WHEELING - Jimmy Paige is a gem of a basketball player.
And, like any gem, Paige had to be molded, shaped and sculpted before he became great.
He isn't completely polished yet, but his coach - Mark Hall - said most of the work is done.
''We like to call him the 'Junkyard Dog' because he does all the dirty work inside,'' Hall said. ''When he's at his best we're like five fingers making a fist. It's hard to stop us.
''(Jimmy) won't really wow you, but he gets like 25 points and 14 rebounds and people wonder where it came from.''
Paige, the son of Wheeling's James Paige, is a West Virginia native who has helped put the Dolphins of Cape Henry Collegiate School on the national basketball map.
Heading into Friday night's home game against Bishop Sullivan Catholic, the Virginia Beach-based school stands at 14-2. One of those losses - televised nationally on ESPN - came to West Virginia's own Huntington Prep, which competed in Wheeling's Cancer Research Classic earlier this month.
''This season is going great,'' Jimmy Paige said. ''We've had two tough losses, but other than that things have been going great.''
It's been a whirlwind couple of years for Jimmy Paige. After spending his freshman season at Middleburg Academy in the northern part of Virginia, he moved to Cape Henry last year.
The move paid off quickly for both he and the Dolphins. The team went 25-5 and claimed the Virginia Division 2 state championship with a 10-point triumph against Virginia Episcopal.
''It all happened so fast,'' Paige said of the transition. ''But when I moved here I liked it a lot. It's been really good for me education-wise and basketball-wise.''
This season, Cape Henry jumped to Division 1.
''I always tell them we're always hungry and we can't settle for anything,'' said Hall, also in his second year with the Dolphins. ''Two weeks after we won the state title last year I met with them and told them the journey starts again.''
There have been a few bumps in the road during the first half of the season. Paige did miss a few games after falling and suffering a laceration that required eight stitches.
''It was tough having to watch,'' Jimmy Paige said.
But he's come back strong, averaging about 17 points per game since.
And so has the team. Following the first defeat, the Dolphins went on a season-best 11-game winning streak.
Along the way the team, as well as Paige, have started to garner national attention from media and college recruiters. Still, Hall said it hasn't changed how his team, or his star player, have approached things.
''It's been a great accomplishment for the kids and great exposure for the school,'' he said. ''We hope that will continue.''
Currently, Jimmy Paige has been getting plenty of looks from NCAA Division I ''mid-majors'' for the most part, along with some bigger schools in the region like George Washington of the Atlantic 10 and James Madison of the Colonial Athletic Association.
''Right now it's about finding him a situation where he can be comfortable academically and athletically,'' Hall said. ''That's the most important thing for me.''
Right now, though, Hall is cherishing the season and half he has left with Jimmy Paige.
''I wish I had a few more players like Jimmy,'' Hall said. ''I'd think we'd be top-5 in the country.''