MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The first rule in sports journalism is not to become a fan of the team or the players you cover.
It’s either that or no more than three Bloody Marys before a noon kickoff, I can never remember which.
In any sense, they’re serious about the not being a fan thing.
In press boxes around the country, one of the first announcements before games is cheering will not be tolerated, and that even includes after hitting a $550 two-teamer bet on the home team and the over.
Today, I am breaking the rule with this proclamation: I am actively rooting for West Virginia men’s point guard Brandon Knapper.
I not only want him to develop into a guard the Mountaineers can depend on, but I have my fingers crossed that he can play at least a few years professionally, too.
It would certainly be a great chapter to a story that has already been filled with a number of twists and turns.
“I’ll be thankful and I’ll be blessed to have the chance to play for the state of West Virginia,” Knapper said when asked about playing in his first college game this season. “I’ve been waiting for so long just to be able to put a jersey on. It’s going to be unbelievable.”
That wait began coming out of South Charleston High in 2016, where he was a three-time all-state first-teamer. But he was not going to find a lot of playing time right away at West Virginia, which had both Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles Jr. still in their junior seasons, as well as Tarik Phillip on the roster.
So Knapper went to Hargrave Military Academy for prep school, which delayed his entry into college for a year.
Truly no one wants to go to prep school anymore than anyone really wants to go to the dentist. Knapper turned it into a positive, though, something he’s become very adept at accomplishing and another reason why he’s worth rooting for.
Instead of moping around for a year while waiting to get to college, Knapper helped turn Hargrave into a national power, one that averaged 114 points per game during his one season and won 43 games.
“When I was at prep school, I give credit to [Hargrave coach] A.W. Hamilton for making me a better point guard,” Knapper said. “Coming in, I just wanted to score, but he made me find other things to do in becoming a true point guard.”
Knapper enrolled at WVU in the summer of 2017, but he then tore the meniscus in his right knee and had season-ending surgery before it even began.
He was redshirted, but, again, no moping.
Instead he rehabbed and worked to get back. By the middle of last season, he was practicing with the Mountaineers on a limited basis.
By the end of last season, he was running without a brace and working out with Carter.
“Jevon was such a great player,” Knapper said. “He showed me what can happen if you stay in the gym and keep working hard.”
His ability to play college basketball was again in question.
“It was very trying,” Knapper said. “I talked with my family and they just kept telling me to stay positive. They told me to keep God first and keep praying.”
And while all of that is enough reason to support a kid, that’s probably only half of it.
He’s also smart and good-natured and funny and humble — a lot of those traits he credits to his grandfather, who Knapper called a “military guy, who always told me to do this and do that and have a killer instinct on the court.”
When asked to give a summary on who the WVU guards are this year, he basically broke down scouting reports on everyone, but had to be reminded he forgot himself.
Over the course of the next four years, here’s hoping Knapper won’t be forgotten about again.