Feb. 21, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Now that he’s done coaching basketball for the season, J.R. VanHoose is going to start playing again.
OK, it’s just for one day, but VanHoose is headed back to the Cam Henderson Center floor for the third annual Marshall Alumni Game, scheduled Saturday at 4:30 p.m. prior to the Conference USA tipoff between the Thundering Herd (12-15, 5-7) and UAB (12-14, 4-7) at 7 o’clock.
“My goal?” VanHoose said during a phone conversation. “I’m going to try my best not to pull anything, not to hurt myself … I only play about once a week now.”
The 6-foot-10 VanHoose came from All-State status at Paintsville (Ky.) High to become one of the foremost players in Herd hoops history from 1998-99 through 201-02. He’s one of about 30 former players expected to return. About half of those have plans to play in the game. The teams will be coached by Charlie Hagley and Woody Woodrum.
But the game, VanHoose said, is not the thing.
“It will be great to be around all the guys again,” said VanHoose, who joins Charlie Slack as the only 1,000-1,000 players (points, rebounds) in MU history. “We’ll get together (after the game in Gullickson Gym) and tell old stories and have some fun with that.
“I hope a lot of fans will come out to see us shoot some ball. Just being on the floor in the Henderson Center again will bring back a lot of memories.”
Earlier this week, VanHoose finished his sixth year of varsity coaching when his Phelps (Ky.) High girls’ team lost in the 60th District Tournament. He’s in his 10th year as a middle school social studies teacher, too.
VanHoose also is not that far removed from organized hoops. In 2010-11, he played for the Eastern Kentucky Energy, a Pikeville-based team in the ABA. He made the Eastern Conference All-Star team and won the 3-point shooting competition at the event.
He was 250-255 pounds when he played at Marshall. Now, he’s “pushing 290, but I really feel pretty good.” He recalled last year’s emotional Alumni Game that was part of the sendoff and closing of the Veterans Memorial Field house.
“That was a great experience, one I won’t forget,” VanHoose said. “But I had forgotten how long a college basketball court was. I just want to make it up and down the court Saturday night.”
He’ll turn 34 in July, and he keeps up with the Herd regularly. He attended the Marshall loss at Kentucky’s Rupp Arena back in December, and said he talks with Coach Tom Herrion “once or twice a month.” He also follows Herrion and senior forward Dennis Tinnon on Twitter.
“I’ll always be a Marshall supporter,” he said. “It’s been a tough season, but we’ve got to stay together, and it’s special to be part of a basketball family. A lot of kids today don’t understand the hard work that goes in to being a college athlete, and that sort of thing builds a bond.”
VanHoose ranks second all-time in rebounds (1,086) at Marshall, and he’s fifth in scoring (1,903 points) and field goal percentage (.560). The only players in Herd history with at least 1,800 points and 800 rebounds are VanHoose and Russell Lee.
“It’s important to become friends with people like Charlie Slack,” VanHoose said of one of major college basketball’s leading all-time rebounders. “Things like that are really special now, and it was really special when you’re in your 20s.
“As you get older, it’s surreal to think that there are names like Charlie’s, Hal Greer, Walt Walowac, Russell Lee, players like those guys from Marshall, and you’re mentioned with them. But I don’t really feel like I’m part of that group.
“To get mentioned with them is a weird experience. I don’t look at myself there, but to be mentioned like that is great.”