WEST LIBERTY - On a recent road trip, West Liberty men's basketball coach Jim Crutchfield looked at guard C.J. Hester and could only marvel.
''We're going to Subway and he's got that big backpack,'' the coach recalled. ''We're eating, getting dressed and going to the shootaround and he couldn't have had more than a half hour in between.
''I said 'do you have your books in that bag?' He said 'yeah, I do.'
WLU’s C.J. Hester Hester was recently selected as a Capital One NCAA Division II Academic All-District Two first-team selection for the second consecutive season.
''I've never had anybody that works so hard and wants to get grades so badly. He will do whatever it takes.''
As hard as Hester works at his game, he exceeds that effort in the classroom. The junior from West Mifflin, Pa., carries a 3.64 grade-point average in Biology as well as 13.6 points and 8.8 rebounds norms on the basketball court, proving that a balance between academics and athletics is attainable.
''Actually, I think my grades would actually be worse if I didn't play basketball,'' said Hester, who holds single-season school rebounding records for both freshmen (285) and sophomores (332). ''This way I make sure I get in there and study for tests a week (away) so I am not cramming at the end, so it keeps me very regimented.
''It's very important to me and I take school very serious.''
For his efforts, Hester was recently selected as a Capital One NCAA Division II Academic All-District Two first-team selection for the second consecutive season. The team encompasses all Division II student-athletes from the three Atlantic Region conferences - the Mountain East Conference, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA).
As a first-team selection, Hester's name will be placed on the ballot for the 2013-14 Capital One Academic All-America Basketball Team. He will look to earn his second straight honor as voting for the 2013-14 Academic All-America Team began this week.
''He's incredible. Every coach in the world wants guys like him,'' Crutchfield said. ''He's so conscientious of every detail in class and he plays basketball the exact same way.
''The way he goes after rebounds is the way he goes after grades. It's unbelievable.''
Basketball, as it does for everyone, will end one day. With that in mind, Hester has his eye on a career in dentistry not far down the road. He will be following in his father's footsteps.
''I was interested in the medical field but the more and more I shadowed, the more I liked dentistry,'' Hester said. ''It has a lot of things that are like me. It's very, very hard to get in - it's competitive and I am a very competitive person.
''I like dealing with people and obviously the science stuff I am into. I've always kind of been a little nerd.''
For now, it is all about maintaining that correct balance.
''It's very frustrating at times, but on the other hand it also keeps me very scheduled and motivated,'' Hester said. ''I don't have any time to waste.
''It definitely keeps me focused.''