Prep Basketball: Healthy Will Hager making big contributions to Mercer boys
Mercer County freshman Will Hager, left, is averaging 14.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and has adjusted well to Mercer¿s fastpaced system. (Mike Marsee / December 24, 2012)
Hager became one of Mercer’s most valuable players before he finished his first semester of high school, earning a spot in the starting lineup and establishing himself as one of the Titans’ top scorers and rebounders.
The freshman said he made the move simply by continuing to work on the things he has worked on between every season.
“It was just like a normal offseason, just keep working,” Hager, who had 20 points in Sunday’s loss to Montgomery County, said.
It helps that Hager is healthy again after a broken right elbow sidelined him for most of last season. He was dressing in varsity and junior-varsity games as an eighth-grader until he was injured in December.
“I¿came back by the end of the year, I¿just had to get loose and work it back out,”¿he said.
Now Hager is part of a well-blended team that might start a couple of freshmen alongside a couple of seniors and usually goes at least 10 players deep in a fast-paced system that he said he loves.
“It’s fun to play like that,” he said.
Especially when you’re playing like Hager, a 6-2 guard who scored in double figures in eight of the Titans’ first 10 games. He scored a career-high 23 points in a win over Burgin last week, and is averaging 14.4 points per game.
He is also making an impact on the boards, where he averaged a team-high 5.8 rebounds entering play last week.
One thing that has helped Hager, who was named Farmers National Bank Fort Harrod Classic all-tourney team, is that he is considerably stronger than he was a year ago. He said he has put on 15 to 20 pounds to raise his weight to about 160, and he said he knows that has helped him.
“Last year I wasn’t very mature physically, and everybody you’re playing against is juniors and seniors, but I feel better about it this year,” he said. “I’m just getting stronger with the ball and making good passes.”
Passing and ball-handling are valuable elements of Hager’s game, perhaps because he studied a top-flight point guard during his formative years. He said his favorite player was former Duke point guard Jon Scheyer, though he knows that wasn’t a conventional choice.
“That’s not somebody that most people watch,” he said. “He’s a good, smart player, and he knew how to play.”
Scheyer is a more logical choice given that Hager and his immediate family members are fans of Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski.
“I love Coach K. I think he’s really classy and runs the program well,” Hager said.
Hager said he thinks things are also running well at Mercer.
“We’ve really improved since last year, and I think we have a big upside,” he said. “We have more experience on the varsity level, and we’ve just been working hard in the offseason.”