ShareThis Page

West Mifflin grad Hester among the nation's best on the boards

| Tuesday, March 5, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

West Mifflin native C.J. Hester is one of NCAA Division II's top rebounders, and he ranks among the top 15 nationally in field-goal percentage. He's one of the key members of one of the country's best Division II teams.

Only a sophomore, Hester has found his niche quickly in excelling on the court at West Liberty University.

He's stood out in the classroom even more.

Hester, a 6-foot-4 guard/forward and biology major, was selected as a 2012-13 Capital One NCAA Division II Academic All-American by the College Sports Information Directors of America last month.

“He's the kind of guy who's easy for people here at West Liberty to cheer for,” Hilltoppers coach Jim Crutchfield said. “He's a very popular student — definitely not just an athlete. He's part of our student body and well-liked by everybody here.”

Hester, the 2011 McKeesport Daily News Player of the Year and a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Terrific 10 selection, averaged 12.1 points and 9.3 rebounds while shooting 61.8 percent from the field during the regular season for a West Liberty team that went 27-1 overall and 21-1 in conference play.

The nationally ranked Hilltoppers won the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament for the third straight year Sunday with a 92-78 victory over Fairmont State.

“We're definitely taking every game one at a time like we have all season,” said Hester, who was named to the all-tournament team after scoring 21 points and grabbing 14 rebounds in the title game, “but the ultimate goal is to finish strong and win the national title.”

West Liberty has come close each of the past two seasons, advancing to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. Last year, Hester earned conference Freshman of the Year honors and a berth on the Atlantic Region all-tournament team. He ranked in the top 10 nationally in double-doubles (14) and field-goal percentage (.613).

It's been more of the same this season, including a game in which Hester just missed tying a national NCAA Division II record of 22 rebounds in a game. Hester had 21 in a 113-103 defeat of Shepherd on Feb. 18.

“I've always enjoyed rebounding,” Hester said. “I like being physical, going in there banging it around with the big guys.”

Hester enjoys getting rough-and-tumble on the court — off it, he's much more refined. Hester has been able to maintain a 3.76 grade-point average, and has career aspirations to follow in the footsteps of his father and become an oral surgeon.

“I've always looked up to him,” Hester said. “I've always shadowed him on take-your-kid-to-work day, and I found it interesting.”

Dental school, though, is still a couple of years away. He has two seasons left playing for the Hilltoppers, plus an ongoing postseason in which he and his team have some lofty goals.

Hester set the school record for rebounds by a freshman last season (285) and ended the regular season holding the West Liberty record for rebounds by a sophomore. It should come as no surprise he is well on pace to shatter the 41-year-old career school record for rebounds, should he stay healthy.

Hester also is on track to be a four-year starter for a West Liberty program that has won four straight conference regular-season titles and has led the nation in scoring in seven of the past eight seasons.

“There's not a whole lot more I can say about C.J.,” Crutchfield said. “He's a hard worker and a fun guy to be around.

“Obviously, he's a quality young man and a quality basketball player. He's been an absolute joy for me the two years I've had him — and we look forward to the next two years we have him, too.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.