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Coach Ben Howlett was wrapping up his recruiting class for this current season. He and the rest of the West Liberty University men’s basketball staff were starting to take a look at the class of 2020.

An email from a McDonald High School boys basketball coach came through Howlett’s inbox. The Hilltoppers coach was impressed with the stats. He knew the name Zach Rasile, a 6-foot senior guard.

Needless to say, West Liberty and Rasile were in contact. After an open gym with the Hilltoppers during the summer and a trip back to the West Virginia campus in the fall, an offer was made to Rasile. The McDonald High School senior signed in November.

Howlett is looking forward to having the state of Ohio’s fourth-leading all-time scorer with 2,869 points and counting. Rasile also is Ohio’s all-time 3-point shot leader.

McDonald (19-3) on Friday hosts the winner of Tuesday’s Jackson-Milton vs. Heartland Christian first-round game in the Division IV sectional tournament.

“He fits in so well with us on and off the court,” Howlett said. “He’s an extraordinary basketball player, but even better for us he’ll fit in really well off the court.”

Nationally ranked West Liberty (22-4, 17-3 Mountain East Conference) is usually one of the best teams in NCAA Division II.

The Hilltoppers average more than 100 points per game, which leads people to think West Liberty is just a run-and-gun team.

Howlett said it takes a special player to be a Hilltopper. He said it’s grueling, the team face-guards and traps. They’re chasing opponents for 40 minutes.

“We get the M.O. we’re a run and gun team and we’re not,” Howlett said. “You don’t win games by running and gunning. We’re just a different type of style. Zach obviously fits that mold because he’s able to do multiple things on the floor. He’s tough. He’s a coach’s son. We tend to recruit kids who are coach’s sons in the past. I think for Zach, this is the perfect system for him.

“Obviously there’s going to be some changes he’s going to have to make when he gets here. He’s such a smart kid that’ll he’ll figure it out really quick.”

Howlett wants Rasile, who averages 38.3 points per game this season for McDonald, to soak in everything about the West Liberty system.

“The good thing he’s got going for him is he’s smart,” Howlett said. “I think he’ll pick things up pretty quickly. Obviously, putting on some weight. You can say that about every freshman. He’ll put on weight when he’s here.

“He’s got to be competitive. He’s got to come out here and say, ‘I’m not going to use the crutch of being a freshman and take the back seat.’ Zach has to come in here with the mentality of ‘I’m going to beat guys out. I don’t care if I’m a freshman or senior, whatever. I want to beat guys out.’ I think with him, with how competitive he is, he’ll come in here with that mentality. I’m really looking forward to coaching him.”

Howlett wants his players and recruits to think they have an opportunity to play professional basketball when they are done at West Liberty.

“If you really don’t love basketball, basketball isn’t priority No. 2 behind school, then I don’t want you here,” Howlett said. “Our guys are going to be basketball crazy. They’ve got to be basketball junkies. I want guys in the gym when they’re not in class, when we have off days.”

That is what Rasile has to look forward to next season.


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