Still holding court

Danny Heater scored 135 points in a high school basketball game — a world record that still stands

Daniel Heater’s mother went to every basketball game he played in growing up. Except for the one where he set a world record.

[cleeng_content id="207328570" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]That record was set in 1960 when Heater, then a student at Burnsville High School in Burnsville, scored 135 points in a high school basketball game.

The record still stands.

“She never forgave herself,” said Heater, 71, of Martinsburg.

The game didn’t start out to be anything special. Heater said he had even gotten off to a slow start that night.

Danny Heater hoped for a scholarship to play basketball at West Virginia University, but an injury after his record-setting game sidelined his dream.

Danny Heater hoped for a scholarship to play basketball at West Virginia University, but an injury after his record-setting game sidelined his dream.

Shy, and not wanting to be a showoff, Heater said he recalls being reluctant to take advantage of his shooting skills — for the first two minutes and 37 seconds of the game, Heater didn’t try for a shot once.

“I didn’t want to upset my teammates or seem like a showboat,” Heater said recently from his home near Martinsburg, where he moved in 2007 with his wife, Carol.

“We threw the ball to Danny and he threw it back,” said Heater’s former coach, Jack Stalnaker.

“Coach told the team to feed me the ball, but I didn’t want to do it,” Heater said. After Heater didn’t score during the game’s first two minutes, Stalnaker “called a timeout and screamed at us” to get Heater to shoot the ball, he said.

Stalnaker, 83, said he wanted to do something on the young player’s behalf.

“Danny was a good kid who got good grades and he had some ability, so I got the stupid idea to try and get him a state record,” he said from his home in Sutton. “We were located near the center of West Virginia and we got very little coverage.”

Before the game was done, Heater attempted 41 free throws and made 53 field goals that night. Helping him also that night, was the opposing team. The entire first-string had fouled out to try to keep Heater from scoring.

Burnsville High had lost its first game of that season then rattled off 21 straight wins while averaging 99 points a game. Heater said there were a few players on the team who averaged double figures.

“The coaches always preached teamwork,” he said. “I played forward but we were all the same height, so we were pretty interchangeable.”

A few days before the record game, Heater learned another high school basketball player scored 110 points in a game and just recently learned a high school basketball player scored 115 points in a game.

Heater said he remembers walking around “in kind of a haze” after his record-setting game, since it hadn’t sunk in yet that his point total was a world record.

“Everybody stormed the court and people were yelling how many points I had,” Heater said. The next day he met some friends at a gas station in Burnsville that was a popular hangout for high school students and saw the local newspaper with a headline about his exploits.

Heater, who also played running back and defensive back for the Burnsville High football team and was an all-state honorable mention, wanted to continue playing basketball at WVU, but things didn’t work out that way. When a scout from the university showed up for the team’s next game, this against the only team that had beaten Burnsville that season, Heater was hobbled by a twisted ankle and scored only 21 points, losing his hope for a scholarship.

“The scout told Coach that I was slow,” he said. “But (Stalnaker) said, ‘What do you expect, he’s playing on only one leg!’ I thought he was going to run him off the court, he was so mad.”

After graduating from Burnsville, Heater enrolled at the University of Richmond (Va.) with the goal of continuing his playing career. However, his time at college only lasted six weeks; Heater had to return home after his father lost his job and the family home burned to the ground. He said he’s never forgotten the look on his father’s face as he stood watching his home burn.

Heater went on to work for the FBI and later took a job in the airline industry, performing such tasks as loading airplanes, working in the operations and customer service departments before serving as the airport coordinator at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Heater continued to pursue his love of basketball while working at the FBI when he joined his best friend to play for the FBI’s basketball team in a city basketball league in Washington. The team participated in a citywide tournament in 1965 and “we were up 20 points at halftime but lost by two,” Heater said.

Heater retired in 2006 and moved to Berkeley County the following year.

He said he has struggled all of his life to come to terms with his achievement. He said he was embarrassed by it for many years, but it has grown on him.

“But I am proud of the record, and I’m more proud now because it hasn’t been broken,” Heater said. His accomplishment was listed for a number of years in the Guinness Book of World Records, beginning in 1982.

Heater reunites with his old teammates every year around Memorial Day and this year served as grand marshal at a parade in Burnsville with Stalnaker. He said he wouldn’t be upset if his record was broken, but added that he hopes that whoever does break it would have the kind of personality that would let him or her enjoy it more than he did.

Despite struggling with his accomplishment, Heater said ultimately he believes his record-setting game “was for a good cause” and wasn’t just about running up the scoreboard or embarrassing the opposing team.

“Coach took a lot of heat for that game,” Heater said. “But he stood by me. I’ve never forgotten that.”

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