Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

February 24, 2014

More than a scorer

Ruckel No. 2 on Lewis list

VANCEBURG — He currently ranks as the school’s second all-time scoring leader, and Lewis County senior guard Brett Ruckel realizes the Lions will need to make a deep postseason run for him to overtake Jim Bloomfield, who poured in 2,030 points from 1973-1977.

After scoring 20 points in an 85-67 win at Bath County in the regular-season finale, Ruckel trails Bloomfield by 150 with 1,880 career points.

Lewis County opens district play on Tuesday against Russell in Flatwoods, and veteran coach Joe Hampton is stressing to his team that it’s a must-win game if the team hopes to advance to Morehead State’s Ellis T. Johnson Arena for the 16th Region Tournament.

“We know Russell is practicing hard to get ready for us and that’s the only game we have guaranteed to play,” Hampton said. “I still think (defending region champion) Fleming County is the favorite, but there are several others who have a shot at it.”

Hampton is respected in the region for getting his team playing at its best in late February and early March, and they’re always a tough out.

“We really want to advance as far as we can, especially with this being my senior year,” said Ruckel, who is joined by classmates Wade Adams, Sammy Holder, Gage Kiebler, Daulton Mason and Jordan McCann in winding up their careers at Lewis County.

A major part of the Lions’ success this season is Ruckel, not only for his scoring prowess, but for the improvement of his overall game during his career in Vanceburg.

“Brett’s a special player, just like Jim Bloomfield was when he was here playing for Gary Kidwell, and Jim didn’t have the advantage of the 3-point shot,” said Hampton. “But Brett’s game has evolved over the years and he’s a much more well-rounded player.”

Hampton cited a few of Ruckel’s statistical accomplishments during the Lions’ 15-12 campaign, including his 20.4 points per game scoring average, an overall 42.1 field goal percentage (32.3 percent from 3-point range), a region-leading 83.6 free-throw percentage and 3.2 rebounds per game.

“Brett has also led us in assists for three years in a row,” Hampton said. “He has become much more than just a shooter. He draws a lot of fouls by taking the ball to the rim, so he shoots a lot of free throws and makes a high percentage. Brett has also become a better defensive player, and that’s because of all the basketball he’s played over the years. He has great anticipation skills, good instincts and great basketball knowledge, the kinds of things you can’t really coach.”

The soft-spoken, wiry 6-foot-1 Ruckel attributes his success to picking up a basketball at a young age, and credits his father, Todd Ruckel, along with the Lewis County coaching staff and his teammates over the years.

“I played against Wade, Daulton and Gage in elementary school, and my dad coached in AAU tournaments,” Ruckel said. “One of my best basketball memories was winning the AAU national tournament with the Riverstars in Virginia Beach between my freshman and sophomore years. Another would be when I was in the seventh grade when we won the district and went to the region, where we lost to Rowan County, which ended up being the state runners-up.”

This year’s Lions weren’t aware that the 84-66 loss to Rowan County on Feb. 8 would be the last time the Lions would play at home, but several late-season games were lost due to inclement weather.

Ruckel scored 23 points that evening, and passed Tyler Clark (1,799 points) and former University of Cincinnati standout and NBA performer Ralph Davis (1,810 points) in the process. “We haven’t talked about the career points all year, to be honest, but I knew he knew where he was on the list. But we didn’t even mention it to him until a week or so ago. We beat the bushes trying to find an opponent (for another home game), but we weren’t able to get it done, so the seniors were recognized before the girls played Morgan County on Tuesday,” Hampton said. “That’s the first time in my career that I’ve had that happen. Brett had a pretty good shot at the record too, and I hate that for him, but the weather didn’t cooperate.”

The coach added that the team’s success takes priority over scoring records, but he’s proud he’s had the opportunity to coach both Clark and Ruckel during his tenure at Lewis County.

“But when we’ve had the most success this year is when we’ve had multiple players score in double figures,” Hampton said. “Brett’s decision-making has also gotten better, especially late in games. He’s very unselfish and we’ve run him more at the point this year than in the past.

Special players make their teammates better, and he’s done that for us. We will get the ball to him and get out of his way, and Tyler was that way too. We harp on taking good shots every day in practice, because the bad ones get us in trouble.”

Ruckel, who carries a 3.3 GPA, plans to attend the University of Pikeville and pursue “some type of business major.”  He was originally going to play golf, but when UPike basketball coach Kelly Wells heard he was considering the school, he talked to the coach and player as well.

“The golf coach (Kevin Auton) and Kelly are good buddies and since college golf is played in the spring, they said I could try to do both,” said Ruckel. “Coach Wells said I come in and play junior varsity, work on getting stronger, and hopefully move up to the varsity my sophomore year.”

Hampton added that coaches like players who can put the ball in the basket and Ruckel can certainly do just that.

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