Sampson was already 6-foot-7 by the ninth grade, and he averaged nearly 30 points, 19 rebounds, and 7 blocked shots as a senior leading his team to state AA basketball championships in 1978 and 1979. His senior year he lost the High School Player of the Year award to another talented center, Sam Bowie.
Miraculously, Sampson chose UVA over a passel of suitors. Playing his least favorite position, center, he led the Cavaliers to an NCAA elite 8 appearance in 1983. Sampson earned three Naismith Awards as the National Player of the Year, only the second athlete to do so, and an unprecedented pair of Wooden Awards.
In spite of his personal success, however, Sampson was criticized (mostly by Wahoo fans, alums, donors, students, players, coaches and administrators) for not leading Virginia to an NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Championship like the 2005 and 2009 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball National Champion University of North Carolina Tar Heels among other ACC schools.
Today, the Washington Post ran a story lauding the recruiting efforts of UVA rookie head coach Tony Bennett and his first group of new hoopsters heading to Charlottesville.
Six ACC schools are ranked ahead of Virginia, including Maryland, North Carolina and Duke, but Bennett's recruiting success without having coached a game with the Cavs is being seen as a positive sign. Bennett won 69 games in three seasons at Washington State largely with unheralded recruits.
Bennett's first UVA recruiting class, which will join the team for the 2010-11 season, will include 6-foot-9 forward James Johnson from Wildomar, Calif.; 6-8 forward Will Regan from the Buffalo area; 6-6 guard Joe Harris from Chelan, Wash.; and 6-4 guard K.T. Harrell from Montgomery, Ala.
Of course, none of the new recruits is taller than 6’9” and that is not a coincidence.
Secret documents discovered by T.A.H. reveal that part of the recruiting deal that landed the Hoos Lord Sampson back in 1979 was the little known, and never publicly discussed, “Sampson Rule” which prohibited The University from giving a scholarship to any basketball player taller than 6’ 11” during Sampson’s life time.
The contract, which includes a section called “Penalties,” points out that if the Cavaliers recruit, and ultimately reward a full scholarship to, a player who is 7’ or taller, the University will have to hire Sampson as the Athletic Director and head basketball coach and promote him as Player and Coach of the Year while they petition the NCAA for additional eligibility for the retired star. The contract goes on to state that if said eligibility is granted by the suits in Kansas, Sampson will start at his favorite position – point guard – for “as long as the NCAA will allow.”