By LeeAnne Yeater, Contributing Writer
The West Liberty men’s basketball team last year is what you would call the dream team. With a record of 33-1, the men of this team played at such a high level of skill that they set themselves apart from any of their competitors.
Coach Jim Crutchfield coached this team which consisted of four standout seniors, Barry Shetzer, Corey Pelle, John Wolosinczuk, and Jordan Fourtney. These were the men who would bring history to the hilltop.
No one looked at it too much in the beginning when the team was scoring over one hundred points per game, it was just another game.
Mid-season, however, people were starting to take notice, WLU made it on ESPN for the average number of points scored in a game.
Almost overnight these four seniors and Coach Crutchfield became hometown celebrities. With big success came big opportunities and these seniors were standing in a sea of them.
Word was going around campus instantaneously after the team got back from the tournament that the seniors were talking to coaches and agents to take their career to the next level.
“I first knew that I could continue my basket career at the end of my junior year when Coach Crutchfield told me there were people interested in me so I better pick up my game,” Pelle said.
Pelle is now in Slovakia (Preivedza) and is the starting point guard.
Pelle’s decision to go and play wasn’t as publicized as Barry Shetzer.
At midsummer an article was released in Shetzer’s hometown newspaper that he would be playing in Madeira. It is a resort island 500 miles from the mainland of Portugal.
Shetzer reported, “The weather is great. I’ve been here for two months and the weather has ranged from 75 to 82 everyday. The coldest it gets is low 60s in December.” This is a big change from the West Virginia winters.
Pelle and Shetzer, though not close to each other, both make it clear that the European ways of basketball are different from anything they have ever played in the U.S.
Shetzer compares the skills, “More dribbling and pick and rolls then I’m used to. Everyone on the team gets along and knows how to speak English which helps.”
Whereas Pelle describes the environment, “Basketball is way more physical and the people are way taller. The fans here are nuts. They chant every second of the game and throw things on the court when we win.”
Though they are living any athlete’s dream, they are thousands of miles from their home and sacrifices were made for them to follow their career and dreams.
“Honestly, I was so scared to leave the country,” Pelle said.
Shetzer admitted, “The biggest adjustment for me was being away from friends and family.”
The two are doing very well. When asked about their future neither are sure what next year brings but, are ready for whatever is next.
“I am not sure how long I will stay over here. I’m a family friends kind of guy and I miss everyone so much. But I guess if the money keeps rising then it would be hard to pass up,” Pelle said.
West Liberty has nothing, but praise for these men and that is exactly what they have in return for the University.
“West Liberty taught me what it’s like to have a team so close. How well the team played together. No one cared about who scored more. As long as we won and we won a lot,” Pelle said.
As Shetzer reflects he concluded, “West Liberty basketball taught me to take every opportunity on the basketball court and if you see an opening in the defense to attack it.”
As basketball season approaches quickly people have their eye on the Hilltoppers to see what will happen next.
Even though the seniors have moved on to a different part of their lives they will never forget the place that made it all possible and the coach who got them there.
“I want to wish West Lib the best of luck this year. I will be watching and keeping up on them. Never forget great memories,” Pelle said.
Years from now this team will still be looked at as the change in basketball, the change for the better.
Back on the Hilltop, the West Liberty basketball team will start their season on November 12 as they compete in the Wolf Bus Lines Invitational in Shippensburg, Penn. They will take on East Stroudsburg University for the first game of the season.
The Hilltoppers will return to the ASRC in their first home game against the University of Findlay on November 17.