Point Park guard Heatherington leading team's high-octane offense
By Jeff Vella
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 10:09 p.m.
Point Park's Robbie Heatherington never has minded sharing the spotlight, but he's doing another kind of sharing this season.
Heatherington, a senior point guard from Serra Catholic, ranks third in NAIA Division II with 7.6 assists per game. He spent his first three collegiate seasons playing mostly shooting guard alongside his older brother T.J., but Robbie is thriving as the pilot of the Pioneers' run-and-gun offense.
“I think going from more of a sidekick to the actual game manager is a transition, but I love having the ball in my hands as much as he did,” said Robbie, who also averages 12.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
“I feel like it's a great opportunity to go back to my natural position at the point. I really enjoy being more of a passer first rather than a scorer.”
Never was that more evident than Nov. 19, when Heatherington set a school-record with 18 assists in a victory over Penn State-Fayette.
“I think there's an energy you feel when you're getting up and down the floor and hitting the open guy or finding a kickout shooter,” he said. “It's a real nice feeling.”
The 6-foot Heatherington's numbers might be even better if he was at full health. He suffered a sprained right ankle in the fourth game of the year, missed two games and has been slowed since returning. Point Park (6-5, 2-1 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) has two games left before a three-week winter break, during which Heatherington said he hopes the injury heals. Point Park coach Bob Rager said Heatherington's ability to fight through pain might be his most impressive trait.
“He's one of the toughest hombres I've had on my team in a long time,” Rager said. “I think he's the key to our season. We need him in the lineup.”
Heatherington directs what Rager calls a “no-guilt offense,” one that ranks 16th in NAIA D-II with 89.9 points per game. The Pioneers often shoot in the first seven seconds of the shot clock, and Heatherington must make quick decisions. Turnovers are a byproduct of the system — Heatherington averages 5.8.
“If you can play free, I think you can become a better player,” Rager said.
It hasn't been a natural progression for Heatherington. After a sophomore season in which he averaged 14.1 points and 4.8 rebounds, he never got going offensively as a junior, lost his starting job and finished the season averaging 6.2 points and shooting 33.3 percent from the field. Yet he didn't pout.
“Last year was a speed bump,” Heatherington said. “But you can never make it about yourself because there's always a larger goal than individual accolades. I tried to do whatever I could to impact the game when I was out there. If it wasn't scoring, it was on the defensive end or with passing or by hustling.”
The presence of T.J. — a former national scoring leader and NAIA D-II first-team All-American — also served as a calming influence, Robbie said. The brothers, who won a PIAA basketball title together at Serra, talked after games, and T.J.'s advice helped Robbie get through the difficult times. T.J.'s leadership on and off the court appears to have rubbed off on his younger brother.
“I think it's his year to shine,” Rager said of Robbie. “Anytime you're playing with your brother and he's doing a lot of good things, you inadvertently take a back seat. Well, Robbie's not a backseat guy. He's a leader.”
Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.
Show commenting policy
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.
- Former St. Joseph swimmer Stein headed to national meet with Edinboro
- Point Park women look to break through at NAIA tournament
- Campus clippings: Zalewski back to old self at Kent State
- Breaking down conference wrestling tournaments