Jim Hobgood

Life has come full circle for former Laurel Highlands standout Jim Hobgood. Back to his roots in Fayette County as he joins former teammate Wil Robinson and the 1968 Laurel Highlands state championship basketball team in the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame.

Chuck Muncie  

Hobgood and Robinson were key factors in the Mustangsí remarkable start after North Union and South Union merged and became Laurel Highlands. The Mustangs won their first 23 games in 1967 before falling to Mt. Lebanon in triple overtime in the WPIAL tournament. The second season of the merger resulted in a State Championship in 1968 as the Mustangs stampeded to a 27-2 record and a state championship victory over Cheltenham.

Hobgood is thrilled with his induction into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s significant and it really brings back a lot of memories,” Hobgood reflected. “You talk about Coach Harold “Horse” Taylor and how much he meant to me and what he did for me not only as a player but as a man, and he certainly gave me an opportunity to play right away on a team that was very, very good - a lot of the thrill is just the flood of memories that come back. Not only of Horse, but also of all the teammates - Jon Kruper, Wil Robinson, Ray Yauger and Jeff Collier, the group that I played with the first year.

“After that, Buzzy Harrison, Danny Ross and Tom Bogden and the guys were on the state championship team.

It was a special time and I thinkwhen you’re going through it you realize it’s kind of special, but when you look back on it in hindsight you realize it was really a unique time to be playing high school basketball in that community.”

Hobgood started as a sophomore and recalls the start of an outstanding career.

“I started to realize my potential in junior high school,” Hobgood explained. “Of course in junior high one of my teammates was Jim O’Brien who moved to northern Virginia and played very well there and then I played against him when he was at the University of Maryland.

“Certainly you got a sense of it in junior high, but looking back on it, the merger between the two schools was the best thing that ever happened to me. It gave me an opportunity to play on the big stage and again going back to Coach Taylor - he showed an amazing degree of confidence in my ability to make a contribution. I started as a high school basketball player as a sophomore on a team that ended up 22-0 in the regular season and I was 14 years old when I played my first high school game. I turned 15 in December of that year. But still to have an opportunity to play against the competition we played against with the level of interest at that age is really something that one has to be very grateful for.”

The Mustangs enjoyed amazing success in their first two seasons posting a sparkling 50-3 record.

“North Union and South Union were big rivals,” Hobgood recalled. “All of the sudden to be put together after being your number one rival is really almost a bizarre situation. It was the athletic program and the early success of the basketball program – because the football program unfortunately didn’t enjoy the same success and you sort of created a new natural rival in Uniontown because all of the sudden Laurel Highlands was playing Uniontown for the first time because Uniontown didn’t really play North Union or South Union prior to that.”
The highlight of the 1967 season was the first meeting between Uniontown and Laurel Highlands on the basketball court and the beginning of a great rivalry.

“The first time we played Uniontown at their gym and the anticipation of the game it always brings back memories of the movie “Hoosiers” relative to the intensity of interest in a high school basketball game,” Hobgood stated. “Uniontown had won 88 games in a row at home and we go down there and win that game. Again in hindsight it was a unique and special moment that you really appreciate when you look back on it.”

Laurel Highlands stunned Uniontown that night with an 83-73 victory. That snapped Uniontown’s 88 game home court winning streak and was the first section loss for the Red Raiders in 59 games. Robinson and Hobgood ripped the Raider defense for a combined 52 points.
The triple overtime loss to Mt. Lebanon ended the Mustangs run that year and to this day is the subject of many debates.

“The only game we lost was in the playoffs to Mt. Lebanon in three overtimes,” Hobgood lamented. “At the end of that game I was the only starter that had not fouled out of the game. I do remember at the end of the second overtime we were down by two and of course this was pre-three point baskets, but Horse designed a play to get me a look at the basket. It ended up being a look at the basket from pretty close to mid court and fortune shined on me and the shot went in to force a third overtime, and I remember there was a standing ovation from everybody in the Civic Arena and as a 15 year old kid that makes you feel pretty special.”

The Mustangs led by Robinson and Hobgood won the state title in 1968 defeating Cheltenham 63-56.

“Wil and I came back the next year and thanks to Wil’s dedication and his competitive nature we were able the next year not to lose in the playoffs and win the state title,” Hobgood said. “That, needless to say, is a memory that I’ll never forget.”

The state title run was almost derailed but Hobgood came up with a brilliant 37-point effort against Johnstown in the Western Regional semifinals.

“That was another fun memory,” Hobgood stated. “Speaking of good games we tend to remember the good ones and not the bad ones, but that was one of those nights that as a perimeter shooter there are nights when the basket looks as big as the ocean and other nights where you swear that the ball is bigger than the diameter of the rim. That was a night where I had a pretty good feel and I was close to setting the Pennsylvania State record at the time for points in a playoff game. That was a fun night.”

Hobgood was Fayette County Scoring champ in 1969 scoring 475 points for an average of 21.6 PPG Including a 42 point night against Schenley.His three year career scoring total at LH was 1310 points in 75 games an average of 17.5 ppg. He shot 53.2 pct for his high school career and averaged 17 rebounds a game.

He garnered All-County and All-State honors. He also was named to the High School All-American team and played in the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic after his senior season and then attended the University of Virginia.

With the Cavaliers, Hobgood teamed up with Barry Parkhill and helped rejuvenate Virginia basketball.

“They had really struggled for a long time and as a matter of fact my sophomore year, which was in those days the first year you could play as a varsity player, we had a winning season and that’s the first winning season they had in like 16-years. We went on to have an even better year the next year and had a winning season in my senior season and Barry (Parkhill) and I were probably the first guys that played on three consecutive winning teams at Virginia in maybe 25 or 30 years. The program sort of took off at that time and after we left coach, Terry Holland made the move from Davidson and then the Ralph Sampson era began and they went to a new level.”

In 78 career games at Virginia he scored 738 points for an average of 9.5 ppg and grabbed 340 rebounds for an average of 4.4 rpg. He was Virginia Co-Captain in 1972-73 and was an Academic All American in 1973.

Hobgoodís family moved away from Uniontown in 1993 and his father and mother are deceased.

Hobgood resides in Richmond and is an investment counselor. He served as color commentator for Virginia basketball for 12 years. He still does a radio talk show on University of Virginia athletics on a Richmond radio station. Hobgood his wife Linda have two children - Dan and Jenny.


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