MHS’s 6-foot-7 Runner aims to add weight and pound it outside
The skinny: Must bulk up, work on perimeter game for college ball

Sam Runner admits he exceeded his own expectations on the basketball court this past season. During the course of his first complete year on the Morgantown High varsity boys’ team, Runner evolved into the Mohigans’ leading scorer (12.5 points per game) and shot blocker, while averaging 4.5 rebounds a contest.
    By the end of the season, the realization hit home for Runner: College basketball could be in his future, if he worked on two things.
    The 6-foot-7 senior is too tall and too talented for most area high school teams to stop in the lane. But when the senior watches college basketball, he sees quick 6-7 players who can shoot from the perimeter and drive to the basket. Most of the guys he watches are much bigger and thicker than his 175-180 pound frame.
    “I got the height genes,” Runner said with a smile, and then a pause. “I’ve tried a lot, it’s just tough [to gain weight]. I know I need to, and I am trying. It’s not the easiest thing to do. My family is skinny.”
    He knows that, to survive in the college game, he simply needs more muscle on his body, so Runner keeps increasing his daily food intake.
    Can’t gain weight? It’s a problem most people would love to have but a harsh reality for Runner.
    “I’ve always been tall and skinny. I never really had any baby fat to lose,” he said. “I am trying to expand my appetite. I always eat all my meals and have seconds. I am trying to eat between meals, lots of protein and work in the weight room.
    “I drink a lot of milkshakes, at least one every day. With all the running I do, I burn a lot calories, so that makes it tough. I know I need to.”
    In the past year, Runner has gained about five pounds, which he knows isn’t much, but he’s hoping to add close to 15 before basketball season begins this winter.
    Runner wants to have a successful season and help guide the Mohigans back to the state tournament. His ultimate goal is to land with a small Division I team, or, if not, then a D-II school. Either way, the studious Runner, who is interest- ed in business, is looking for a school that can offer him a quality education.
    “At my size, [colleges] want a shooter but, if needed, someone who can take it inside,” Runner said. “That’s what I was always brought up doing — I was always the tallest kid, so working inside, getting rebounds.”
    And that leads to the second area Runner needs to work on. The lone returning MHS starter knows he’ll likely be featured on opponents’ game plans this winter and he understands he won’t be able to camp under the basket in college.
    So Runner has been expanding his game by improving his play around the perimeter, where he didn’t gain much experience growing up.
    Through personal workouts and games and practices with his two AAU teams — one in Morgantown and one in Pittsburgh — Runner has moved away from the basket to practice his outside shooting and ballhandling.
    His outside shot has always been good, Runner says, but he hopes to be able to dribble and shoot around the arc a good bit more for MHS.
    By all indications, that could happen because his work on the court is paying off.
    “He’s become a Beilein type of player,” local AAU coach Jeff Hoffman said, referring to the system used by former WVU and current Michigan coach John Beilein. “He can play around the perimeter and in the post. The right Division I school could use him. Several Ivy League schools are interested in him.”
    It also makes him a more dangerous and complete player right now.
    “I really want to focus more on my perimeter play because, for my size, if I want to play in college, I need to be pretty capable playing the positions out and around the perimeter,” Runner said. “I’ve been working a lot on my shot. I am hoping to get more opportunities to shoot next season.”
    Runner was quite happy with his performance a season ago, but he knows basketball is a game full of adjustments.
    Teams will begin to guard him differently this season, to try to take away his strengths. He’s training to be able to counter those attacks.
    “If they stop one part of my game, hopefully I will be able to change it up and show them something they didn’t know I could do,” he said. “I am a lot more comfortable [at the perimeter]. I’ve got a lot more confidence taking the shot if I ever have to step out. There’s other shooters on the team that are more likely to make it, but if they aren’t able to, I definitely am down to take that shot.”
    The Mohigans, who finished 14-8 with a loss to John Marshall in sectionals, just wrapped up hosting a youth basketball camp. After each day of camp, head coach Tom Yester hosted practices for his team during the first of the three weeks of optional summer workouts.
    Yester said he sees the improvements in Runner’s game, and just how far Runner can go this season and in college depends on the work he continues to do.
    “I think it depends on what he does with his body. He just has a really thin frame,” Yester said. “If he’s fortunate enough to put on some muscle, then very simply he could be a really good player. His whole family is thin, so he has history against him sizewise. There has to be a lot of weight training and correct eating.
    “My goal for Sam is to enjoy his senior season and I want Sam to be the best player he can be. I want him to be a multipurpose player, one who can block, rebound, shoot the 3 and dunk the ball. I want him to do it all.”
    “To play in the college game, he’s going to have to step out and play some too. That’s one of the motivations for Sam, and of course for us, too, to make him a more complete player.”
    Yester, who recently retired from teaching but has no plans to stop coaching anytime soon, likes the group he has returning this season and has no doubt Runner will be able to step up and lead.
    “For me, it’s kind of a reward,” Yester said. “This is a really nice group to teach because they want to learn. I am happy with the attitude of these guys.”

Bob Gay/The Dominion Post photos MHS’s Sam Runner: “I got the height genes. ... My family is skinny.”

Bob Gay/The Dominion Post MHS coach Tom Yester: “This is a really nice group to teach because they want to learn.”