A Look at the Division I Talent in WV

I really believe we’re in something like uncharted waters in West Virginia high school basketball right now. I don’t have the stats to back it up (I looked, but couldn’t really find anything useful), but I certainly can’t remember a time when we’ve been this rich in Division I hoops talent in West Virginia.

Sure, there are some other times that stick out in my mind. I know Hot Rod Hundley and Jerry West, possibly the state’s two best ever, played within a few years of each other. O.J. Mayo and Patrick Patterson came right before Pierria Henry. Jason Williams and Randy Moss (who could have played D-1 hoops) were on the same team and played against Gene Nabors. I could go on.

While we don’t currently have the sure-fire future lottery picks or NBA players, I can’t remember a time when there were so many Division I hoops prospects across the state and in each grade. (If there is an era of which I am not aware, please let me know.) I can pretty easily get to 10 players that have either D-1 offers or strong interest in the sophomore, junior, and senior classes, and that is not counting a few in the Eastern Panhandle that I’ve not yet seen. There is also an 8th grader at Shady Middle, Bryce Radford, that just accepted an opportunity to go and play at Oak Hill Academy. Combine all this with the depth of girls’ talent in the state (1 is a freshman at Notre Dame this year, 3 seniors committed to play at Marshall, 1 junior is committed to play at Michigan State, etc.), and I really do believe this is a special time for hoops in WV.

(Disclaimer: I think just about every time is special for hoops in WV because I love it. It would be hard for anyone to deny this is a special time for talent, though.)

Here is my assessment of some of those prospects that I have personally watched multiple times. There are some others I know have garnered some interest that I hope to see this year, plus a couple of freshmen that have garnered Division I offers or at least strong interest. (List of offers is either from Verbal Commits or ones I know from word of mouth.)


Levi Cook, Forward/Center, Huntington Prep

In general, I’m not including Huntington Prep players, but as I’m sure you all know, Cook played his freshman and sophomore season at Liberty (Raleigh) High School. From the first time I saw Levi, I was impressed with his skill for a big man. He didn’t just get a bunch of points and rebounds because he was tall, but he really knew how to play the game. He has great passing skills, and he continually makes the right play when he catches the ball in the post. He was not a standout last year at Huntington Prep, but playing against that top competition was what he really needed. Cook was committed for well over a year to WVU, but late in the summer he decided to open his recruiting back up. He could still land at WVU, but he will definitely end up at a major program.

Offers: WVU, Marshall, Northern Kentucky

Dikembe Dixson, Guard/Forward, Mingo Central

Dikembe made a splash last year when he and his cousin, Montrell, moved to Mingo Central in the middle of the season. For some, I suppose that fizzled out when Mingo Central lost a series of close games late in the year and failed to make it to a regional final. It shouldn’t have, though, because the Dixsons are really good, and Mingo Central will be really good this year. Dikembe is very skilled on offense. He is an above average shooter from the outside and quick off the dribble. He struggled a little last year against physical defenses that packed the paint and forced him to be almost exclusively an outside shooter. (That was partly due to not having a ton of other weapons. That will not be the case when he has Montrell eligible this season.) With his skill and athleticism, he’s almost impossible to stop 1-on-1. I expect his point average to be somewhere in the high teens or low twenties this season.

Offers: Cleveland State, Marshall, Bradley


Montrell Dixson, Guard/Forward, Mingo Central

I think Montrell is the best prospect out of this whole bunch. He is an absolute freak athlete with long arms, and he uses that to attack both the rim and the glass. When I saw him play at a camp in Parkersburg this summer, he stood out in a group of really, really good high school players. He dunks more than just about any player I’ve seen in live game action, and he does it off the dribble, on putbacks, on oops, and just about any other way you could think. He is less skilled on offense than Dikembe, but he can also find ways to score without needing to have the ball in his hands all that much. He’s also a good defender and impossible to keep of the boards. As he continues to develop his shot and off the dribble, he will have an endless list of big offers.

Offers: Missouri, Cleveland State, UNLV, Bradley, Alabama

Tavian Dunn-Martin, Guard, Huntington

When I first saw Dunn-Martin play, I wasn’t exactly blown away. He’s very short, and largely because of that, I wasn’t sure he’d be able to become a major impact player in AAA. I was very, very wrong. I initially wasn’t a fan of the way he took some off-balance shots, because that often breeds inconsistency. The more I watched him, the more I realized that: A) Those shots went in A LOT, and B) This is what he needs to do to get his shots off. This isn’t unlike short guards in the NBA like Chris Paul or Allen Iverson who can actually make their size an asset by the way they can get shots off. Then the state tournament happened, and Dunn-Martin was the best or second-best player on the AAA state champion (I’d probably say Nicks was the best, but you could definitely talk me into Dunn-Martin) who hit some absolute daggers in key moments. Then this past summer, his recruiting took off as hit lit up the AAU circuit, scoring 44 points against one of the better teams in the country. He’s very quick, and excellent ball-handler and playmaker, and he can be an absolutely lights-out shooter. I expect him to have a huge offensive season, which he’s already hinted could be his last in WV before heading to a prep school.

Offers: Central Florida, UMBC, East Tennessee State

Chase Harler, Guard, Wheeling Central

Shortly after he committed to WVU, I saw Harler compared to the likes of former Mountaineer shooters like Patrick Beilein and Alex Ruoff. I must say that’s not the type of game I see in Harler. He is certainly a streaky shooter (he hit several big outside shots in the state title game), but I don’t see that as the best part of his game. He is very athletic, really tough, and a great competitor, and I love his relentlessness in attacking the rim. He is also a hard-working and very good defender. The WVU comparison I’ve liked best for him is Mike Gansey—someone who hits outside shots but that’s not necessarily his calling card. He is already so good, but he still seems a little bit raw to me, which is scary. I think he can be a really nice player in Morgantown. My favorite tidbit about Harler that I think is very telling of his competitiveness and skill: In OT of the state championship game as a sophomore, he had 30 points and his next highest scoring teammate had 6.

Committed: WVU

Brandon Knapper, Guard, South Charleston

The word I’ve both said and heard the most about Brandon Knapper: smooth. He has a beautiful stroke and is in complete control of the game when he has the ball in his hands. He’s one of those rare players that somehow seems quicker with the ball in his hands that he does without it. He went through about a 10-game stretch last season where he was absolutely unguardable, capped by him dropping 40 points on Woodrow Wilson. If he bulks up a little (and he has plenty of time to do so), I think he can be great in the Big 12.

Committed: WVU


Elijah Cuffee, Guard/Forward, Poca

Cuffee is a fascinating player to me. I can’t tell you how many times last year it seemed like Cuffee was having a mediocre game and then I looked down and he had 22 points and 12 rebounds. He is an excellent rebounder and can score in a lot of ways, and he is also a very good defender. He’s also a very smart player, and not once when I watched him last season did I think I was looking at a freshman. (Same with Frampton) He finds so many ways to impact the game without being flashy. He is in a guard’s body right now for the next level, and he will need to continue to develop his outside shot and ball handling. I’m not sure how high his ceiling is in comparison to others.

Offers: Marshall, Liberty, Longwood

Luke Frampton, Guard, Poca

Luke Frampton is such a smooth and versatile player. At 6’4”, he has great size for a guard. At times, he would bring the ball up the floor while also guarding the other team’s big man. He was probably the defensive stopper, or at least the most versatile defender, as a freshman on an excellent defensive team last year. (Bluefield didn’t extent its lead in the semifinals last year until Frampton, who was guarding Anthony Eades, went to the bench in the third quarter with foul trouble.) He has a really nice stroke and is a good passer. He’s a very complete player that I expect to continue to get better. It’s possible that he has the highest ceiling of any of these players with the exception of Montrell Dixson.

Offers: Marshall, James Madison

Isaiah Francis, Guard, Greater Beckley Christian

Francis probably entered last season with the most hype of any of the players in his class. (Scoring 50 points in a middle school game will have that effect.) He didn’t have an outstanding season from a scoring perspective, but I think that helped him as a player. He played with two other very good guards that carried more of the scoring load, and this allowed Francis to become more of a pure point guard and complete player than just a scorer. He seemed just a touch overwhelmed at first, but by the end of the season, he had become a very good defender and passer. Now that Javonne Staunton-Bailey has graduated, I expect Francis to be much more of a scorer alongside Elisha Kidd. He also has elite athleticism.

Offers: None Known

Jarrod West, Guard, Notre Dame

The son of the former WVU player of the same name, West burst on the scene in the state quarterfinals when he hit big shot after big shot as the Irish took down Tucker County in overtime. West is a good ball handler and a lights out shooter, and he showed an ability to perform on the big stage. Having a father who was a major college player can only help in preparation and recruitment. He hasn’t garnered quite as much interest as some of the others, but I think his recruiting is on the verge of taking off either this season or next summer.

Offers: None Known

There are so many talented players throughout the state right now. My advice to you is to go and watch them. Heck, if you catch a game between Mingo Central and Poca, you will see at least four Division I players. Go out and watch some games and appreciate our talent.


Update: 11/10/14 10:45am

As expected, some readers have started sending me some players that have either offers or interest from Division I schools. (I really do appreciate those and please send any others my way.) One of these is Greater Beckley Christian’s Elisha Kidd, who reportedly has interest from Cleveland State, Liberty, and ETSU. (I’m glad to hear this because I think Kidd is the most underrated player in WV.) Another is Phil Bledsoe of Wheeling Park, who I am told has an offer from Navy.

Though I didn’t know about their interest and offers, I wouldn’t necessarily say I “missed” these kids. I have written about them multiple times and am not surprised to hear of their offers, but I wasn’t necessarily trying to be totally comprehensive with this. I included the players that I either knew had solid, multiple D1 offers or I was sure would be on their way to several offers. We have several other players, such as Kidd and Bledsoe, that will likely end up playing for D-1 programs. There could easily be as many as 6-8 more of these statewide. I think that only supports the argument above that we are loaded with hoops talent right now.

High School Football Pick ‘Em Contest Week 10

Join in our weekly WV High School Football Pick ‘Em contest.  Each week we will select 12 games statewide that are either marquee matchups or rivalry games. We missed out on the first two weeks, but there is still plenty of time for picks. This is just for fun and requires no entry fee and currently has no prize. If it’s a hit, maybe we’ll have a contest with a prize for the playoffs. Weekly winners and season leaders will be posted here weekly, along with the next week’s games to pick. And as always, you’ll get to make fun of how bad the “experts” are at picking games.

I followed up a perfect week 9 with a brutal 4/12 in week 10. Dylan Prezkop was strong again with 10/12, tying Parker Surface for the week lead. Not Mel Stephens limped in with a 6/12, and Jack Withrow failed to make picks for the first time all season

Dylan Prezkop has overtaken me again for the lead, standing at 69/96 for the season, and I am two back at 67/96. Not Mel Stephens is at tied for third at 62/96. and Jack is now out of the running at 56/96.

There wasn’t a great choice of games for week 11 due to roughly 1/3 of the teams having already completed their season. Here is the slate:

South Continues Dominance, Defeats North 104-88

State Player of the Year Jon Elmore (George Washington) logged one final outstanding performance before heading off to play at VMI, leading the South squad to a 104-88 victory in the 32nd Annual North/South All-Star Basketball Classic. Elmore’s 25 points led all scorers and earned him MVP honors for the South. Wade Martin (Point Pleasant) scored 18 points and was named MVP for the North.

DSC_0736The game was tightly contested early, as David Park (Wheeling Central) paced the North with eight quick points.  Through the middle part of the first half, though, the South steadily built a lead and briefly pushed the margin over 20 points before taking a 53-36 lead into the half.

The North made a quick run to open the second half to cut their deficit to just 12.  Elmore and the South squad responded, however, and built back their lead.  The South played with a lead of more than 20 points for most of the second half as they coasted to the victory.

Four members of the South team joined Elmore in double figures.  Arick Nicks (Huntington) and Josh Tunstalle (Greenbrier East) scored 13 apiece, Zach Fisher (Winfield) added 11, and Anthony Billings (South Charleston) 10.  Carrington Morris (Capital), Donte Nabors (Woodrow Wilson), and Garret McCarty (Charleston Catholic) each finished with 8 points.

Jerome Jones (Washington) led the North squad with 23 points, and Park finished with 20 to go with Martin’s 18.  Jacob Neal (Roane County) joined that trio in double figures with 13.

DSC_0917Earlier in the evening, David Park won the free throw contest, Cal Cistaro (Notre Dame) won the three-point contest, and Cody McClung (Nicholas County) won the dunk contest.

The win is the third in a row for the South, and it pushes their all-time record in the game to 26-6.

Tucker County’s Tom Gutshall, who won more than 500 games before retiring at the end of the 2013-14 season, coached the North alongside Washington’s Don Bullett.  The South squad was coached by a pair of recently retired state championship coaches in Charleston Catholic’s Bill McClanahan and Winfield’s Pat McGinnis.


(Note: Several changes were made from the original rosters that were released due to injuries, college commitments, and other reasons.)




Jon Elmore (George Washington)—25

Arick Nicks (Huntington)—13

Josh Tunstalle (Greenbrier East)—13

Zach Fisher (Winfield)—11

Anthony Billings (South Charleston)—10

Carrington Morris (Capital)—8

Donte Nabors (Woodrow Wilson)—8

Garret McCarty (Charleston Catholic)—8

Brynden Street (Logan)—4

Raeshawn Breckenridge(Valley Fayette)—2

Nick George (Charleston Catholic)—2

Taylor Hearn (Winfield)—0

Tyus Wood (Riverside)—DNP (injury)



Jerome Jones (Washington)—23

David Park (Wheeling Central)—20

Wade Martin (Point Pleasant)—18

Jacob Neal (Roane County)—13

Cal Cistaro (Notre Dame)—6

John Riley (Lewis County)—4

Cody McClung (Nicholas County)—2

Jacob Martin (Ravenswood)—2

Ben Collie (Parkersburg Catholic)—0

Ian Nichols (Tucker County)–0


Next Level Exposure Camp 6/15/14

On Sunday, I attended the Next Level Exposure Camp hosted by Nathan Conley at Parkersburg High School.  The camp offered high school players the opportunity to play three games in front of college coaches and scouting services.  About 60 players, the majority of which were from WV, attended and were assigned teams when they arrived. Games were played all day in two gyms at the school, and I mainly stayed in one and saw every team play at least once. A mostly accurate list of the attendees (some did not show) can be found here.

For me, it was an opportunity to learn some things. I saw some really good players for the first time, while seeing others who have made quite a leap since I last saw them.  I also saw some players who stood out above the rest, while others surprisingly blended in to the pack.  Here were some of my highlights of the day:

Wheeling Park appears to have a fabulous rising freshman in Brent Price. Listed at 6’0”, 180 lbs, Price was the only class of 2018 player at the camp, but that didn’t stop him from scoring 16 points in his first game. He has the strength and athleticism to complete for playing time immediately at Park, even though they return all but 1 player from last year’s team.  He’ll make a play every once in a while to remind you that he’s an 8th grader, but he has a great motor and really competes. As his skill continues to develop, there’s not much of a limit to how good he can be.

Dikembe and Montrell Dixson probably stole the show today as much as anyone.  The cousins from Mingo Central showed off their freakish athleticism and were pretty dominant through all their games.  Dikembe scored 86 points in his three games, and though I didn’t have the results of all the games in the other gym, I’m quite confident that is the most of anyone in the camp. He showed pretty good range from the outside, and he was able to get around his man and to the rim at will.  This was my first glimpse of Montrell’s game, and I loved what I saw. Though he has much the same size, athleticism, and body type as Dikembe, he is quite a different player. He’s not quite as good of a shooter or as skilled with the ball, but he is really good playing without the ball in his hands. He finishes very well around the rim and is so tough to keep off the offensive glass. (He must have dunked 15 times in the two games I saw him, off the dribble, on putbacks, on post-ups, and just about every way you can image to dunk a basketball.) Both have the length and leaping ability to affect shots inside. If this translates into the regular season, the Miners are going to be extremely tough to beat this season.  The recruitment for the pair is also starting to ramp up, as they both just received offers from Cleveland State, and Montrell also reportedly has recent offers from Missouri and UNLV.

Chase Harler and Jarrod West look primed to be superstars in Class A. I guess after Harler’s 30 points in the title game and West’s coming out party in the quarterfinals, you could say that they already are, but I think both can still take big steps forward from that.  Harler gets better every time I see him. He’s so athletic and such a good scorer and competitor, but he still looks a little raw. Once his outside shot gets a little more consistent and less streaky, I think he has state POY type potential.  West also continues to get better. He has a great outside shot, and whether it was a big state tournament game or in this situation with a bunch of upperclassmen and good recruits, he always seems to be in control of the game when the ball is in his hands. Both are still young (Harler a rising junior, West a rising sophomore), and it will be very interesting to see how their recruitment develops. Harler already has an offer to play at Marshall.

It seemed like every game I watched had players from Morgantown and Parkersburg scoring 15+ points.  Kenzie Melko probably looked the best for the Mohigans, but CJ King, Zakeem Davis, Nicky Solomon, Steven Solomon, Antonio Morgano and Elvin McNally also had some really good stretches and games. Similarly, Ja’Darien Wade, Jordan Colebank, Michael Ramsey, and others looked really good for the Big Reds.  I look for both of these squads to be very good next year in a loaded Region 4 with Parkersburg South and Wheeling Park.

There are many more things I could write about the performances from the day, but these are the things that stood out the most in my mind. All in all, it was a fun day with some good hoops that makes me ready for next season to start.

Huntington Tops Hurricane For Title

At the beginning of the boys’ state tournament, Huntington and Hurricane were not popular picks to even win their quarterfinal matchups, let alone face each other in the AAA state championship. The fifth-seeded Highlanders and seventh-seeded Redskins did just that, though, making memorable runs and playing in a thrilling title game.

Though Hurricane, whose back-to-back state tournament appearances are the only two in school history, played very well all year, they entered the tournament flying a bit under the radar. That changed very quickly when faced second-seeded South Charleston in the opening session of the tournament. The Black Eagles entered the tournament with just one loss and won their only regular season meeting by 12. This matchup was completely dominated by Hurricane, though, as they were in control the entire second half and won by a final of 63-47.

The Redskins were not the only ones to avenge a regular season loss in the quarterfinals. Huntington lost twice to George Washington in the regular season, by 7 at GW and by 15 in the MSAC third-place game. This game was much different than the other two, as Huntington seemed to be in control from the opening tip. Not even a 40-point performance from GW’s state player of the year Jon Elmore was enough to knock off the Highlanders, as Huntington won 72-64.

As unexpected as some of the results might have been in the quarterfinals, they were not as wild as the AAA semifinals. It began with Huntington taking on top-seeded and undefeated Washington. Not only were the Patriots unbeaten, they had just two wins by a margin less than 10 points, four by less than 20 points, and were held to fewer than 69 points just once. Huntington was not a bit intimidated by Washington’s firepower, and after surviving an initial flurry, the Highlanders were in control for most of the game. They took care of the ball, forced Washington into a rough shooting night, and rebounded well to pull out the 66-57 victory.

The other semifinal was one of the wildest and most dramatic state tournament games in recent memory as Hurricane took on Hedgesville. The Redskins seemed in control of the game down the stretch, but some missed free throws left the door open for Daniel Delaware to drill a deep 3-pointer as time expired to send the game to overtime. Then, in the first overtime period, neither team scored. Hedgesville had the ball in the final possession of the first two overtime periods but were unable to score the winning basket. Hurricane was finally able to seize control of the game in the third overtime period and won by a final of 69-66.

This set up the unlikely championship matchup between the two representatives from Region 4. Hurricane held an 8-point lead at the half after holding Huntington to just two points in the second quarter, and they were in control of the game for most of the second half. Down eight points with six minutes to play, Huntington mounted one final charge. A three-pointer by Tavian Dunn-Martin with 48 seconds to play tied the game, and Hurricane attempted to hold for the final shot. Arick Nicks made an excellent play on the ball with less than 10 seconds remaining, came up with the steal, and the Highlanders called a timeout with about 3 seconds to play. Huntington lobbed the ball in to Nicks on the ensuing inbounds play, and Nicks was fouled. He stepped up to the line and hit one of two free throws, and a late Hurricane heave fell short. Huntington escaped with a 55-54 victory to claim the title.

Dunn-Martin capped an excellent tournament with 20 points. Nicks added 10 points and 8 rebounds. Those two who hit the game tying and game winning shots were both selected to the all-tournament team. Joining them was a trio from Hurricane. JT Rogoszewski concluded his fantastic tourney run with 14 points in the final, Trey Dawson led the Redskins in scoring with 15, and Henry Sorsaia added 12 points and 9 rebounds.

The state championship is the fourth for Huntington since consolidation in 1996. They won three consecutive championships from 2005-07 when they were led by Patrick Patterson and OJ Mayo.

Bluefield Completes Back-To-Back

The Class AA bracket at the boys’ state tournament is always filled with intrigue, and this year, it certainly did not disappoint.  There was an undefeated team (Robert C. Byrd), a one-loss team (Poca) whose only loss was to the undefeated team, and the defending champions (Bluefield) that returned all five starters from their title team among others in a very deep field.  By the tourney’s end, though, the Beavers of Bluefield left no doubt that they were the best in AA again this year.

Most of the quarterfinal games were not close.  Bluefield had little trouble in coasting to a 63-34 victory over Chapmanville Regional, a team making their first state tournament appearance in school history.  Robert C. Byrd struggled a little with East Fairmont early on before rolling to a 65-34 win.  Poca was in a battle for a half with Fairmont Senior, but the Dots controlled the second half en route to a 55-40 victory to advance to the semifinals.

DSC_0190The one exception was the quarterfinal matchup between Westside and Bridgeport.  The game started out at a breakneck speed, as both teams looked to push the ball up the floor.  Westside was on fire to start the game, but the Indians chipped their way back into it, trailing by just 5 at the half.  Bridgeport would stay within striking distance in the second half, but they never quite could get over the hump as the Renegades advanced with a 65-58 win.

This set the stage for two great semifinal matchups.  In the first, Poca gave Bluefield fits.  The Dots were able to effectively slow the game down a bit with patience on offence and tough defense.  Poca was able to pack defenders in the lane and limit the effectiveness of Lykel Collier, who thrives on penetration.  The Dots took a lead well into third quarter, but that’s when the Bluefield offense finally got rolling.  Poca couldn’t overcome some foul trouble in the second half, and the Beavers advanced to the title game with a 70-54 victory.

DSC_0392Westside’s semifinal game started much like their quarterfinal one, as they jumped out quickly to a sizable lead.  Like Bridgeport, Robert C. Byrd steadily climbed back in the game, but they were eventually able to take the lead from the Renegades.  RCB was in control of the game late, as they held an 8-point lead with not much more than a minute to play.  In a final effort to get back in the game, Westside jumped into a press, caused a flurry of turnovers, and was somehow able to tie the game and force overtime.  RCB showed mental toughness in the overtime period, though, as they bounced back from their shaky end to regulation to pull out the 78-73 win.

This set up a dandy of a title game between the defending champions and a team with a chance to become the first undefeated state champion since 1987.  Well, at least everyone thought it was going to be a dandy.  Bluefield had other plans.

The Beavers jumped all over RCB to start the game.  The Bluefield press gave RCB problems, forcing a bunch of turnovers.  Lykel Collier was able to get in the lane at will, and Anthony Eades was knocking down seemingly all his shots from the outside.  The Beavers led 25-4 after one quarter and 39-15 at the half, and though they made some runs, RCB never got the deficit back in single digits in the second half to make it a game. Bluefield coasted to a 64-39 victory to claim their second straight title.

DSC_0483Eades led the scoring with 29, and Collier finished one point shy of a triple double with 9 points, 11 assists, and 11 steals. Both of these first-team all-state selections were also chosen for the all-tournament team.   RCB was led by 14 points from Devonti Birch and 13 points and 11 rebounds by Justin Noble.

The state championship is the fourth in school history for Bluefield, as they also won back-to-back AA titles in 1995 and 1996.  This also concludes an excellent three-year stretch for this group of seniors in which they lost just seven total games with two state championships and one state runner-up.

Wheeling Central Survives, Claims Championship

Tournament basketball often boils down to survival, to somehow finding a way to win.  Wheeling Central Catholic did exactly that as they came out on top of the crazy Class A basketball state tournament.

DSC_0293Their path to the title started with a wild game in the quarterfinals as the Maroon Knights somehow held off a Parkersburg Catholic squad that was trying to become the first 8-seed in any classification to knock off a 1-seed since the WVSSAC adopted seeding in 2005.  The Crusaders looked to be on the verge of pulling it out in both regulation and the overtime period.  Chase Harler found Alonzo Manns underneath for the game-tying basket as time expired in regulation, though, and Central made enough plays down the stretch in OT to escape with the 59-57 win.

The Class A quarterfinals, as a whole, were wild.  Notre Dame, the 2-seed, also needed overtime to survive and eliminate Tucker County.  (After that game, legendary Tucker County head coach Tom Gutshall announced his retirement, completing his career with more than 500 victories and 20 appearances in the state tournament.)  Greater Beckley Christian seemed lifeless when they were down 22 points to Clay-Battelle late in the third quarter.  Elisha Kidd sparked a comeback that brought GBC all the way back to take the lead in about 4:30 of game time, but C-B regrouped and came away with a 61-56 victory.  Charleston Catholic won what was probably the least dramatic quarterfinal game when they beat Valley (F) 54-44, but they still had to overcome a sizable deficit in the third quarter to do it.

The Maroon Knights had an easier time in the semifinal round.  After hanging on to win their quarterfinal, Clay-Battelle was unable to bounce back the next day, and Wheeling Central cruised to a 71-54 victory.  The other semifinal was much more competitive, as Charleston Catholic played a strong fourth quarter to distance themselves from Notre Dame for a 50-38 win.

Charleston Catholic's Patrick Herlihy(50) goes high for a shot against Notre Dame's defense. (Photo by Jack Withrow)

This set up a classic state championship matchup between Wheeling Central and Charleston Catholic, the two most dominant basketball programs in Class A over that last 15 years.  In fact, this was the fifth title game matchup between the two since 2005, and at least one of the two teams has been in the championship game 13 of the last 15 years, with the two combining for 11 of those 15 titles.  Add in that this was the final game before retirement for Charleston Catholic head coach Bill McClanahan, and this double-overtime thriller was possibly the best of all those matchups.

The game was tight the whole way, but Charleston Catholic held a lead for much of the fourth quarter.  The Maroon Knights would not go away, though, and they steadily chipped their way back into it, tying the game to force overtime.  The two teams battled through two overtime periods, but the Irish ultimately couldn’t overcome an incredible 30-point effort from sophomore Chase Harler as Central pulled out a 64-55 victory.  David Park added 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Maroon Knights.

Senior Nick George, who concluded his career by starting his eleventh state tournament game, led Charleston Catholic with 20 points and 12 rebounds.  Fellow senior and first-team all-state selection Garret McCarty added 17 points for the Irish.

This state championship is the eleventh in the storied boys’ basketball history of Wheeling Central.  After winning 3 AA titles, this is their eighth since dropping down to Class A in the mid-1990s and their seventh since 2002.  With Harler and several other talented guys returning, expect to see the Maroon Knights right back here competing for yet another championship next year.

2014 Boys’ North-South Basketball Rosters

Selected by the WV Athletic Directors Association.

Friday, June 20, 2014 at 7:30 – South Charleston Community Center

NORTH - Coaches: Tom Gutshall and Don Bullett

Dominique Newman – Washington
Jacob Martin – Ravenswood
Wade Martin – Pt. Pleasent
CJ Burks – Hedgesville
Jacob Neal – Roane County
Cal Cistaro – Notre Dame
Logan Lawrentz – Parkersburg South
Trevon Wesco – Musselman
Ian Nichols – Tucker
David Park – Central
Kendall Smith – Washington
Johnnie Riley – Lewis County
Jimmy Galusky – Preston
Zack Willhoite – Magnolia

SOUTH - Coaches: Jim Justice & Bill McClanahan

Donte Nabors – Woodrow Wilson
Rondale Watson – Greenbrier East
Garret McCarty – Charleston Catholic
Brynden “Worm” Street – Logan
Jon Elmore – George Washington
Austin Canada – Wyoming East
Corey Bowles – Westside
Anthony Eades – Bluefield
Henry Sorsaia – Hurricane
Anthony Billings – South Charleston
Nick George – Charleston Catholic
Obi Romeo – Greenbrier East
Zen Clements – Princeton

State Tournament Reflections

Class AA semifinal between Robert C Byrd and Westside. (Photo by Jack Withrow)

Class AA semifinal between Robert C Byrd and Westside. (Photo by Jack Withrow)

Most of what I write over the course of the basketball season is a quick reaction.  I go to a game, come home, and write about it that night or the next morning.  I love being able to immediately talk about what I saw, because that is when I remember the most facts about the game.  Sure I would be able to better break down a game if I could review tape to analyze it, but outside of that, I feel writing quickly after a game is where I’m at my best.

I was hindered a bit from posting at the state tournament due to internet issues and some other things that caused me to get well behind on writing.  I decided to instead just take in the games and not worry about writing in the moment.  I purposely took some time to think about and reflect on the tournament, and these are some things that stood out to me.

Sometimes the tournament is all about survival.  I know that sentence is at least bordering on cliché, which I hate.  In this instance, though, it is very appropriate.  I’m referring to Class AAA where we didn’t necessarily have the best regular season teams in the finals, semifinals, or even quarterfinals.  We learned yet again that once the tournament starts, it doesn’t matter how well you played in the regular season.


Hurricane’s Garrett DeFries rises for a jumper.

If you had seen Huntington get thoroughly beaten by GW in the MSAC third place game right after losing at Parkersburg, you wouldn’t have thought they were poised to make a fantastic postseason run. (In fact, Coach Hess admitted after the championship game that he had some long talks with his players after that game to say a lot of things (mainly energy and effort) needed to change if they were going to be contenders. They sure did.)  In much the same way, if you had seen Hurricane just get completely blown out by Woodrow Wilson in the Big Atlantic Classic, you would never have thought they could have gotten within a point of the state championship.

They both did, though.  Huntington got completely on the same page, stayed focused, and played with great intensity and effort.  It turns out when they did that, they were capable of beating every team in the state.  Hurricane played like a smart, veteran team, took care of the ball, and mixed in a variety of great defenses.  They were also greatly aided by the emergence of JT Rogoszewski.  Hurricane survived Winfield in the section and Spring Valley in the region to make their great run in the tournament.  Huntington survived everything that GW, Washington, and Hurricane could throw at them.

George Washington's Jon Elmore drives in the lane against Huntington's Arick Nicks. Photo by Jack Withrow

George Washington’s Jon Elmore drives in the lane against Huntington’s Arick Nicks. Photo by Jack Withrow

On the opposite end, there were several other top teams that could not survive.  Washington couldn’t survive a very poor shooting night against a team that could match up with them physically.  South Charleston couldn’t survive a tough shooting night and a lot of foul trouble.  Hedgesville couldn’t outlast Hurricane in a triple overtime thriller.  Woodrow Wilson couldn’t survive a great effort by Jon Elmore and GW in the regional.  Greenbrier East couldn’t survive a road regional at the South Charleston Community Center.  Other than finally seeing Huntington really hitting on all cylinders, I didn’t really see anything that made me disagree with my regular season opinions of all these teams.  They just couldn’t survive.


Washington’s Jerome Jones attempts a three-pointer from the corner.

In hindsight, Huntington was probably the second best team all season.  Huntington’s only full strength loss this year was at Parkersburg. (The loss seems pretty inexplicable, but the Big Reds were playing very well at the end of the year and, as Coach Hess said, it’s just very hard to win at Parkersburg.) They took GW and South Charleston to the wire on the road without Arick Nicks, and we all saw at the tourney what an impact player Nicks is when he is in the lineup.  Their MSAC title loss came without Nick Tubbs in the lineup.  I knew they were playing very well early in the year, but after seeing them late in the year, I was afraid they had peaked too soon and questioned whether they could turn it on in the postseason.  As it turns out, they most definitely could turn it on in the postseason.  They were dominant in the sectional and regional against good teams, dismissed a very good GW team pretty comfortably in the quarterfinals, and played an incredible game to beat Washington before winning it all.  South Charleston could probably claim a better overall resume, but the Highlanders came within a Brandon Knapper buzzer beater of taking them to OT at South Charleston.  There was some justified doubt about this team at points in the regular season, but they could not have possibly done more to erase that from my mind in the postseason.  Huntington is extremely deserving of its state title.


Wheeling Central celebrates after their overtime quarterfinal win over Parkersburg Catholic.

The Class A tournament was nuts.  In the moment, I thought the Class A tournament was crazy.  After I’ve had some time to think about it, I can confirm that it was indeed nuts.  I’m still not entirely sure how Wheeling Central won their quarterfinal game against Parkersburg Catholic. I thought PC was going to win in both regulation and OT before Central somehow pulled it out. (Unlike many of the top AAA teams, though, Central managed to survive.)  The Notre Dame/Tucker County quarterfinal was a heck of a wild game that was topped off by Tucker Coach Tom Gutshall retiring after the game.  Greater Beckley Christian’s comeback from 22 down over the course of about 4:30 of game time fueled by Elisha Kidd was incredible, but then Clay-Battelle recovered to win the game.  The semis were good but not quite as crazy.  The highly dramatic, double OT championship game also doubled as the final game of Charleston Catholic Coach Bill McClanahan’s excellent career.  It’s rare that a tournament in which the high seeds kept winning (3 over 2 was the only lower seed to win) could be this wild, but the drama was fantastic.

Robert C Byrd's Cameron Carvelli closely guards Bluefield's Lykel Collier. (Photo by Jack Withrow)

Robert C Byrd’s Cameron Carvelli closely guards Bluefield’s Lykel Collier. (Photo by Jack Withrow)

I’m going to focus even more on style of play in the future. This is a reflection mainly on the AA tournament.  I always take style of play into consideration, but I think at times I still don’t focus on it quite enough.  It is both fun and very helpful in analyzing matchups. I knew Westside and Bridgeport were going to try to out-do each other in pushing the pace, and that made for so much fun.  I ultimately thought Westside was going to be a little better at that, and it turns out they were.  Westside and RCB also wanted to play in a fairly similar way, and RCB was just a little better at it even though Westside jumped on them to start the game.  I thought RCB might be able to get it done and knock off Bluefield before the tourney started, but as I watched the quarterfinals and semifinals, my confidence in that started to fade.  RCB liked pressuring on defense and wasn’t afraid to push the pace, and they just weren’t going to be better than Bluefield at doing those same things, especially with Lykel Collier in top form and

Charleston Catholic's Patrick Herlihy(50) goes high for a shot against Notre Dame's defense. (Photo by Jack Withrow)

Charleston Catholic’s Patrick Herlihy(50) goes high for a shot against Notre Dame’s defense. (Photo by Jack Withrow)

Anthony Eades drilling everything.  As it turns out, Poca was the team with the best shot of knocking off Bluefield because they played such a contrasting style.  For two and a half quarters, Bluefield had their hands full as Poca packed the lane on defense and was patient on offense.  They ultimately couldn’t overcome Luke Frampton’s foul trouble and couldn’t keep Collier out of the lane.  A team playing like Poca plays was what it was going to take to beat Bluefield, though. No one was going to beat the Beavers playing their style.

(Related Tangent: It’s easy to forget now that last year RCB gave Bluefield all they wanted in the semis.  That was a heck of a game well into the fourth quarter.  While Bluefield erased any doubt that they were the best team, I also don’t think they were 25 points better than RCB.  If RCB came out more composed and took better care of the ball early, perhaps that is a very different game and maybe RCB even has a chance to win it.  Bluefield is so good at smelling blood in the water, though, and it doesn’t matter if it’s at the beginning of the game or the end.  They knew RCB was on the ropes early, and they went ahead and essentially put it out of reach. Though they never stopped battling, there was no way RCB could climb all the way out of that hole.  Tangent over.)

Notre Dame's Jarrod West(23) goes over top of Tucker County's Mitchell Mason(12) for 2 of his game high 28 points. Photo by Jack Withrow

Notre Dame’s Jarrod West(23) goes over top of Tucker County’s Mitchell Mason(12) for 2 of his game high 28 points. Photo by Jack Withrow

Well, that is all for now.  I’ll have a few more things posted in the coming days to help wrap up this season and take a look ahead to the next.  Check back here regularly for more.

2014 Class AAA Boys’ All-State Basketball Team

Voted by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association

First Team

Jon Elmore, George Washington, sr. (Captain)

C.J. Burks, Hedgesville, sr.

Jimmy Galusky, Preston, sr.

Brandon Knapper, South Charleston, so.

Dominique Newman, Washington, sr.

John Riley, Lewis County, sr.

Rondale Watson, Greenbrier East, sr.

Trevon Wesco, Musselman, sr.


Second Team

Donte Nabors, Woodrow Wilson, sr. (Captain)

Jerome Jones, Washington, sr.

Carrington Morris, Capital, sr.

Arick Nicks, Huntington, sr.

Ryan Reinbeau, Wheeling Park, jr.

Obi Romeo, Greenbrier East, sr.

Henry Sorsaia, Hurricane, sr.

Ja’Darian Wade, Parkersburg, jr.


Third Team

A.D. Cunningham, South Charleston, jr. (Captain)

Scottie Core, Morgantown, sr.

Tavian Dunn-Martin, Huntington, jr.

Aaron Ferguson, Princeton, jr.

Elijah Freeman, Martinsburg, sr.

Jacob Kilgore, Spring Valley, jr.

Cody Monroe, Parkersburg South, jr.

Nick Tubbs, Huntington, sr.


Honorable Mention

Elijah Bell, Wheeling Park; John Bellomy, Winfield; Phil Bledsoe, Wheeling Park; Anthony Billings, South Charleston; Nequan Carrington, Woodrow Wilson; Steven Chhabra, Shady Spring; Travis Clower, Hampshire; Thomas Cole, Brooke; Jordan Colebank, Parkersburg; Trey Dawson, Hurricane; Anthony Dean, George Washington; Daniel Delaware, Hedgesville; Tevin Dixon, University; Ty Dobson, Parkersburg South; Tanner Filben, John Marshall; Zach Fisher, Winfield; Chase Hancock, Woodrow Wilson; Tommy Hargroves, Musselman; Kade Harrison, Ripley; Greg Herbert, Spring Valley; Jamison Hunt, Ripley; Jarrell Jones, Martinsburg; Jordan Kinney, Capital; Logan Lawrentz, Parkersburg South; Jalen Jones, Oak Hill; Anthony Meadows, Huntington; Joe Nichols, Lewis County; Logan Phillips, Elkins; Josh Rein, Logan; J.T. Rogoszewski, Hurricane; Jalen Smith, Jefferson; Kendell Smith, Washington; Trenton Smith, Wheeling Park; Steven Solomon, Morgantown; Josh Steele, Spring Valley; Brynden Street, Logan; Tyus Wood, Riverside