Beach Ball Classic

How a mother’s illness inspired a record-tying Beach Ball Classic performance

University (W.Va.) High point guard Kaden Metheny dribbles during practice Friday at the Myrtle Beach Sports Complex. Matheny put on a shooting display Wednesday night in the Beach Ball Classic, tying the tournament record for the most three-point field goals in a game with nine against Cox Mill (N.C.).
University (W.Va.) High point guard Kaden Metheny dribbles during practice Friday at the Myrtle Beach Sports Complex. Matheny put on a shooting display Wednesday night in the Beach Ball Classic, tying the tournament record for the most three-point field goals in a game with nine against Cox Mill (N.C.). jbell@thesunnews.com

University (W.Va.) High point guard Kaden Metheny put on a shooting display Wednesday night in the Beach Ball Classic, the likes of which have seldom been seen in the tournament’s 38-year history.

His mother has seen it numerous times in the past, however, and she certainly wasn’t going to miss it this time either, despite doubling up on chemotheraphy treatments in order to make the trip to Myrtle Beach.

Metheny tied the Beach Ball record for the most 3-point field goals in a game with nine, and Heidi Metheny was at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center to see it.

“I was coming no matter what,” Heidi said. “I was not missing this. It’s been so exciting to be here. It’s a blessing to be here and watch those guys go out there and do their thing. . . . [Kaden’s] a lot of fun to watch. He’s given us a lot of special moments like that, that are pretty awesome.”

Metheny has always been a driven athlete. But his mother’s recent battle with colorectal cancer has given him added incentive to perform on the court.

“She’s the toughest person I know. Her even being down here is a miracle. That’s crazy,” Metheny said. “When I’m struggling on the court I can just look at her in the stands and be like, ‘Dang, she’s going through much harder things than I am right now so I need to push through this.’ ”

The battle

Heidi’s stepfather died because of colon cancer in November 2017, so she and husband Gregg vowed to get screened. Gregg had the colonoscopy first. “I couldn’t back out because he did it,” said Heidi, 51, formerly the administrative assistant to the West Virginia University president who has three sons – Kaden, Nathan, 21, and Treyson, 8.

A malignant tumor was found during Heidi’s screening in September and she began chemotherapy treatments in October.

“We had about 24 hours of deer-in-the-headlights shock after the diagnosis but after that it was just, ‘Okay, this is a bump in the road and we have to do what we’ve got to do to get through it,’ “ Heidi said. “It takes a lot to get me down. It’s not bringing me down and I’m not going to let it bring me down. Our lives have stayed the same and I don’t want anything to change and it really hasn’t.”

She has chemo every two weeks and has had five of a scheduled eight treatments. She plans to have surgery to remove whatever is left of the tumor following the treatments, and said there are no signs that the cancer has spread. “God’s got his hand on me so we’re good,” she said.

A chemo treatment scheduled for this week was moved up to Christmas Eve, and the week after treatments are usually the most challenging physically. But she says the chance she wouldn’t make the trip was “zero percent.” She can’t recall ever missing one of her son’s high school games.

“She wasn’t going to miss it. She won’t miss her son,” said Gregg, a real estate developer and property rental business owner. “She would have crawled here if she had to in order to see him. It wouldn’t have made any difference. She was going to be here.”

University isn’t accustomed to traveling to national tournaments, so the Beach Ball is a big stage and special treat for the team and its followers.

“Being on this big of a stage it’s awesome. It’s a great atmosphere and for her being in the atmosphere she definitely loves it,” Metheny said.

Metheny hasn’t seen any change in his mother’s attitude despite all she’s going through to battle the cancer. “She’s never down. She’s the happiest person everyone meets,” he said. “She’s the same person, full of faith, same person she’s always been. I’m proud that she’s my mom.”

Like Heidi, who is 4-foot-10 ½, Metheny is a tenacious undersized battler. The junior is listed at 5-10, though “he’s 5-11 when he’s standing on the court in shoes,” Heidi points out.

“He gets his toughness from me because he is a warrior,” Heidi said. “He doesn’t back down from anybody. He’s a competitor, he’s a winner. I’m proud of him. So if he gets that from me I’ll take it. If he gets the size from me I guess we’ll have to deal with that.”

A special performance

Metheny hit nine of 16 3-point attempts and 13 of 24 total field goal attempts to register 35 points in a 92-82 loss to Cox Mill (N.C.) Wednesday, matching the game-high point total of the Chargers’ Wendell Moore Jr., a 6-foot-6 Duke commitment.

“Holy smokes, the kid put a show on,” said Cox Mill coach Jody Barbee. “I knew he could shoot it, I didn’t know he could shoot it that good. . . . It was like he was shooting into the dadgum Atlantic Ocean over here off a balcony. He couldn’t miss.

“He might be the best shooter we see all year long. I don’t know. Somebody’s going to have to really prove to me they can shoot a ball better than that kid right there. The kid’s a gamer.”

Most of the 3-pointers Metheny hit were from several feet behind the 3-point line, from several spots on the floor, and with opponents closely guarding him.

“Range is not much of a problem. He can shoot it from 35 feet,” University coach Joe Schmidle said. “I’ve seen him from just inside the half-court circle, with perfect form he can pull up and shoot it. He works hard on his game.”

Matheny had the most 3-pointers in a Beach Ball game in the past 18 years and matched the tournament record set by Colin Brough of East Chapel Hill (N.C.) in 1999 and matched by Nick D’Antoni of Socastee in 2000. Six players have made eight in a game.

“I couldn’t make one more?” Metheny said, adding “I’m just kidding.”

Metheny added a pair of 3-pointers and 23 points in University’s 85-77 consolation bracket win over Socastee on Thursday. The tournament record for treys is 21 set by Stephen Clark of Douglas (Okla.) in 2010, and the most for a player who competed in just three games is 17 by Damien Leonard of J.L. Mann in 2010.

University has at least one more game at 3:30 p.m. Saturday against Florence (Miss.), and it will advance to Monday’s consolation championship with a win.

Schmidle has seen similar performances by Metheny, in most cases when the stakes are high.

“Big-time players step up in big-time games and he’s a big-time player,” Schmidle said. “Everybody tells him 5-foot-10 isn’t tall enough to play Division I basketball, and he comes down here and shows everybody he can play with big-time players.”

Metheny said he has offers from Drexel, Western Carolina and Youngstown State, and is awaiting more.

Schmidle believes the Hawks earned their invitation to the Beach Ball about 17 months ago when Metheny and a few other Morgantown players competed in an AAU tournament in Myrtle Beach. Metheny posted more than 40 points in three consecutive games and his team defeated a Virginia team with several Division I recruits.

Metheny is accustomed to being the player most opponents are game-planning to stop each game and has tried to adjust his game accordingly.

“I’ve had multiple people guarding me my entire life so I’m pretty used to that,” he said. “I rely on my teammates a lot to get me open. I let them do their thing and then try to get people focused on them so they slack on me. And I get a lot of ball screens to help get me open.”

He played this past summer on the ITPS Wildcats AAU team out of Pittsburgh that was a member of the adidas Gauntlet series, where his role was more of a distributor than scorer. But he’s back to being a scorer with the Hawks.

Metheny has quickness and speed, and hopes add a couple inches to his 5-10 height before graduation. “That’s the plan, but if I don’t grow, I make my game where that’s not going to affect me,” Metheny said.

University (6-1) has lost in the semifinals of the West Virginia state playoffs in each of the past two years. Wednesday’s loss was its first of the season.

The progression of Metheny and fellow junior guard K.J. Mcclurg, and Schmidle’s up-tempo style has brought unprecedented attention to the program. The Hawks played in a tournament in their hometown of Morgantown before traveling to Myrtle Beach for their only out-of-state tournament this season.

“This is the first year we’ve traveled,” Metheny said. “That’s a great team. Of course they’ve got Wendell Moore, he’s a great player. We definitely wanted to get the win, but it’s a great tournament, even if you’re in the loser’s bracket. So we definitely want to take advantage of the opportunity we have and play the best we can.”

University built a 12-point lead in the first half Wednesday and still led by eight points 2:30 before halftime, but Cox Mill, the two-time defending N.C. Class 3A state champions, went on a 27-3 run wrapped around halftime.

The Chargers’ run coincided with Mcclurg moving to the bench because of foul trouble. Mcclurg posted 43 points in the Hawks’ previous game last weekend and teams with Metheny to provide a potent offensive duo. He eventually fouled out with 15 points in just 18 minutes on 7-of-8 shooting and netted 23 points in Thursday’s win.

Mcclurg is listed at 6-3 and has offers from West Virginia Wesleyan and Chowan.

He and Metheny have at least one more opportunity to showcase their talent at the convention center, and Heidi Metheny will be there to see it, as always.

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