CINCINNATI - For most high school athletes the ultimate goal, the pinnacle of achievement, is a state championship. For a select few however, the dream doesn't die with graduation.
South Webster alumni Nick Aldridge and Brigham Waginger came together in 2005 to lead the Jeeps to a 27-2 record while dominating the competition all the way to a state title, but it didn't end there.
Now members of the Western Carolina Catamounts, the former Jeeps made their return to Ohio as collegians in a 95-61 loss against the Xavier University Musketeers Saturday afternoon.
Aldridge came into the contest leading the Catamounts in scoring at 15.6 points per game and Waginger has been a solid contributor on the bench with 3.8 points per game.
It was only the sixth game of the season but it was the South Webster duo's first game in Ohio since the state title game. Aldridge said the physical aspect of the college game has been a tough transition and credits his teammates for his success so far.
“In the offense we run, my teammates look for me inside and get me the basketball,” said Aldridge. “I just have been fortunate enough to put the ball in the basket so far.”
The 2000 census counted 764 people living in South Webster and a large percentage of that number made the 130 mile drive to Cincinnati and was seated in section 215 cheering on their adoptive home team from Cullowhee, N.C.
“It's definitely great they follow their people,” said Waginger. “For former player Brad Robinson they did the same thing for him and they're continuing to do it for us.”
Though the Catamounts are 4-2 and both players are contributors, their roles are not quite the same as in high school.
Waginger averaged 18.3 points per game as the No. 2 option for the Jeeps' offense last year and is one of only three players to play in the state final for two different schools, but now plays a supporting role, a transition that hasn't been a problem.
“I know my role and I play it to the best of my abilities,” said Waginger. “Whatever coach asks of me I'm going to come in and fill that spot.”
Traveling from a small town to a university of 9,000 has been made easier because the Jeeps alum have each other for support. Last year in high school Aldridge was first option and Waginger was the second on a championship team. Though the Southern Conference is up for grabs this will be a learning year for the young Catamounts. The team has only one senior and four freshmen. Fortunately for Aldridge and Waginger they can learn together.
“It's good to have somebody you can relate to,” said Waginger. “They know where you're from. We ride together from home and it's a great thing. We can relate a lot of things together.”
While the Jeeps had no shortage of obstacles to a state title, the duo faces the task of playing against the people they watched on television. Four years ago when Aldridge and Waginger were freshmen in high school, Xavier's Justin Doleman was competing on a 26-5 team that won the Atlantic 10.
“It's definitely different than high school but they're no different than us,” said Waginger. “I was telling Nick, I bet there are kids younger than us looking back who will play against us in the future thinking the same thing but you can't go in thinking any differently. You still have to go in and compete.”
Aldridge added that himself, Waginger and the rest of the Catamounts are a program on the rise.
“We're building a program here,” said Aldridge. “We brought in four freshmen and we're definitely on the move up.”
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 353-3101 ext. 243.