Nick Hedges stands tall as MHS center


Morgantown High center Nick Hedges should be sitting in a chiropractor's office right now, complaining about a sore neck.

Practically every time the 6-foot-3 senior took the floor this season, he was looking up -- way up -- at the other team's pivot man.

Hedges found himself matched up against the likes of Robert C. Byrd's R.J. Coleman (6-6), North Marion's Lance Vernon (6-6), Princeton's Daniel Reed (6-8) and Martinsburg's Kevin Pittsnogle (6-10).

He could have been forgiven for feeling like a lumberjack yelling, "Timber! Look out below!"

A position that might have been viewed as a weakness before the season is now an unqualified strength for the Mohigans.

Hedges didn't back down from any of those tall trees he encountered this season. He's one of the reasons the No. 1-ranked Mohigans are 22-3 and bound for a state tournament opener against Byrd next Thursday, in Charleston.

"Hedges has certainly been a significant factor in the success of this team with his intelligence and his toughness," MHS coach Tom Yester said. "He's a tough cookie. He knows how to listen, and he can figure most things out."

How did Hedges and his teammates succeed against the big boys? It turned out to be the classic case of David vs. Goliath. The Goliaths who overlooked Hedges paid a dear price.

"Maybe it's because the other guys see me as a smaller guy and they don't think I'm going to be a threat," he said.

Hedges realized he didn't always have the physical tools to compete with the taller centers, but he possessed the necessary mental makeup. Hedges did, after all, rack up a 1380 on his SAT, and he's being recruited by such prestigious schools as Case Western, Vassar and Rochester.

He outsmarted his foes by using his quickness to his advantage. He couldn't post up on a Coleman or a Pittsnogle, but he could make those two venture outside the lane and try to guard him.

A prime example of this philosophy played out in MHS's 73-63 victory over Coleman and Byrd in the Coaches Against Cancer Tournament, at MHS, in December.

Hedges forced Coleman to come out out of the paint and guard him. When he didn't, Hedges launched his jump shot. When Coleman did come out, Hedges went by him so quickly all Coleman could do was foul.

Coleman collected his fourth foul in the third quarter and spent most of the second half on the bench. Hedges ignited the Mohigans with a team-high 16 points and seven rebounds.

"Obviously, I'm faster because I'm smaller," Hedges said. "That's the only advantage I had, so I played to that. It worked pretty well when I stepped outside and made him guard me.

"When he didn't, I just shot the 3. Defensively, I tried to hold my ground and wait for the double team to come. We did a decent job against him. It helped that he got in foul trouble."

Hedges' intelligence always comes to the forefront.

"His recognition of what to do when is very important," Yester said. "He made two 3's and then drove to the bucket and did a good job taking a couple of charges against him."

This senior season has been everything Hedges hoped it would be after he spent the last two years playing sparingly as a back-up to starter David Plum.

"I was ready for this year," Hedges said. "I knew where I was going to be. It's not like I hadn't played before. I was ready. I definitely had the confidence. I wasn't scared or anything."