By Adolphus Ames —
Local basketball legend Ace Custis was inducted into the Northampton High School Athletic Hall of Fame Saturday, April 30.
“I was excited when I found out I was being inducted,” said Custis. “It’s an honor anytime a player can be recognized for their hard work on the court.”
Custis fell in love with basketball at an early age. “It has always been a dream of mine to play basketball to the best of my abilities and leave it all on the court,” he said. “Growing up, I used to play basketball against my older brother each morning and I really liked the competitive aspects of the game so I dedicated myself to the sport.”
Custis began playing for Northampton High School during his freshman year and participated in basketball camps and tournaments to increase his chances of being spotted by college scouts. During the summer of his junior year, he played on the Boo Williams AAU basketball team in Hampton, Va., alongside future NBA legend Allen Iverson.
After graduating from Northampton, Custis continued his basketball career at Virginia Tech. In 1995, he helped lead the Hokies to victory in the NIT (National Invitation Tournament) against Marquette University.
“Winning that tournament in Madison Square Garden was an awesome feeling,” he said. “Our team felt like we had been overlooked for the NCAA tournament and we wanted to prove that we should have been included. We felt like we had something to prove.”
Custis concluded his college career with over 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds. His jersey was retired in 1997 and in 2007 he was inducted into Virginia Tech’s Hall of Fame. Following his collegiate career, Custis aspired to take his talent to the NBA.
“I remember sitting through the entire 1997 NBA draft waiting for my name to be called,” he said. “When it was over, my name still hadn’t been called. I went into my room and cried. Later that night, I got a phone call from the Los Angeles Lakers expressing their interest in me.”
Custis joined the NBA Summer League and played for the Los Angeles Lakers alongside future basketball icon Kobe Bryant. The Dallas Mavericks soon signed him to a nonguaranteed contract, but his NBA career was cut short when he tore his ACL during a preseason game.
After recovering from his injury, Custis played semipro basketball stateside in the Continental Basketball Association and American Basketball Association and then played professionally overseas in Lebanon, Venezuela, and several other countries before retiring in Japan in 2012. He played overseas for a total of 12 seasons.
“After I stopped playing overseas, I took a year off to spend time with my kids,” Custis said. “Then I started coaching. My first job was at Virginia State University in 2013.”
Following his season at VSU, Custis joined the coaching staff as an assistant at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. He coached at UMES for five years and then returned to Virginia Tech as the coordinator of basketball relations. In 2020, he became a special assistant to the Hokies’ head coach Mike Young.
“All of my success has come from hard work,” Custis said. “I was never the most athletic or had the best jump shot, but I could always outwork my opponent. My work ethic and my competitive drive were my best assets.”
Custis plans to continue using his best assets to his advantage in the foreseeable future. “My journey is not over,” he said. “I have a lot more dreams and things I want to accomplish and hopefully I can continue to enjoy the ride.”