No question Christian Hack providing leadership for Leechburg boys

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Tuesday, January 2, 2018 | 12:31 AM


Christian Hack joined Leechburg's quiz team for the first time this school year, traveling with his classmates to monthly competitions.

When it comes to answering questions, however, he defers to his teammates.

“I'm not the best at it, but I enjoy doing it,” he said. “It's been a while since I answered a question. … I'm kind of there for moral support. I let everyone else answer the questions.”

While Hack takes a secondary role with the quiz team, he shoulders much more responsibility in his other competitive endeavor with Leechburg's boys basketball team.

Hack, a senior guard, leads the Blue Devils (7-2, 2-1 Section 1-2A) in scoring at nearly 20 points per game, recently reached 1,000 points for his career and earned tournament MVP honors as the team won the Leechburg tip-off tournament and Apollo Trust Company holiday tournament.

“Chris is a team player first,” Leechburg coach Corey Smith said. “I know he has all these individual awards coming up and stuff, but he plays team ball first. He works hard for his accomplishments, so everything he's getting right now, he deserves on and off the court.”

Hack starred for the past two seasons as part of a strong guard trio with J.B. Burtick and Corey Nulph. Those two graduated after last season, leaving Hack as the key returning piece for the playoff-hopeful Blue Devils.

“I like the role, but I know other kids on the team are going to step up whenever other teams are going to shut me down,” Hack said. “It's not just me.”

Hack excels with his ability to drive to the basket, but he also developed a consistent, confident shooting stroke as he grew, turning himself into an all-around offensive threat.

That combination of skills is causing opposing teams to tailor their defenses toward stopping him. Several times this season, opponents threw matchup zones — be they box-and-one or triangle-and-two formats — at Hack, attempting to slow him down.

But just as in his quiz bowl pursuits, Hack allowed his teammates to take on a greater role as defenses paid extra attention to him. John Miskinis scored 20 points in the championship game of the Leechburg tournament as Apollo-Ridge held Hack to single digits. Against Saltsburg in the Apollo Trust Company title game, Dylan Cook had a big fourth quarter and Jake Blumer had 10 points and 18 rebounds as Saltsburg used a matchup zone on Hack.

“Christian can do other things than just score the ball,” Smith said. “He has a lot of energy for us on the floor, so it's not just scoring. He is a leader without the ball. He's putting guys in the right position, telling them where to go. He is our quarterback on the floor.”

The one area Smith would like to see improvement is on defense, something Hack acknowledged. But Smith said his captain is improving in that area, too. Hack had five steals in the victory over Saltsburg.

The relationship between Smith and Hack goes back several years. Hack is the nephew of Armstrong coach Greg Hutcherson, a close childhood friend of Smith's. Smith and Hutcherson founded Team Top Level, an AAU basketball program that Hack played for.

“I grew up playing basketball, and I still love it to this day,” Hack said. “I love working with coach Corey. He's a great guy. I kind of knew what to expect from him maybe a little bit because of him coaching Top Level, but him coming to the high school game, I love him as a coach, and I couldn't ask for anything more.”

A leader on the court, Hack also helps to keep Leechburg loose off the floor. Smith described him as the team prankster, and Hack admitted to a fondness for spraying water bottles in the locker room — potentially targeting his coach once or twice, too.

“I always know throwing the water bottle in the locker room, no one's really expecting it,” Hack said. “So I'll be standing there with a Gatorade bottle full of water in my hand, and as soon as coach Corey walks in, I'll start squirting him. That's always fun to do after a big win in the locker room.”

Hack hopes there are more big wins to come. Leechburg bowed out in the first round of the playoffs each of the past two seasons, but the Blue Devils have designs on winning the section title heading into a matchup Friday with first-place Jeannette.

And should Leechburg accomplish its goals, it seems likely that this time Hack will provide the answer.

“Christian is very important to our team,” Smith said. “He knows his role on the team, which is to get the ball in the bucket. We run the offense through Christian. And every team knows that Christian's our guy … but I (also) had other guys step up. That's the thing about us at Leechburg: You might take our best player out of the game, but you can bet your money that John Miskinis, Jake Blumer or Dylan Cook is going to step up.”

Doug Gulasy is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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