACC player of the year J.J. Redick; Angela Tincher, who pitched Virginia Tech to a pair of ACC championships and a College World Series; Luke Hancock, voted the most outstanding player of this year's Final Four after leading Louisville to the national championship.
For Lynchburg, approaching the bar set in Hampton Roads will be difficult, indeed.