MORGANTOWN —There isn’t a basketball player who ever laced up a pair of high tops who didn’t want to run, jump and shoot.
Watch any schoolyard pick-up game, and you’ll be guaranteed to be waiting a LONG time before you’d see Dean Smith’s Four Corners offense.
So it is pure joy and youthful exuberance that the University boys’ team carry onto the court for up-tempo coach Joe Schmidle, and thus far this season, his Hawks have been prolific and impressive.
They delivered a slick 88-43 home dismantling of Buckhannon-Upshur, on Jan. 6.
From the opening tip, the Hawks ran every inch of the gym in high gear, playing at a pace on both ends of the court the Buccaneers could never hope to match.
High-pressure man and match-up zone defenses forced numerous early turnovers (20 for the game), and UHS constantly looked to run. Their transition game containing equal parts speed and control, the Hawks continuously produced lay-ups and open 3s.
Austin Forbes scored 11 first-quarter points, then bombed a pair of triples early in the second quarter when University sprinted out to a 32-13 lead. Stifling defense limited B-U to three second-quarter points, sending the Hawks into the break with a commanding 47-16 edge.
Ethan Ridgeway repeated his 10-point first quarter with another 10 in the third on his way to a game-high 20, as University pulled away even after emptying its bench.
Forbes finished with 19, and sophomore Kaden Metheny scored 12, but this was yet another clean, solid, team-centered effort that has Schmidle quite pleased at the moment.
“They play so hard and so well together, and they’re so unselfish,” the fourth-year mentor said following the win.
“They love each other, and it shows out on the court. They don’t care about their points, but about assists, steals and zero turnovers. Can’t help but like a team like that.”
Commenting on his coach’s philosophy, Ridgeway agreed that his teammates are having a blast but that greater challenges are on the way.
“It’s the best way to play, to always attack as long as you’re under control,” the senior guard said.
“We knew we had to get ready for B-U in practice this week, but we were familiar with them, and we knew that we needed to get ready for stronger competition like Morgantown next Wednesday, too.
“They like to slow you down, get into a half-court game,” he continued. “But we can still play fast in our half-court offense, and our defense will always be there for us. We’ll just have to be patient and get to our game.”
Make no mistake: Schmidle knows his team has plenty to work ahead.
“We call it ‘Manuary,’ ” he said with a smile. “The schedule gets tough, but we’re certainly looking forward to the challenge. That’s what you play for, to match yourself up against the best.”
In the junior varsity game, the Hawks took a while to shake off their three-week layoff, scoring a not-so-grand total of zero first-quarter points.
But they took control early in the second quarter and cruised to a 55-37 win, with Tyler Belt pacing a balanced attack with 11 points.
University travels to East Fairmont on Jan. 8 for a 7:30 p.m. game against the Bees.