By MICKEY FURFARI
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Jim Ritchie of nearby Pt. Marion, Pa., was an outstanding basketball player during part of West Virginia’s first “Golden Era.”
The 6-foot-4 forward, a native of the Philadelphia, Pa., area, helped the Mountaineers to a three-year varsity record of 78-14 in 1959, 60 and 61.
It was in Ritchie’s sophomore season, the first of two years as a teammate of superstar Jerry West, that WVU finished as the runner-up to California in the NCAA tournament.
That team posted a 29-5 record. “We would have won the championship if I’d made two free throws that I missed,” Ritchie said in an interview last week.
He also was a contributor to 26-5 and 23-4 marks during his career. He was a captain of the team as a senior.
Ritchie shared in two Southern Conference Championships, a Kentucky Invitational Tournament title and a Sugar Bowl Tournament title.
“I came to West Virginia because of Coach Fred Schaus,” Ritchie said. “I played two years under him, then one year under George King after Schaus left.”
Ritchie, who is 75 years old, had played on a freshman team with West. But he then was redshirted the following season before rejoining him on the varsity team.
“We all knew Jerry was a great player,” he said. “He was our go-to guy. But it wasn’t ‘star status’ because we all played together and he made it fun.
“But Jerry was the man. No doubt about it.”
How was it playing ball for Schaus? “I always liked the man,” he replied, “He never disappointed me. He was always a gentleman.
“Fred was very knowledgeable, very tough. He was a great coach. But he could yell like (current head coach) Bob Huggins.
Ritchie is a graduate of Upper Darby High School in the Philadelphia area. He averaged about 22 points a game there. He’s proud of the fact that as a senior he was named the school’s MVP in basketball, soccer, and baseball.
At WVU, Ritchie played in 92 games, scored 792 points (8.6 average), and logged 560 rebounds (6.1 average per game). His scoring gait in his senior season was 11.6 points per game.
Ritchie worked in an administrative role for Monongalia General Hospital in Morgantown for 33 years. He retired in 2011.
He also served as mayor of Pt. Marion for one term and a half.
Ritchie said a WVU-New York University game sticks out in his mind. That’s because he hit double digits in both points and rebounds, and that he limited NYU’s Satch Sanders to just eight points.
He also recalled that, “All of our games with Pitt were very physical.” The teams he played on scored a lot more points than college teams do today.
Jim and wife Beverly have two children, Jim Jr. and Pam.
Basketball remains the family favorite sport.