Share This Page

Central Catholic grad Walther garners UPJ honor

| Thursday, April 18, 2013, 12:56 a.m.
Submitted
Munhall resident Justin Walther will be inducted into the UPJ hall of fame.

Bob Rukavina once saw Justin Walther score 50 points in a summer league game in Greenfield. Rukavina, who is men's basketball coach at Pitt-Johnstown, would later watch Walther score eight points in the first two minutes of his first scrimmage as a freshman with the team.

Rukavina saw Walther score 39, 38 and 37 points in consecutive games during his Mountain Cats career.

Walther knew how to produce points — lots of them.

“He was just a scorer — an unstoppable scorer,” Rukavina said of Walther, a 2000 Pitt-Johnstown graduate. “He had a phenomenal ability as an offensive player.”

A Munhall native and resident, Walther's prolific scoring ability has made him a Hall of Famer. The all-time leading scorer at Pitt-Johnstown, Walther is a member of the sixth induction class into the Pitt-Johnstown Athletics Hall of Fame.

This year's ceremonies are Saturday at the Pitt-Johnstown Living-Learning Center.

“It is a pretty cool honor,” Walther said. “I keep in touch with (Rukavina) all the time. We have a great relationship and I'm looking forward to seeing him, and there's a bunch of friends and family coming up for it as well. I'm just really looking forward to it.”

Once UPJ established an athletics hall of fame in 2007, it was only a matter of time before Walther became a part of it. After a decorated high school career at Central Catholic and one year at Robert Morris, Walther transferred to Pitt-Johnstown in 1996.

By the time he graduated, he had made his mark on the Mountain Cats' record books. In addition to the career-best 2,073 points, the 875 career rebounds he graduated with ranked him second on the school's all-time list.

Walther also holds the UPJ records for career field goals (735), career free throws made (517) and free throws made in a season (164).

“He was just a competitor,” Rukavina said. “Just a winner. He didn't look like much, maybe 6-foot-6 12, 195 pounds. It wasn't like he was real athletic, but he was a real skilled guy. He just had great skills.”

No. 2 on the career scoring list at Central Catholic, Walther had remarkable junior and senior seasons at Pitt-Johnstown. He led the NCAA Division II East region in scoring — and led the country in free throws made and attempted — both years, earning first-team all-East region.

The Mountain Cats also experienced great team success with Walther leading the way, making their first two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances his freshman and sophomore seasons and attaining a national ranking as high as No. 4 in 1999-2000.

Walther averaged nearly 19 points and eight rebounds in his career.

“In practice, he did the drills and everything, but he wasn't the greatest practice player,” Rukavina said. “He just was all about competing. We'd say, ‘We'll play to 10' — and he'd score all 10 points by himself. Put a number on it, and he'd do it. Just an incredible player.”

Walther said his scoring proficiency came from countless hours in the driveway repeatedly working on post moves and shooting 3-pointers with his father, Howie.

“A couple hours every day,” Walther said. “He was the big influence on me playing basketball. Pretty much if it wasn't for him, I probably wouldn't have played. I probably would have played soccer instead.”

Walther caught the basketball bug. After graduating with bachelor degrees in business finance and marketing management, Walther has been involved with his family-run landscaping business and worked as a mortgage loan officer.

He spent a season working for the American Basketball Association's Pennsylvania Pit Bulls and vows to take a more active role in participating in youth basketball camps.

“Basketball is supposed to be fun,” Walther said. “It was part of my personality to trash talk and get into it on the court during games.

“There are some great memories there (at UPJ) — and some great teams.”

Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.