The game was played in Kansas City and involved Georgetown College (from Kentucky) and Mid-America Christian (from Oklahoma). It wouldn’t seem the NAIA men’s basketball championship game would have ramifications here in the Mountain State, but it did.
Mid-America Christian hit a basket with 0.1 seconds left late Tuesday night and defeated Georgetown to win the title. It marked the end of the collegiate career for Noah Cottrill, the oft-traveled basketball star who got his start right here in the Kanawha Valley.
His journey is one I’ve followed closely, and I documented it in a story in our sports pages last January (link here). Cottrill is an intriguing story, and when I wrote about his ups and downs I was impressed with his confidence and candor about the good and the bad.
If you’re unaware — or didn’t click the above link — he battled drugs and it derailed his playing career and life until he regained control.
“It’s the best thing in the world when you’re blinded to it,” he said. “You feel like it’s your best friend, sometimes your only friend. You do it alone, behind closed doors. You don’t want anyone knowing. It clouded my brain and my vision. I would do things on a day-to-day basis, make promises or talk to people I don’t remember talking to. It clouded my judgment.”
He consumed oxycodone, Lortab, hydrocodone and Percocet. It was a gradual reliance on prescription drugs. First he used the pain pills to treat injuries sustained in a car crash, but it soon escalated. He’d take pills to deal with general soreness, to sleep, in anticipation of a challenging workout.
“You start making excuses to find ways to take it,” Cottrill said. “When you start making those excuses, it starts taking over your life.
“It helped me play through the pain. It helped me cope. It numbed me.”
Who knows where Cottrill’s career could’ve gone if he had stayed clean and stayed with Bob Huggins at WVU. Maybe he would’ve developed into an All-Big East or All-Big 12 performer. Maybe not.
But one cannot argue with his path now. Cottrill is an all-conference performer. He had a tremendous senior season, averaging 18.7 points per game (team best), while shooting 48 percent on 3-pointers and 87 percent from the line. Surely someone will pay him to play basketball, if that’s what he wants to do in the coming years.
But methinks his best work still remains outside of the lines of a basketball court, where he can influence far more people. That’s his journey now, and no matter the losses in a championship game or any other, each day is a new beginning.