Virginia State Basketball Champions

Coach -
Warren Mitchell; Co-Captains - Chris Ellis ('64) and Billy Taylor ('64);
Managers - Tom Buckingham ('64) and Mark Wimmer ('66)

1964 State Basketball Tournament


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Ninth Annual Eastern District Tournament
Frederick College
March 3-4, 6-7, 1964
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- Courtesy of Rick Billings ('65) of NC,
member of the 1964 Virginia State Basketball Championship Team,
via Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 08/13/04
WOWZERS!!!  What a treasure!
Thanks so much, Rick - and Dave!

The 1964 Newport News High School State Championship Basketball Season Revisited

Its hard to believe that it has been 40 years since the Blue and Gold Typhoons of NNHS ran away with the 1964 Virginia Group 1A State Basketball Championship and completed a perfect 25 and 0 season. Its even harder to believe that this was the last state championship won by this basketball powerhouse before the school was closed after the 1971-72 school year. This piece is being written to refresh your memories, to shed light on some things of which you might not have been aware, but most of all to bring old friends closer together. You see, this championship, more than anything else that I can remember, represents the deep pride and tradition of NNHS, its students and its faculty.

The quest for the 1963-64 basketball championship actually began in earnest in March of 1963 when the Typhoons lost to the eventual state champion, Washington and Lee, in the semi-finals of the 1962-63 state tournament. The returning members of that team vowed to win it all in 1964. Led by returning starters, Rocky Gary. Jimmy Rama, Chris Ellis, Billy Taylor, and Kenny Henderson, and a strong supporting cast, made up of Richard Curtis, Johnny Montague, Joe Mooney, Richard Cantor, Garland Hudson, Ricky Billings, Jimmy Brandon, Charles Vellines, Wayne Stokes, and myself, Billy Turner, we spent hours in the gym honing our skills. To make matters worse, we were not only dealing with the pressure of wanting to win the state championship, but also a strong desire to extend the longest home court winning streak in the country to an unprecedented 88 games. The pressure was on, and we knew it.

Our coaches, Warren Mitchell and his assistant, Johnny Palmer,  were fine, intelligent men who cared for their players and truly believed that we could win it all. They pushed us to play summer ball and to work diligently in the weight room during pre-practice conditioning sessions, better known as last period gym. Of course, if they ever let down their guard, the coach of coaches, Julie Conn, would be in our face, sputtering and stammering like only he could do.  You see, Coach Conn was the first of a very short, successful list of varsity basketball coaches who graced the halls of NNHS. He started the winning tradition and he was determined to see it continued. Others personally chosen by him to continue the storied tradition were Bill Chambers, "Lefty" Driesell, Warren Mitchell and Charlie Woollum, who replaced Coach Mitchell at the end of this championship season. Other than Coach Conn, every head varsity basketball coach in the history of NNHS became a head coach at the college level. Need I say more about a tradition of coaching excellence?

As the basketball season neared, our team came face to face with several challenging distractions that could have wrecked our dreams of a state championship. First, practices were highly competitive and there was no backing down, whether you were a starter or a second team member. In fact, the second team would regularly whip up on the first team in full court competition. Tempers would often flare as team members tried to prove themselves worthy of playing time and recognition. On one occasion, our Co-Captains, Chris Ellis and Billy Taylor, went toe to toe in what could not be classified as a friendly, shoving match. Thank God, cooler heads prevailed and the team was not torn apart by that incident.

   Later, we had to overcome the distraction created by the death of our president, JFK , and as the season drew near, we had to deal with the opening of our new playing facility, which was being named after Coach Conn. Teams throughout the area were anxious to play us on our new home court. They figured anything was better than playing us in the dreaded "Pit" where we had won 75 games in a row, dating back to 1956.  NNHS eventually did lose a game at home, but not this team or even the next, and not until the streak eventually hit 100 games.

Once the season started, our opponents soon discovered that this team was for real. Pit or no pit, no one was going to beat us at home. In fact, no one would beat NNHS at all, at any level of basketball competition that year. Not only did the varsity go undefeated at 25 and 0, but Johnny Palmer’s JV team finished 18 and 0, and the boys 8th and 9th grade team finished 10 and 0. Our closest competitor at the district level was our archrival, the Hampton “Crabbers”.  We beat them twice during the regular season, in close hard fought games, 53 to 44 and 49 to 38, but we never thought that we would have to beat them twice more to win the coveted state championship.  As luck would have it, we faced them again in the Eastern District finals, winning 58 to 46, and again in Richmond in the State Championship game, which we won 66 to 54.  Do you realize how hard it is to beat the same team four times in a single season when both teams are so evenly matched? There can be no doubt that in this case the best team did win.

I’ll never forget running off that floor with the championship trophy in our grasp, but there were a lot of other things I would not forget about that year. I can still see our esteemed band director, Mr. Jim Wilson, who also served as our official score keeper and basketball statistician, with excitement in his eyes and tears streaming down his face. I can remember our teachers and administrators who showed up at every game and truly rooted us to victory. I can remember the excitement in the halls, and in the student body, when we gathered for our traditional pep rallies. I can remember our cheerleaders, Pam Smith, Connie Todd, Dianne Adams, Pauline Collins and others who sweated and worked every bit as hard at their job as we did at ours. I remember the Typhoon Marching Band, the fight songs and the flagtwirlers, especially Betsy Smith, Mary Lou Staton,  Nancy Horne, and Janice McCain, who performed at every pep rally. I remember the fun that was had by all in Richmond. I remember classmates smiling and laughing, away from home, perhaps for the first time in a un-chaperoned situation, and victorious over all. I remember the motel where the team stayed and the four R.P.I. nursing students, led by a former "Typhoon", who slipped into a room with four players after the semi final victory over George Washington of Danville, on the pretense of helping us "to get up for the championship game". I remember Julie Conn, Jim Wilson and Johnny Palmer roaming the halls of that motel making sure that each of us got a good, undisturbed night's sleep. I remember the difficulty we had in getting those nurses out of our room without them being seen.  Yes, I  remember a lot of things about that time in my life, but most of all I remember the relationships that were built, relationships that still stand the test of time. Many of you I have not seen since graduation, but I remember you. I might not recognize you, or you me, but I remember you. Those memories are special to me, I’ll take them to my grave. I hope each of you is blessed with your own special memories of life as a “Typhoon”, just as I am.

- Billy Turner ('65),member of the 1964 Virginia State Basketball Championship Team; (ODC- '69; The Citadel - '74; College of Financial Planning - '87), Former Basketball Coach at University of Maryland; Mayor of Ovilla, TX, - 04/21/04
WOW!  Thanks so much, Billy Turner - you've told the story from a unique perspective as only you could have told it!

DAILY PRESS, Newport News, VA, Sunday, March 15, 1964
Front Page Sports Page Sports Page Sports Page

- Courtesy of Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 08/23/04
WOWZERONI!!!  Thanks, Dave!

David Teel, Sports Columnist for the Daily Press, had an article in this mornings paper that brings back memories of the basketball exploits
of NNHS great Chris Ellis ('64) and the last basketball game that the Hokies won in Charlottesville (January1968).
A Microsoft Word version of the article is attached or the article can be viewed at:
You may recall that Chris was the youngest of the 3 Ellis brothers that starred at NNHS during one of its most celebrated basketball eras.  Older Brother Nelson (Moocher) and middle brother Donald (NNHS58) also started for NNHS teams that were Virginia State Champions.
Several interesting items that David Teel mentions in his article.
1.  The story of the NNHS 1964 team defeating W&M in a scrimmage.
2.  Chris was a Parade All-American the same year as Lew Alcindor.
3.  The VT Hokies were 4-0 against the UVA Wahoos during the Chris Ellis years (1967-69).
4.  Chris Ellis played guard when the Hokies made it to the NCAA Regional Championship in  March of 1967.  VT lost to Dayton, who then lost to the Alcindor led UCLA Bruins in the National Title game.
I don't know how much of this history is available in the Virginia Tech archives, but we need a way to archive this kind of NNHS history.  The last graduating class was 1971 and we need to archive our history and stories before it is lost.


Fond memories of Hokies' win 40 years ago

David Teel, Copyright © 2008, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

6:36 PM EST, January 15, 2008

Chris Ellis savors his basketball memories: Leading Newport News High to an undefeated state championship season; advancing to an NCAA regional final with Virginia Tech; trying out for the ABA's Kentucky Colonels. 
Tonight, Ellis will recall a less glamorous, but no less satisfying, moment. It's an anniversary of sorts. A ruby anniversary. 
Forty years ago this month (January 1968), Ellis and his Virginia Tech teammates defeated Virginia in Charlottesville. The Hokies have not won at U.Va. since, a drought they'll attempt to end tonight when the rivals collide at John Paul Jones Arena. 
As you probably realize, Tech's famine does not approach Clemson's 0-for-52 at North Carolina. For 24 seasons, from 1976-77 through 1999-2000, the Hokies and Cavaliers met at neutral sites, most frequently in Richmond and Roanoke, once each in Hampton and Norfolk. 
Still, Tech has lost nine straight in Charlottesville, three since reuniting with Virginia in the ACC. 
"I don't remember much (about the 1968 game), to tell you the honest truth," Ellis said from his Richmond-area home. "But I do know we're the last Tech team to beat them in Charlottesville." 
Ellis' sketchy recollections aside, it sounds like a heck of a contest. Neither team led by more than eight points, and Stan Kerrick's three free throws in the final 20 seconds lifted the Hokies to an 84-82 victory. 
"An old-fashioned barn-burner from start to finish," Bob Moskowitz wrote in the Daily Press. 
Ellis, a junior guard, scored 12 points, one of six Hokies in double figures. Benched in the first half, he returned to the game with nine minutes remaining and promptly made two long jump shots to tie the game at 69. 
During his three-year varsity career -- those were the days of freshman ineligibility -- Ellis was 4-0 against the Cavaliers. The teams met twice his senior season, in Blacksburg and Salem. 

"It was a heated (rivalry)," said Ellis, 63 and retired from the Virginia Department of Transportation. "I was drilled when I got to Tech that we did not like U.Va." 
A 1964 graduate of Newport News High, Ellis had his pick of college programs. He led the Typhoon to a 25-0 record and state title as a senior and joined, among others, Lew Alcindor on the Parade All-America team. 
Late in that championship season, Ellis recalled, Newport News coach Warren Mitchell feared the team was developing a big head. So he arranged a clandestine scrimmage at the school against William and Mary. 
But W&M apparently didn't teach the lesson Mitchell wanted. 
"We beat them twice," Ellis claimed. 
Despite dozens of scholarship offers, Ellis quickly chose Virginia Tech. He led the Hokies in scoring as a senior in 1968-69, averaging 19.7 points, and played significant minutes during the landmark season of 1966-67. 
After defeating the likes of Duke, Purdue and Wake Forest during the regular season, Virginia Tech made the 23-team NCAA tournament field as an independent. The Hokies bested Toledo and Indiana to reach the Mideast Regional final, where they lost in overtime to Dayton and All-American Don May -- Dayton advanced to the national-title game, falling to UCLA and Alcindor. 
Following his graduation from Tech, Ellis was drafted in the fifth round by the NBA's Chicago Bulls and in the sixth by the ABA's Kentucky Colonels. He tried out with the Colonels, but multiple ankle injuries derailed his career. 
Ellis doesn't attend many sporting events, but last February his next-door neighbor invited him to Virginia's home game against Florida State. It was, Ellis said, the first time he'd returned to Charlottesville since that night of Jan. 6, 1968. 
"I went to see the new John Paul Jones Arena," Ellis said. "I wore my Virginia Tech jacket." 
Tonight, Ellis will watch on television as his alma mater plays in JPJ. He said he might even wear that Tech jacket. 
The chances of a Hokies' victory? Well, the Cavaliers are a modest favorite, but this is the ruby, or 40th, anniversary of the game that even Ellis has forgotten. 
And the color ruby is close to maroon, right?

- Joe Drewry ('58) of VA - 01/16/07
Thanks so much, Joe!

We Are the Champions


I've paid my dues
Time after time
I've done my sentence
But committed no crime
And bad mistakes
I've made a few
I've had my share of sand
Kicked in my face
But I've come through
And I need to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world

I've taken my bows
And my curtain calls
You've bought me fame and fortune
And everything that goes with it
I thank you all
But it's been no bed of roses no pleasure cruise
I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
And I ain't gonna lose
And I need to go on and on and on and on

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions of the world

We are the champions - my friend
And we'll keep on fighting till the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions

Twirling Basketball clip art courtesy of - 03/26/04

"We Are the Champions" midi courtesy of
at the suggestion of Dave Spriggs ('64) of VA - 04/13/04

"We Are the Champions" lyrics courtesy of - 04/14/04

Basketball divider line clip art courtesy of - 08/12/04

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