February marked the end of a chapter for Waynesburg University men’s basketball guard, Sam Heeter. As his time on the court comes to a close, his memories will last forever.
Heeter’s journey began like many others. His time at Redbank Valley High School prepared him for college. Yet, it took more than one visit to Greene County to convince him Waynesburg would be the right fit.
“My mom was all for it,” Heeter said. “She really liked it and wanted to come back and visit it again. So, I ended up going back a second time and knew she was right.”
During both visits, Heeter met with the coach of the basketball team at the time, Mark Christner. With the education program also impressing Heeter, a difficult decision became an easy one.
“When I was in high school, I said I was not going to pick a school based off basketball,” Heeter said. “When it came down to it though it was a major part in my decision. It would be even between basketball and education, but sometimes I feel basketball might have had a little more pull than I would like to admit.”
After arriving on campus, Heeter began to grow on and off the court. He built strong bonds with his teammates, who turned into family.
On the court, he worked to fully develop his game. He transitioned from a three-point specialist as a freshman to become a better inside player. Most importantly, he became a vocal leader for underclassmen as a veteran. For head coach Tim Fusina, who completed his first season with the Jackets, he wished it wasn’t Heeter’s last.
“Sam brought a positive attitude and a great work ethic,” Fusina said. “He did a great job for us this year. Wish we had him for another year or two. He is an outstanding person.”
Heeter remembers his sophomore and junior years as his favorites.
Heeter’s junior year gave him the chance to reunite with his high school coach, Greg Bean, who was an assistant with the Jackets during the 2018-19 season, but his favorite moment with the program happened the season before.
The Yellow Jackets were in Defiance, Ohio for a weekend tournament. In the championship game’s final moment, Waynesburg’s Jon Knab hit a buzzer beater to win the game and the tournament.
“We all kind of stormed Jon afterward,” Heeter said. “It was so much fun. A special feeling. It was nice to go win a tournament with the guys five or six hours away and to bring some hardware home.”
Overall, Heeter hopes he’s remembered for being happy and always in a good mood. He never complained and would always be willing to put in the work. Teaching would be Heeter’s final job with the team.
“I wanted to help out with the freshmen who were keys to the future,” Heeter said. “Any chance I got, I took them under my wing and helped them in any way possible. That’s another spot I grew as a person and a player. I never pictured myself in that mentor role, but it just happened naturally.”
Teaching is also natural for Heeter. During his senior season, he began student teaching at Waynesburg Central High School. Whenever he graduates, he plans to teach high school social studies.
Heeter also plans to continue to be involved with the game of basketball.
“I’d love to coach [basketball] one day and hopefully move towards getting a secondary degree and teaching at the college level as well,” Heeter said. “I definitely don’t see this being the end of the road for myself and basketball.”
Earlier in his final season, Heeter found himself at a roadblock. On New Years Eve, while celebrating the dawn of a new decade, he felt a pain in his side. One that he never felt before. After brushing it off for a few days, practicing became too difficult.
With the second half of the season looming ahead, Heeter needed to have his appendix removed. Being told he had to wait three to six weeks to play again crushed him, but his determination to get back on the court paid off.
Heeter didn’t play in three games, but missed just one entirely. He watched his team play Geneva from his couch. That ended up being a special afternoon for Waynesburg, as the Jackets came from behind to win their first game of the season.
“If I could go back and go to that game, I would absolutely love to do it,” Heeter said. “I saw a fight in our guys that I had not seen in our guys earlier in the year.”
Heeter did everything in his power to be in attendance for every other game. He even drove himself to Saint Vincent after student teaching because he was couldn’t ride the team bus.
These actions stood out to Fusina.
“He became a better leader,” Fusina said. “He understood the game better in his time out and he really improved when he came back.”
Heeter’s time as a Yellow Jacket meant everything to him.
“It was my opportunity to play at the next level which was a dream that I had for a very long time since I picked up a basketball,” Heeter said. “Being a Yellow Jacket gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream. I could not have been happier about it. I wouldn’t want to spend my time anywhere else. I’m honored to have been a Yellow Jacket and I am proud to say it.”