By Greg Gulas
During a highly productive high school and college basketball career, Bruce Timko scored nearly 3,000 points and created just as many offensive opportunities with assists, steals and stellar defensive play.
He called those eight years the very best of his athletic career.
On Saturday, he was honored at the Covelli Centre during Lariccia’s “See Them Rise” high school basketball showcase with the “Mahoning Valley High School Basketball Excellence Award,” joining last year’s recipient Rex Leach as the first two showcase honorees.
“Just to be mentioned in the same sentence with Rex Leach is truly an honor,” Timko said. “I was really lucky to be able to play with my brother, Andy, my freshman year at McDonald and then my sophomore year at JFK. He was such a great player. I saw what he went through, watched what opponents tried to stop and that is what prepared me for the success that I enjoyed my junior and senior years.”
Timko played one season under Bill O’Dell with the Blue Devils and his final three seasons under Dennis Jasinski with the Eagles, scoring 1,808 career points (incidentally, without a three-point line) while starting every varsity game (102) since his freshman campaign.
His teams won four consecutive district titles and he finished as JFK’s all-time leading scorer (1,609), averaging a career best 28 points and nine assists his senior season.
The AP and UPI “Player of the Year” in Class AA and WYTV “Student Athlete of the Year” as a senior, he was also MVP of both the Ohio North-South All-Star game and Dapper Dan Roundball Classic.
He also earned Trumbull County and Mahoning Valley Conference “Player of The Year” laurels his final two years.
“Back in the early ’80s, JFK was a very special place. Everyone involved in the school really supported the basketball team and our games were the biggest thing in town,” he added. “So many people came to watch us play that our athletic director, Mr. [John] Gillen would have to turn people away because the gym was completely full.”
While all four scholastic years remain very special to him, his sophomore season had extra special meaning.
“My sophomore year we were 20-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state. Warren Western Reserve was also 20-0 and Warren Harding went 16-4 with all four losses coming from us and Western Reserve,” Timko noted. “Warren turned from a football town to a basketball town that year. I scored a lot of points and won a lot of individual awards during my high school career, but the thing I am most proud of was being district champs four years in a row.”
With a myriad of college offers from which to choose, he chose his hometown university, YSU, before they had selected a replacement (Mike Rice) for head coach Dom Rosselli, who was retiring after their first Division I season in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“I committed to YSU even before we had a coach in place and credit the late Chuck Perazich, sports editor of The Vindicator for helping make that decision. He convinced me that the Mahoning Valley would really support me and was he ever right,” Timko said. “I didn’t play much at the outset of my freshman year but got an opportunity right before Christmas, played well and from that point on started and averaged the most minutes the next three years, which were some really exciting basketball years.”
He scored 1,021 points in his college career and graduated as the only player in program history to score 1,000 points, dish out 500 assists and record 100 steals for a career.
Timko was also the only Penguins’ player to lead the team in assists four consecutive seasons, earning induction into its athletics hall of fame in 2001.
“I loved playing at YSU and the fans were really great to me. Playing those ‘Midnight Madness’ games were a lot of fun while beating teams like LaSalle and South Alabama at home also ranks right up there,” he added. “The ovation that I received from the fans when I scored my 1,000th point was something I will always remember. Being inducted into the YSU hall of fame was also a very special day.”
Mark Metzka called Timko one of the area’s all-time greatest hoopsters.
“I didn’t get to see Bruce play much in high school, but saw him quite a bit during his YSU days and he was as good a floor general as any to come out of our area,” he noted. “Offensively his numbers are outstanding, but most impressive to me is that while in high school he made it to regional play four consecutive years and that is one great achievement.”