The Tigers' guard has earned high praise for his shooting skills.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
SHARON, Pa. -- Jim Hoy is well-connected within the basketball community. When it came to showcasing one of his standout players, the Sharon High coach knew exactly who to call.
"He's the best shooter I've ever seen," said Hoy of his 6-foot-6 senior guard, Julian Betko, who signed with Clemson earlier this week.
"I've worked at the Five-Star Camp for 11 years, and I own a camp in Pittsburgh," the coach said. "I've seen everybody from Billy McCaffrey to Glen Rice at that age, and [Betko] is the best shooter I've ever seen -- bar none."
Hoy has ties with the basketball programs at Clemson, Kansas, Massachusetts, Virginia and Wright State. He invited coaches from those programs to take a look at his young talent.
"People don't know where Sharon is," Hoy said, "so they weren't going to find him."
In his only season at Sharon, Betko was hampered by a stress fracture, which forced him to miss nearly half of his team's games. But when he did play, the native of Slovakia was impressive.
"Being 6-6 and a guard -- he played the point, too -- it was a tough match-up around here," Hoy said. "If teams put a big kid on him, [Betko] would go right by him."
Numbers: Betko averaged 22.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists for the Tigers (15-11), who cracked several of the school's scoring records by adhering to Hoy's philosophy to shoot the ball often.
"It's easy to get kids to want to shoot it," said Hoy, whose team sank at least 15 3-pointers in three games last season. "We had a philosophy that if you're open, you better shoot it or you're going to run over and press the horn yourself, because you're coming out."
Betko was part of that philosophy, using a shooting touch that rubbed off on teammates, Hoy said.
"All of our kids fed off of Julian shooting the ball," he said.
Hoy has heard critics of his program who speak out against a foreign player arriving in Sharon and gaining the spotlight. The coach speaks out against those critics.
"This is a kid who came to America looking for an opportunity to better himself," Hoy said. "Only a young man or woman would have that kind of courage.
"It's been a real eye-opening experience for me," he said. "Any kid who's willing to work that hard can come play for me right now."
Excellent grades: Betko also has a talent in the classroom, Hoy said. The student, who didn't speak English well when he first arrived in the United States, carries a 4.0 grade-point average.
"Here's a kid who studied and studied and studied," Hoy said. "People think he's here to play basketball, but he turned out to be one of the best students in the school."
Betko chose Clemson, Hoy said, simply because it was his first official visit, "and he was like a kid in a candy store."
It also didn't hurt that Clemson assistant Matt Driscoll used to be Hoy's assistant at Northgate High in Pittsburgh.
"Julian gives us the long distance shooter we've been searching for," Clemson coach Larry Shyatt said in press release Thursday. "We were impressed with his abilities as a shooter, but also from a ball-handling and knowledge of the game standpoint."
Two of Clemson's guards have decided to transfer from the school, possibly providing an opening for Betko.
"Maybe he'll get some minutes," Hoy said. "My advice to him is go in and work hard. Don't expect to play, but be prepared to play."