MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After a banner inaugural class last year, the University High Athletics Hall of Fame introduced five new members Friday night prior to the Hawks’ football game against Fairmont Senior at Mylan Pharmaceuticals Stadium.
Two inductees, Linda Findo-Brandes and Cindy Triplett, were critical to the rise of the UHS girls’ basketball program. Triplett, who played for the Hawks from 1978-80, was one of the most successful players in program history. She was widely considered a top-25 recruit with over 15 major Division-I offers, but decided to stay home and play at WVU, where she earned the nickname “Downtown Trip” for her ability to make 3s.
Triplett went on to become a well-known basketball official with the WVSSAC and in the since dissolved West Virginia Conference at the Division-II level.
Findo-Brandes helped establish the girls’ basketball program during her senior year in 1975. She averaged 19.15 points per game that season and also went on to play at WVU, becoming the first women’s basketball player to play at a major university.
Findo-Brandes went on to coach softball, basketball and field hockey throughout Virginia and Texas.
The remainder of the class — Louis Birurakis, Thomas “Skip” Smith and Brian Simpson — all have interesting back stories.
Birurakis played basketball at UHS but walked onto the WVU football team after high school. However, that was interrupted when he was drafted into World War II. Following the war, he helped re-establish the UHS football program and was also the wrestling coach. Under his watch in 1951, three Hawks won state titles.
Simpson became the first boys’ basketball player to score over 1,000 points in his high school career and helped lead UHS to the state tournament in 1994. He also played football, and was one of just two athletes to play in both the North-South football and basketball games.
Smith averaged 24.6 points on the hardwood from 1974-76 and eventually became one of the first to earn an athletic scholarship at Radford University in Virginia. While at Radford, Smith helped lead the team to a 23-4 mark in 1978-79, still the most in a single season in school history.
“This is an exciting opportunity to recognize some of University High School’s greats,” UHS athletic director Jeff Bailey said. “This hall of fame is a long time coming and this class is just as talented with wonderful people as our first one. It was great to hear all the stories and the memories that everyone had of University High School up on the hill from when they were the Hilltoppers all the way to the Hawks. It was just a very touching night for all of our inductees.”