The ability to dribble and shoot and excel on the basketball court was obvious.
Wade Timmerson took all that in stride even though he heard what was said after people described his skills. “But only if he were taller,” they would say.
By the end of his basketball careers at Fort Cherry High School and Robert Morris University, Timmerson was a bigger-than-life player and competitor.
Size did not matter. Timmerson stood tall as the leader of the Rangers and the floor general for the Colonials.
“When I started out as a sophomore at Fort Cherry, I was 5-feet, 2-inches,” Timmerson said. “I was really small. Nobody ever said I couldn’t play. But you’d always hear, ‘If he grows, he’ll be really good.’
“I took that as a challenge. Every time I stepped onto the court, I felt it was a challenge. On the court or in life, you have to prove yourself all the time and play as hard and work as hard as you possibly can.”
Timmerson worked on basketball all the time since he was 7-years old, under the guidance of his late father, Wade “Tim,” who passed away a little more than eight years ago.
“My dad planned for us to work out or play every day when he was done with work,” Timmerson said. “Every day, it would be some place different around the city (of Pittsburgh). It built our relationship and my basketball skills. We would play anywhere from McDonald to Pittsburgh.”
Timmerson, now 48, averaged around 12 points per game as a sophomore at Fort Cherry in the 1985-86 season.
After that season, Timmerson started to grow, seven inches.
As he sprouted, his game expanded.
While he had natural ability, his constant work is what allowed him to excel.
“I lifted weights and shot the basketball every day,” Timmerson recalled. “If you really want to play a sport and be really good at it, it just becomes a lifestyle. There’s a lot more involved. The practicing and the focus on the game is just what I did with my life.”
As a junior at Fort Cherry, Timmerson averaged 24 points per game. Eyes were opening and heads were turning when he played.
“Now, I started to get some recognition and it was nice,” he said. “It only made me want to work harder. I knew it was always going to be a challenge to play at the next level coming from a Class AA program.
“I had to deliver on the court and my dad knew I had to go out on my own time in the Pittsburgh area and prove myself in camps, summer leagues and tournaments.”
A big step was representing the western side of the state in the Keystone Games after his junior year at Fort Cherry.
“It was big for me,” Timmerson said. “They were essentially the Pennsylvania State Olympics. I knew I was at least one of the 10 best on this side of the state.”
Timmerson visited camps and met coaches.
“I felt like I was one of the top players at those camps,” he said.
On the advice of his father, Timmerson looked to increase his scoring average during his senior season.
“He felt that would be a way to grab and keep their attention,” Timmerson said, “He told me I’d have to lead the WPIAL in scoring. I set that as a primary goal although I felt like it was unrealistic at the time.
“The more points I put up, it seemed like the more coaches came to see me. We didn’t make a deep run in the playoffs but we did win a lot of games.”
Timmerson led the WPIAL in scoring in the 1987-88 season, averaging 30.4 points per game, still a rare feat today.
He scored 56 points against Sewickley Academy on Jan. 8, 1988 in a 90-59 win for the Rangers.
Timmerson completed his three-year career at Fort Cherry with more than 1,400 points. He was the Observer-Reporter’s Player of the Year in 1988 and its Player of the Decade of the 1980s.
His legacy is clear. He is one of the greatest to ever play for Fort Cherry – a prolific scorer and standout guard. He is recognized as one of the best players in Washington County history.
At Robert Morris, he helped the Colonials to three NCAA Tournaments in four seasons. He orchestrated and dealt all over the floor. As one of Robert Morris’ most decorated players, he was inducted into the university’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
Oh yeah, the guy could play.
“Robert Morris started contacting me after Marist invited me to see its game against Robert Morris,” Timmerson said. “I went to some games and when I looked at their rotation, I thought it was some place I could play relatively quickly.
“It’s a huge jump from Fort Cherry and Washington County to playing my first game at WVU, which was ranked. I went from playing in Avella and other smaller communities to playing in the Coliseum in Morgantown. I didn’t start but I played a lot.”
In his career at Robert Morris, Timmerson was a four-year letterwinner. He established a school-record for assist-to-turnover ratio (2.02) while ranking third in assists per game (4.1) and fourth in assists overall with 484.
In the 1991-92 season, he became the first Colonial to record more than 200 assists in a season, when he had 204. That stood as a single-season record at Robert Morris for more than 15 years until it was broken in 2008.
Timmerson scored 868 points at Robert Morris.
Timmerson and the Colonials played against some of the best team’s in the country in their three years in the NCAA Tournament.
In 1989, Robert Morris lost to Arizona, 94-60. The following year, the Colonials played valiantly before losing to Kansas, 79-71. In Timmerson’s senior season, RMU lost to UCLA, 73-53.
After college, Timmerson played one season in the World Basketball League for the Erie Wave.
“I feel like I was one of the best guards ever to play at Robert Morris,” Timmerson said. “I was not the most talented. But I did have one of the best careers. Three out of four NCAA tournaments was amazing. We would have probably gone to four straight but we were on probation.
“My primary goal there was to always win, I was never the best player on the team. But I thought I could lead the team. I was a chemistry guy. I felt I could be a player who helped make my teammates better. It was satisfying. Some people considered me a scorer because I scored so much in high school. But that’s not necessarily how I played all the time. I liked to distribute the ball and work an offense.”
Timmerson cherishes beating WVU twice during his days at Robert Morris.
“I don’t remember losing at home very often,” he chuckled. “It was really good.”
What he also remembered was a band of loyal followers from the McDonald area and Fort Cherry who supported him throughout his college days.
“They called it ‘Wade’s Brigade,’” Timmerson recalled. “Almost every game there would be 100 people or so from the Fort Cherry community. I received unbelievable support from the folks at home. Some would even travel to road games. They’d load up my parents’ motor home and roll into New York City in the middle of the night.”
His mother, Jackie, resides in North Fayette. Timmerson resides in the North Allegheny School district where his three children, Chase, a 6th grader; Jasmine, an 8th grader; and Grant, a junior; attend school. All are basketball players and Jasmine is a special player for North Allegheny’s middle school team, her father noted. Grant is a member of the Tigers’ junior varsity squad.
Timmerson is a sales consultant for his own company, CJ Grant Enterprises. He has been an entrepreneur or 25 years. He coached at Fort Cherry for a few years and has coached AAU and his children.
Timmerson said the influence and guidance of his father, along with the mentoring from then-Robert Morris coach Jarrett Durham, and assistant Jim Elias, were crucial to his success in basketball and business.
“They all taught me how to play hard and if you didn’t play hard, you sat down and you wouldn’t reach your potential,” Timmerson said. “I was accountable to all of them. Jarrett and Jim showed all of us – the whole team – that no matter who we were playing, we had to bring out everything every time. That’s kind of the way I live my life.”