New Castle's Hooker, Vincentian's Wise named Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Basketball Players of the Year
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New Castle's Malik Hooker and Vincentian Academy's Brenna Wise are the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Basketball Players of the Year.
Boys player of the year
6-1, senior, Guard/Forward
Malik Hooker always wanted a state basketball title for his hometown, something New Castle never had won. When it finally happened, he enjoyed the town's reaction.
“I was shocked,” Hooker said. “I knew everybody would be happy, but I didn't expect it to be as crazy as it is.”
Led by the Ohio State football recruit, the Red Hurricanes (31-0) won their third consecutive WPIAL title, each with an undefeated 26-0 record. This time, though, they added the much-anticipated PIAA Class AAAA championship as well. Hooker scored a team-high 13 points in the state final when New Castle beat Philadelphia's La Salle College, 52-39, at Giant Center.
A 1,627-point scorer who drew national TV attention for his dunks, Hooker averaged 22 points and nine rebounds. His defense was just as strong. In the fall, he was chosen for the Trib's Terrific 25 football team as a receiver and defensive back. Now, he is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Boys Basketball Player of the Year.
As a football recruit, will you miss basketball?
Yes, definitely. Basketball is my first love. I've always played. I'm definitely going to miss it. It will be hard to adjust because I've been playing for so long.
Did you approach this season any differently?
Coming into this year, after all the obstacles we'd been through, I didn't want to fail (to reach Hershey) like we did the last two years. We'd all played on the teams that didn't (win a state title). Everybody came back more hungry.
What's your best memory from the celebration?
Hugging my mom and my brother at Hershey. It was like a big relief. (Trying to win a state title) was something I'd put so much hard work and effort into.
What did you like most about Ohio State?
The community and the tradition. It's always a great fan base, much like New Castle. I feel like it would be a good place to fit in.
What kind of reception do you get around town?
There's always someone coming up to me asking if I'm that Hooker kid on the team, or someone asking for autographs.
Where's your state gold medal?
It's hanging up on my wall next to my three WPIAL championships. I wore it the whole way home.
Terrific 10 boys
5-9, Sr., Guard
The playmaking point guard averaged 14.5 points and seven assists for the WPIAL Class AA champion Rebels (29-2), who won their first title in 25 years. The team then came within a basket of also winning the state championship game.
6-3, Sr., Guard
A career 1,437-point scorer, D'Amico ranked third among Class AAAA regular-season players with a 22.9 average. D'Amico led the Foxes to the playoffs and broke his school's career scoring record, which stood for 25 years.
6-3, Jr., Guard
Harrell's 23.9-point average was best among Class AAAA regular-season scorers. Already a 1,000-point scorer with Division I potential, he led Hempfield (21-3) to its third consecutive Section 1 title and a WPIAL playoff victory.
6-8, Sr., Forward
A Pitt recruit who can score inside and out, Luther averaged 22.2 points and led Hampton to the WPIAL finals for the third consecutive season. Luther shot 71 percent from inside the arc (230 of 324) and added 18 3-pointers.
6-0, Jr., Guard
He averaged 21.8 points and had a quadruple-double with 46 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and 10 steals in one regular-season win. A 1,000-point scorer, his Colts (25-3) were WPIAL Class AAA runners-up.
6-9, Sr., Forward
A versatile forward with Division I scholarship offers, Minnie's dunks and blocks led Lincoln Park's romp through the WPIAL and PIAA Class A playoffs. He averaged 16 points, 12.5 rebounds and six blocks.
6-4, Sr., Guard
A Division I talent who could attend prep school, Porter averaged 22 points, eight rebounds and had Obama Academy 22-0 before a one-point loss in the City League championship. He had 1,139 career points.
5-8, Sr., Guard
The West Virginia Wesleyan recruit became just the fourth WPIAL player with 300 career 3-pointers (304), joining Highlands' Micah Mason and Chartiers Valley's T.J. McConnell and Mike Colbert.
6-7, So., Guard
A talented 3-point shooter and Pitt recruit, Rowan averaged 28.3 points for the WPIAL and PIAA Class A champion Leopards (30-1). Rowan upped his average in the state playoffs to 32.2 with 37 in the final.
Girls player of the year
6-0, junior, Guard/Forward
After falling short as a sophomore, Brenna Wise returned to Hershey and won the PIAA Class A title she'd always wanted.
Dream accomplished. Now what?
“I'm greedy,” she said. “I'm going to get another one.”
No one should question her determination.
A versatile player who has scholarship offers from Pitt, Dayton, Villanova and Virginia Tech, as well as Ivy League options, Wise averaged 19.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.7 steals this season for three-time defending WPIAL champion Vincentian (27-3). She scored 38 in the PIAA semifinals and had 21 in the final.
“I slept with (my PIAA gold medal) around my neck,” Wise said. “I didn't want to take it off. But the next day I woke up, and it's a new season now. It's time to go get another one and work twice as hard.”
For her performance, Wise is the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Did you approach this season any differently?
I definitely approached it with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder. I made it to the final and lost (in 2013). I can tell you the exact score. We lost by 17 points, so I had a nasty taste in my mouth. I approached the entire season with that nasty taste. As in, I don't want to finish another year with that.
Can you describe the emotion of finally winning?
It was incredible. I can't explain to you the feeling that I felt there. My coach pulled me out for the last couple minutes of the game, I looked up and said, “Is this real? Is this really happening?” It was something special. I had accomplished one of my dreams.
When will you make your college decision?
I don't have to decide until November. I know some people like to make (a commitment) early. But everyone says you just get a feeling. I'm going to wait it out. It's been one heck of a journey. This is something kids dream of going through. I'm enjoying every minute of it. I'm truly blessed, so I feel no pressure.
Are you a guard or a forward?
I'm both. In high school, I'm a forward. In college, I could be a small forward or a tall guard. I can't say I like a specific spot. As long as I'm on the court, I'm happy.
Terrific 10 girls
6-0, Sr., Forward
A 1,000-point scorer for Central Valley (15-8), Barrett led all WPIAL girls with a 24.3 points-per-game regular-season average. She also averaged 14 rebounds with the athleticism that made her an all-state volleyball player as well.
5-7, Jr., Guard
The Pepperdine recruit with 1,209 career points averaged 16.5 points and 6.5 assists and shot 47-percent from 3-point range. Burrell (28-2) was WPIAL Class AA runner-up after an undefeated regular season.
5-10, Sr., Forward
The Senegal native played just one season at Seton, but her contributions let the Rebels (27-4) win WPIAL and PIAA Class AA titles. The Pitt recruit averaged 13.7 points and had 10 points, 23 rebounds and six blocks in the state final.
6-0, Sr., Forward
A four-time Terrific 10 selection, Gibson won her third WPIAL title and second state title. The Pitt recruit averaged 10 points and eight rebounds and had 61 blocks. She's the great-granddaughter of Negro League great Josh Gibson.
6-3, Sr., Center
Mathias averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks and led Fox Chapel (20-6) to the WPIAL Class AAAA semifinals. She was named the state's Gatorade Player of the Year. The top WPIAL recruit in 2014, Mathias signed with Duke.
5-10, So., Guard/Forward
A tough matchup for opponents, McGrath could score in the paint or from the 3-point arc. A 17-point scorer, McGrath and senior Halie Torris led South Park (22-6) to the WPIAL Class AAA final and a runner-up finish.
5-5, Jr., Guard
Already an 1,800-point scorer, the Duquesne recruit averaged 21.6 points and led the Cougars (28-2) to WPIAL and PIAA Class AAA titles. She scored 26 points in the state final.
5-11, Sr., Guard
A Youngstown State recruit, Pietropola averaged 17.3 points and became Plum's all-time leading scorer (1,370). Pietropola finished third in the WPIAL and 13th in the state in the high jump last season.
5-11, Jr., Guard
Third among all WPIAL scorers, Weiss averaged 23.7 points and 7.6 rebounds for McGuffey (20-5), which reached the PIAA Class AA playoffs. With 1,649 points, she's likely to reach 2,000 in her senior season.
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