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February 14, 2014

FURFARI COLUMN: World-famous Heater about to turn age 72

MORGANTOWN — Did you ever wonder what is the all-time highest number of points scored in a boys’ high school basketball game?

Thanks to friend Dr. Larry Schwab, I found out who set the world record, and retired attorney John Skinner of Charles Town helped by discovering that person’s telephone number for me.

He is none other than Danny Heater, who now resides in Martinsburg. As confirmed by the West Virginia Archives & History, Heater scored an unbelievable 135 points to set the world record that still stands.

That came on Jan. 26, 1960, when the 17-year old senior at Burnsville High School in Braxton County set the mark against Widen High of Clay County in a 32-minute game.

Heater, who stood only 5-foot-11, made 53 of 70 shots from the field and converted 29 of 41 free throws. While he’s best remembered for his scoring explosion, he also pulled down 32 rebounds and unselfishly dished out seven assists to delighted teammates.

Heater, who turns 72 years of age on Feb. 27, and his wife Carol now make their home in the Martinsburg area. They have been married 49 years.

A native of Burnsville, Danny said in a phone interview on Wednesday that he was encouraged by his coach, Jack Stalnaker, to score as many points as possible in that game to attract attention to the team.

“We talked about this,” he explained. “We had lost our first game that season, then won about 15 straight (in state Class ‘B’ competition).

“Our team was averaging about 90 points per game. I was averaging about 27 points per game myself. We got to the regional round of the state tournament, and unfortunately, got beat.”

Asked how he could rebound so well, he said, “I could jump pretty well, and I had fairly good speed. We shot the ball well and we pressed the ball a lot.

“But we just weren’t getting much publicity! So the coach asked the players to pass me the ball more and see how much we could score that day to get publicity for the school.”

Heater readily admitted Wednesday, “I really didn’t want to do it. I talked to my teammates and they said, ‘Go for it!’”

He said he really wanted to go on and try to play basketball at West Virginia University.

“But a scout came down to see me the day after I had sprained an ankle, and we were playing the only team that beat us that year,” Heater said.

“So I played on a sprained ankle, and (the scout) said he thought I was too small and probably too slow.”

By the way, the final score of Danny Heater’s hottest game of his basketball career was a remarkable 173-43.

The previous highest point total of a high school player was 74 in West Virginia competition.

Heater had tallied 50 of his 135 points by halftime. He capped that with 85 points during the final 16 minutes of fast-scoring, one-sided action.

His record remains certified by the National Federation of State High School Associations. It also is the highest single-game total from both a professional as well as high school in the United States.

Danny’s 135 points are more than Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record of 100. But it is three fewer points than Jack Taylor’s 138 of NCAA Division III Grinnell College.

“I thought my record might have been broken by now,” he commented. “But I’m not sure it will be now.”

Danny and Carol have three children and five grandchildren. The grown children are Tonya, 47; Kevin, 44; and Traci, 41.

Kevin Heater played basketball at Seneca Valley High School in Germantown, Md. Like his father, “He was a really good shooter.”

Heater, who has lived in Martinsburg about seven years, worked for 39 years with Delta Airlines in customer service. He was based at Washington’s National Airport in D.C. He retired in 2005.

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