North Xtra: Hampton grad calls long distance

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As a 6-foot-7 forward, Bill Luther is adept at posting up his opponent, scoring at will in the paint as the leading scorer for the Pitt-Johnstown basketball team.

His favorite shot, however, is much farther away from the basket.

Luther, a graduate of Hampton High School, is one of the leading 3-point shooters in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and has created matchup problems since stepping onto the Pitt-Johnstown campus four years ago.

"That's been my bread and butter shot since high school," he said. "I've always been able to take advantage of being able to shoot from the outside, take advantage of some bigger guys who have to guard me and being able to take them outside."

Luther is No. 1 in the PSAC in 3-point field goals per game (2.85) and No. 2 in 3-point field-goal percentage, making 57 of 135 for a percentage of .422. He currently stands third on the career 3-pointers list at UPJ with 242, behind Danny Branch (2007-2011) with 269 and Jordan Miller (2009-2013) with 294.

He also ranks nationally in NCAA Division II in long-distance shooting. His 57 shots made rank him 24th, he is tied for 42nd in 3-pointers attempted, 42nd in 3-point field-goal percentage and 43rd in 3-pointers per game.

"He can really shoot the ball," said coach Bob Rukavina, a Lower Burrell resident who notched his 400th win at UPJ in December. "Sometimes in practice he'll just throw in 10 in a row."

Which makes designing an offense with such a sharp-shooter in the lineup so intriguing.

"That's the difference this year," Rukavina said. "Most of the '4' or '5' guys are big, strong 240, 250-pound guys. It's a challenge for them to come out and guard him on the perimeter. It's not easy for them."

The Mountain Cats are competing in the PSAC for the first time this season, having moved from the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. They stand 11-9 overall and 4-6 in the West Division, having snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday with a 91-82 overtime victory at Edinboro.

In the victory against Edinboro, Luther had a team-high 25 points and made 7 of 11 3-point attempts.

"I like playing in the PSAC better," said Luther, who was chosen to the Capital One first-team All-Academic District team last week for his 3.42 grade point average as a business major. "The traveling is easier and you're playing schools that you're more familiar with. Most of the guys on the team are from [Pennsylvania] so we have family or friends who go to those schools. I like that aspect of it a lot.

"The thing about the PSAC is every night you have to come out and give your best. There are no teams at the bottom that if you play 10 times you'll likely beat 10 times. There are no weak teams. Every night you have to come out and have your best stuff. Anyone can beat anyone."

As a senior, Luther is doing his best to help the Mountain Cats get through this inaugural season in the PSAC. He surpassed 1,000 points for his career in December and stands 18th on the UPJ scoring list with 1,131 points.

He is averaging a team-high 13.6 points per game, leads in steals with 20 and is averaging 3.8 rebounds.

Although Luther is the leading scorer at Pitt-Johnstown, he might not be the best player in his family anymore.

Luther is the older brother of twins Collin and Ryan, standout seniors at Hampton. Ryan has committed to play basketball next season at Pitt, while Collin's collegiate career is still up in the air.

So who wins in those backyard games?

"A couple years ago that was pretty easy," Luther said with a laugh. "Now, they're very good. I don't give a lot of credit to too many people, but they've gotten a lot better.

"It's tough now. There are a lot of battles."

Rick Davis: or 412-263-3789.

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