How many times in college basketball have we seen it? A team plays solid defense for much of a possession, only to leave the fan favorite (normally a walk-on) wide open in the corner. Teammate finds said walk-on, who hoists the shot, which of course is money. It's a defensive rule seldom mentioned, but all too often broken: don't leave the fan favorite open.
Ever. Under any circumstances. Because nine times out of ten, he's getting the ball. And nine out of ten times he gets the ball, the shot is going up. And seemingly ten times out of those ten shots, it's nothin' but net.
Sometimes, the shooter is a feel-good story to the max. It could be the team manager who has washed uniforms for four seasons, and on Senior Day not only gets to dress, but makes a memory by draining an open three. Sometimes, it's an Owen Schmitt-like tale of a small school transfer who makes it big, even if only for one shot.
In Morgantown, it's just Ted being Ted. It happened against UCLA last season, twice. And it happened once again on Sunday afternoon, much to the delight of 10,079 Mountaineer fans in attendance. Darris Nichols drove the lane, drew an extra defender, leaving Teddy Ballgame wide open in the corner. Release, rotation, splash.
"I don't know if he makes the scouting reports, but he needs to be on there," said junior guard Alex Ruoff. "And all it needs to say, in all caps, is ‘SHOOTER'. If you leave him, it's going in. He can do a lot more than that, but I'm saying that would be one guy who you've got to step on his toes because you don't want to give him any space."
"They better not," Talkington said of being left open. "That's all I got though, so I better (make shots) while I'm in there."
Playing time has been somewhat sporadic for Talkington throughout his junior season. Early on, the former Magnolia Blue Eagle was seeing spot duty as the fourth guard in West Virginia's rotation. Once Big East play began, Talkington's limited minutes dissolved into nothing. Until Sunday, that is, when Huggins opted to reward the walk-on for a solid week of practice. To the surprise of few, the quick-witted guard made the most of his time on the floor.
"I've had good practices this week," he said. "When they were playing zone, I thought I could go in there and hit some shots. It worked out. I thought I played alright, so he kept me in there longer than usual."
Of course the extended minutes didn't come without additional strain for a guy who isn't exactly used to running up and down the floor for long stretches of time on gameday. At times, Talkington could be seen looking at the bench. Not that he wanted out of the game, mind you. Perhaps he was just looking to see if an oxygen tank would be available upon his eventual return to his familiar seat.
"I thought I would be in there for about two minutes," he said with a laugh. "I think I was out there for about seven. Everytime the horn buzzed I was thinking ‘please, be for me'. Once I got that second wind though, I was fine."
As is the case with any shooter, confidence was the least of Talkington's worries when he got the ball. Look no further than his calm, collected jog back down the court after his latest crowd-pleasing three gave the Mountaineers an 18-point first half lead. Ask any of his teammates, and they'll tell you that confidence is not a weakness for the pre-med major.
"I'm always pretty confident," he said. "I'm not going to be thinking that it's going in no matter what, but my jump shot is something that has been with me for a long time, and if I can get it off with a little time, I'm pretty confident that it's going to go in."
Once again, it did. And once again, Ted Talkington proved that you can't leave him – or any other crowd favorite – wide open in the corner. Because if it's going up, it's going in.