By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
There’s no stat line for hustle on a basketball score sheet, but if there were, Dakota Smalls of Bluefield High School would have a big collection of positive marks beside his name.
“Coach always tells us to hustle,” said the energetic junior guard for the Beavers after last weekend’s sectional championship victory over PikeView. “I don’t score a lot of points. Coach Webster always says my job is defense, and hustle.”
Head coach Buster Large said, “He may be 5-(foot)-7 but he’s got the heart of a 6-10 player. I have coached him not only in basketball but also in football, and I can tell you he’s a great young man. He’s contributing in many different ways.”
Though Smalls seldom starts for Bluefield, he was hard to miss on Friday night.
In the final minute of the first quarter, the basketball smacked off a Bluefield player and bounced toward the sideline, right in front of the Beavers’ bench.
Only one player, Smalls, was close enough to the ball to try to get his hand on it, and the crowd knew immediately that it would take extraordinary effort to save the possession.
He dove onto his side and, with only a couple of inches to spare, swatted the ball back toward the middle of the court before sliding into his teammates’ feet.
Again, in the second half, a loose ball last touched by Bluefield was sailing high out of bounds in the right corner of the court when Smalls jumped among a couple of PikeView players and slammed it back into action.
Smalls said, “You want to do everything you can to stay in the game, to help the team out.”
His next opportunity will be in the Region 3 co-final against Wyoming East, currently scheduled for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Brushfork Armory.
Smalls played basketball until he was in eighth grade, then gave it a rest.
He said he didn’t try out for the Beavers hoops squad, yet he eventually found a way to keep involved with the basketball program. “I started out as manager,” he said.
When he decided to play again, he said the transition was “real tough,” but he appreciated the way the other players helped him out, along with the newcomers.
“They give us all the support,” he said. “Especially the starters.”
The support obviously goes both ways.
— Contact Tom Bone at firstname.lastname@example.org