By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Want to know what makes a player a success, and a three-time winner of the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Week award?
There was no practice for the Princeton boys basketball team on Christmas day, but Ryan Meadows went to work anyway. He was joined by sophomore Aaron Ferguson.
“We got together with my whole mom’s side of the family for Christmas evening and then last night I came here and shot,” Meadows said. “Me and Ferg, Ferg worked on his post game and I put up a lot of shots last night.”
It is that dedication to his craft that makes Meadows the player he is.
“We didn’t have a team practice, but we came here and worked on our game,” Meadows said. “We are always working and always trying to get better, trying to find things to improve on.”
That work has paid off for Meadows and the Tigers, who have compiled a 3-1 record, with the lone loss being by just two points to South Charleston.
Meadows scored 26 points in a 63-57 road win over Winfield last week, and added 23 in an 83-67 decision against Nitro. He was hoping to have the opportunity to add those totals, but snowy weather postponed the Alpha Natural Resources Holiday Tournament that was slated for last weekend.
The tournament has been tentatively rescheduled for Jan. 3-4.
“We were ready for it because we had just played Nitro the night before and we were in a good rhythm,” Meadows said. “We were hoping to go into the Christmas tournament right off that.”
Instead, the Tigers will play next on Friday against Bluefield at the Brushfork Armory. Princeton was one of just two teams to defeat the Beavers last season.
“We have never played in the armory so that will be a change, but it is a huge rival,” Meadows said. “The community gets into it well, we are excited. I am sure they are excited, it should be a good game.”
Meadows has been playing ‘good’ games for Princeton for three seasons, and is the leader of a senior-dominated team that is expecting big things in 2013.
“Ryan has been pretty steady for us,” Princeton head coach Ernie Gilliard said. “I think he would be the first to tell you that what he is able to accomplish is a result of the body of work that his teammates are doing as a whole.
“He has played extremely well, we are very pleased. His scoring has been pretty consistent and probably one of the most attractive features about his scoring is that we have had balanced scoring.”
That is something Meadows is quick to point out, such as in the win over Nitro. He had 23, but he is far from the only weapon for the Tigers.
“Against Nitro I had 23, Kyle Caron had 22, Hunter (Walters) had 19 and Ferg had 14,” Meadows said. “As long as we keep scoring like that it should be a fun year.”
Princeton started last week with a long trip to Winfield, and returned with a six-point win in the Tigers’ first Mountain State Athletic Conference road game of the season.
“Anytime you can win on the road it is good, we were just thankful to get in there, and play good,” said Meadows, whose Tigers outscored the Generals 18-7 in the third quarter and held on for the win. “We went on a big run out of halftime so we left with the win so that was good, we were proud.”
Meadows had 26 points, including seven 3s, while Walters added 14. Both seniors connected on a trio of 3s apiece. Ferguson added 10.
“We reversed the ball good and they played a lot of zone so we just moved the ball fast and I had open looks and I just had my shot going,” Meadows said. “I had three 3s that game so once that opened up and they came out to pressure me I was able to get around them and get my inside game going more.”
Two nights later the Tigers faced Nitro, and four Princeton players reached double figures, led by Meadows with 23, including a pair of 3s.
“I think I started out with a couple of 3s so I had my outside shot going and my teammates reversed the ball awesome,” Meadows said. “We moved the ball well and between our perimeter shooters we always get outside looks.
“When the other guards are coming out on us that opens up for Ferg and Zen (Clements) down low. As long as we keep working together as a collective unit we should be fine.”
Definitely, with Meadows on the floor. The 5-foot-10 senior has canned 28, 21, 26 and 23 points in four games, leading the MSAC with 24.5 points a contest, but Gilliard likes how it’s been done with a team concept in mind.
“We have had at least three other guys in double figures on each of those nights that he has had phenomenal nights so we are very, very excited about what Ryan is doing for us and what he brings to the table and all the rest of the kids seem to feed off of him,” Gilliard said. “We are honored that he is being recognized at this time for his body of work...
“I think as he gets older and matures he realizes that the game will eventually come to him so he doesn’t really have to force the issue, just be a little patient and take what the defense gives him and he should be pretty consistent.”
Up next is the Beavers, the Class AA state runner-up, who have been impressive in two wins on the young season.
“Last year we just had to slow it down some because they are a team that likes to run,” Meadows said. “Last year I don’t think we had the type of team that could run with them. I think we have more of a team like that this year so it will be a high scoring game and a fun game to watch.”
Meadows has won the player of the week award in each of his three years as a starter, and he expects other Tigers to join in the fun as the season continues.
“I hope so,” he said. “They are playing good.”
He is quick to credit others for what he has been able to accomplish.
“I am excited, I am glad I got picked for it, it is really an honor,” said Meadows, who needs 80 points to reach 1,000 points on his career. “I thank God for it all the time because I know without Him I would be nowhere. I give all the glory to God and then I just want to give a lot of props to my coaches and teammates.
“Coach Gilliard put in so much work over the offseason just with studying and having new sets. He really did a lot of work in the offseason so I thank him for that and then I wouldn’t want to be with any other teammates.
“I love these guys and I would pick them over anybody to be with.”
Especially in a gym, and even on Christmas.
—Contact Brian Woodson