Val­ley West’s Ruff among league’s top per­form­ers DRIV­ING FORCE

The Citizens' Voice - - Varsity Voice - By MATT BufANO StAff WRiteR Con­tact the writer: mb­u­fano@cit­i­zensvoice.com; 570-821-2060; @CVB­u­fano on twit­ter

PLY­MOUTH — Some great ath­letes have come through Val­ley West’s boys bas­ket­ball pro­gram in re­cent years.

District cham­pion run­ning backs and quar­ter­backs, as well as a state run­ner-up ace right-han­der, have dot­ted the start­ing lineup in Rich Jones’ three years as head coach.

Se­nior Draig Ruff is another mul­ti­sport ath­lete, but one whose skills are most ev­i­dent on the court.

“I’ve had good ath­letes,” Jones said. “He’s prob­a­bly the purest bas­ket­ball player I’ve had.”

Rolled into his 6-foot-3 frame, Ruff ’s bas­ket­ball IQ, tal­ent and work ethic have made him the most over­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­ual this sea­son in the Wy­oming Val­ley Con­fer­ence.

“It’s amaz­ing be­cause, some­times, you get to watch him take over the game. It’s just amaz­ing how he does it,” said se­nior guard Booker Kennedy. “He knows when he has to kick it up a notch and he knows when to cool down and pass the ball. He knows when they’re key­ing in on him and he knows when to have other peo­ple step up. He’s not a self­ish per­son and that’s what I like about him.”

Ruff first played base­ball, then was in­tro­duced to bas­ket­ball in sec­ond grade at a “Lit­tle Mil­lion­aires” pro­gram in his former home­town of Wil­liamsport.

By ninth grade, Ruff, who lives in Kingston, was al­ready good enough to crack Val­ley West’s start­ing five.

Ruff had a break­out sea­son last year as a ju­nior, in which he av­er­aged 15.1 points per game and made The Cit­i­zens’ Voice’s all-star team.

Be­tween bas­ket­ball sea­sons, Ruff, 17, played ten­nis in the spring for Val­ley West and base­ball in the sum­mer for Swoy­ersville’s Amer­i­can Le­gion team.

“You learn, you gain dif­fer­ent abil­i­ties from dif­fer­ent sports,” Ruff said.

Ruff re­turned to the bas­ket­ball court as a se­nior with more re­spon­si­bil­i­ties than ever, of­ten lin­ing up as the only re­turn­ing starter with one fel­low se­nior, Devon Rhodes, and ju­nior Danny Gib­bons, sopho­more Sammy Solomon and fresh­man Ma­son Mendy­gral.

“Ab­so­lutely he’s be­come a leader — in the locker room, out on the court,” Jones said of Ruff. “He’s been more vo­cal this year be­cause he knows it’s his se­nior year. Kids re­spond to him well, and he likes tak­ing that role.”

While he pre­vi­ously re­lied on a dom­i­nant post game, Ruff has added a perime­ter el­e­ment to his reper­toire, and his 19 3-point­ers are al­ready more than triple what he made as a ju­nior. Ruff is also shoot­ing 73 per­cent from the free throw line, up from 64 per­cent a year ago.

The Spar­tans have had some bumps in the road, though, sport­ing a 3-7 record through Fri­day.

That’s not un­heard of when a player like Ruff — who plays ev­ery po­si­tion and is av­er­ag­ing a league-best 28.8 ppg through Fri­day — is at­tract­ing all sorts of at­ten­tion from op­pos­ing de­fenses.

“I like when teams fo­cus in on me,” Ruff said. “It makes me a bet­ter player. But it also makes our other kids bet­ter play­ers be­cause when they’re fo­cus­ing on me, that means that (my team­mates) get to have the jump shot and they get to boost their con­fi­dence. That’s go­ing to help a lot when, at the end of the year, we need them to bang that back-down jumper. Be­cause then teams won’t be able to just key in on me. We have a bunch of dead-on shoot­ers and once teams start re­al­iz­ing that, they’re not go­ing to be able to just key in on me and we’re go­ing to be a really deadly team.”

On Fri­day, Ruff scored a sea­son­high 45 points in a 71-60 win against Pittston Area. In the win, he sur­passed 1,000 ca­reer points.

Ruff has scored 288 of the Spar­tans’ 593 to­tal points, ac­count­ing for a whop­ping 48.1 per­cent of his team’s scor­ing.

And he’s rarely had an off-night, as Ruff has scored in dou­ble-fig­ures ev­ery game.

As far as what’s next, Ruff said he in­tends on play­ing bas­ket­ball in col­lege.

“Right now there’s teams look­ing at me, of course, but my op­tions are still vary­ing,” he said.

Be­fore it comes to that, Ruff has a goal of play­ing for a district cham­pi­onship at Mo­he­gan Sun Arena — even as he ac­knowl­edges Val­ley West’s slow start and its cur­rent No. 6 seed in the District 2 Class 5A play­off field.

“By the end of the year, we should be fine,” Ruff said. “Right now, they (my team­mates) are ad­just­ing. We’re get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter by ev­ery game.”

WAR­ReN RUDA / StAff Pho­tog­RA­PheR

Val­ley West’s Draig Ruff is the top scorer in the Wy­oming Val­ley Con­fer­ence through Fri­day.

WAR­ReN RUDA / StAff Pho­tog­RA­PheR

Val­ley West’s Draig Ruff runs at a re­cent prac­tice.

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