Entering this season, Shippensburg's boys basketball team had a target on its back.
On the Greyhounds' squad, Wade Mills may have had the biggest target of all. A returning Public Opinion First-Team player, Mills averaged nearly a double-double last season with 14.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
But the 6-foot-6 senior has picked up right where he left off. Mills averaged 16.75 points per game through the first four games of the season, and he is the P.O. Male Athlete of the Week.
"He was a little bit of a marked man because of what he did last year," Ship coach Ray Staver said. "But he has the capability to score in a variety of ways. His length is his biggest asset. He's a key part of what we're trying to do; there's no doubt about that."
Mills led the Hounds to a pair of victories last week. In a dominating win over Waynesboro, he finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. He followed that up with a 14-point, 14-rebound performance in a come-from-behind win over Greencastle-Antrim.
"I think as a team, we've handled the pressure very well," Mills said. "We're now 4-1 (after Monday's win) and four of those games were nail-biters. I think we're playing very well with the target on our back, and for me, I just have to focus on playing my game."
Mills is an obvious inside presence. He is a force underneath the basket, and having teammate Teagan Staver, who stands at 6-foot-4, doesn't hurt either.
"It gives me a great advantage, especially around here," Mills said. "Being 6-foot-6 around here, I'm the biggest kid on the court most of the time. I love working with Teagan inside. I think he's one of the most unselfish players I've ever played with. There's time when he'll have a good look, and he'll pitch it over to me even when he probably should just put the ball up."
The pair compliment each other well, certainly.
Ray Staver said, "(Wade) is a good teammate. He was voted team captain this year along with Teagan. Wade is a really nice kid, and I've enjoyed working with him."
While both Staver and Mills said one of his best assets was his ability on the offensive board, fans will tell you it's his dunking. And he doesn't mind throwing down a bucket, either.
"During a game, it's always in the back of my mind that I want to get a dunk and get the crowd going," Mills said. "Whenever I'm getting ready to do it, I get really excited, and once it happens, I love hearing the crowd."
WADE MILLS, SHIPPENSBURG
Sport: Boys basketball
Parents: Tawnie and Troy Mills
Other interests: Wade is also a football player for the Greyhounds. He enjoys hunting and is involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Maroon Platoon.
Surprising fact: Mills lives and works on his family farm.
Favorite team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Athlete most admired: Antonio Brown
Statistics: Mills led the Hounds to pair of victories this week ... He scored a game-high 18 points and had 7 rebounds in a dominating win over Waynesboro, then added a double-double with 14 points and 14 boards in a narrow defeat of Greencastle-Antrim.