Charleston Catholic coach Bill McClanahan, standing behind Nick George at a recent practice, will rely heavily on George and other seniors as the Fighting Irish vie for another Class A state championship.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- No boys basketball program in any class has had the kind of success that Charleston Catholic has accomplished in this millennium.The Irish have made eight appearances in the Class A state championship game since 2000, winning four of those, including last season's 40-34 victory over St. Marys.Nick George, a 6-foot-3 junior post player, led the team in scoring last year and may have to increase his production even more to get Catholic back to its usual lofty perch. David Godwin, a 5-9 senior shooting guard, is the team's only other returning starter.Seniors Zach Casto (6-2 guard/forward), Keifer Hovorka (6-0 guard/forward), Andy Hoyer (6-4 forward), as well as Michael Tupta and Nelson McKown, will all be looked upon to add leadership.
"We're very senior-oriented and not necessarily from a playing perspective or points perspective but from a leadership perspective," Irish coach Bill McClanahan said. "We've been blessed with strong senior leadership the entire time I've been here. We have a phrase in our program, 'It's their turn.' Now for these seniors, it is their turn and they know what that means." The journey back to the Civic Center figures to be a little tougher for Catholic this time around after defending Class AA champion Tug Valley and AA tournament team Magnolia dropped down in classification this season.Still, 12th-year coach McClanahan is confident and said his players, having been there before, know what it takes to lengthen the Irish's reign atop the Class A field."We remind them that they have that experience and they know what it takes and they know what to expect," McClanahan said. "They know the effort and the work it takes to get there."McClanahan added that 5-9 junior guard Garrett McCarty will also be in the mix for significant playing time.Catholic begins the 2012-2013 campaign at Poca on Dec. 18.A look at two other state tournament teams from last season:George Washington: The Patriots and coach Rick Greene would like to think that they are putting together an Irish-esque run of their own.
After all, GW has made two straight Class AAA title-game appearances, winning the championship in 2011.Luke Eddy, a 6-0 senior guard and Elon recruit, is back to help the cause after averaging a team-best 16 points last season, but will be one of few sources of experience for Greene.
Tino diTrapano, Thomas Francke and Darian Williams, all starters from last year, graduated. GW's other starter, Dustin Crouser, will miss the season due to a football injury, as will role player Cole Salmons. Add in Ryan Switzer's decision not to play and GW is facing a lot of uncertainty.
"We're in a little bit of a transition," admitted Greene. "We've been on a good run. We're not making any excuses but we may need to regroup a little bit."That's not to say the Patriots won't be talented. Senior guard/forward Austin Breeden (6-1), junior forward/center Chris Kay (6-2) and junior guard/forward Dominik King (6-3) all bring some playing experience to the table.Greene, who is entering his 20th season at the helm, said 6-6 senior post player Lucas Mullenix and 5-10 sophomore guard Alex Lewis have also shown promise.But the Patriots are quite likely to go how Eddy goes, and that may be a good thing."He's already doing it in practice," Greene said of Eddy's leadership. "He's not out there jacking up shots everywhere, he's passing and trying to make everybody else better."GW opens Dec. 12 at Capital.
South Charleston: Coach Vic Herbert has five seniors at his disposal and plenty of returning experience.
South Charleston lost a couple of Elmores as Ot (16.3 points per game) graduated and Jon (13.7 points per game) left for a prep school in North Carolina, but Herbert remains upbeat.Returning senior starters Rashaud Kincaid (5-8, point guard) and Trevond Reese (6-1 forward/center) will be looked to for leadership while fellow seniors Neal Brown (6-1), Hunter Moles (6-3) and Devin Harris (5-10) should also contribute.Sophomore wing player A.D. Cunningham (5-11) and center Kevin Williams (6-4) also bring experience from last year."This year is going to be really exciting for us," Herbert said. "My first two years we were in a full-court press and got back into different half-court defenses. Last year, we had to back off because of our personnel, but this year we're back to the old-school way that I like to play. We'll be up in people's faces."The Black Eagles enter the season riding streaks of 26 straight Mountain State Athletic Conference wins and 21 consecutive home wins. Add to that a junior varsity team that went 18-1 last season and what Herbert calls the best group of freshmen he's had, and optimism seems pretty logical in SC.Still, Herbert is not about to let his players forget a first-round state tournament loss to Parkersburg last year."We're going to put 62-48 on the scoreboard every day before practice," Herbert said, referring to the Big Reds' winning margin last season. "It was tough. They outplayed us. We've been to the state tournament all three years and got bumped off."The Black Eagles will travel to Princeton for the season opener on Dec. 15.A look at the Kanawha Valley's other teams in alphabetical order:Buffalo: The Bison, 17-8 last season, return all five players that started in last year's regional co-championship game loss to Charleston Catholic. Seniors Jordan Fletcher, Levi Jordan and Dylan Rich are joined by juniors Isaiah Robinson and Joseph Good in the starting rotation, but Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins said the biggest strength of his team will be its depth. Senior Jarrett Smith and juniors Bradley Harris, Austin Moore, Aaron Lewis, Cory Hoshor and Gabe Garrison will supplement the starters. Buffalo opens at home Dec. 8 against South Gallia, Ohio.Capital: The Cougars return one starter, Carrington Morris, from last year's 14-10 campaign. Capital coach Carl Clark said Morris can play the two, three or four position and mentioned Wesley Johnson (6-4), DeQuan Yarborough (6-1), Austin Coleman (6-5) and Tayshawn Jones (6-1) as players with limited experience who could see significant minutes for the Cougars. Several players will make the leap from the junior varsity or freshman teams. Capital begins play Dec. 10 at home against Huntington.Herbert Hoover: The Huskies will be without Corey Bird and two other players who decided not to come out. Hoover returns 6-foot-7 Cody Morris, who averaged 12 points per game last season, Joey Forbes (7.0) and Sam Schoolcraft. The Huskies open Dec. 11 at Chapmanville.Hurricane: After a 13-10 campaign and a sectional loss to Winfield, the Redskins welcome back seniors Rasaan Harris, who averaged 14 points last year, and Ian Miles (5.0). Junior Henry Sorsaia (10.0) and sophomore Trey Dawson (9.0) also expect to make large contributions. Charleston Catholic transfer Sean Stallo will also get some minutes. Hurricane's first game is Dec. 8 at Point Pleasant.Nitro: The Wildcats went 12-12 last season after posting just three wins the previous year. Coach Bryan Faber returns four starters in senior Angelo Sirianni (his 20.4 points per game led Kanawha County), as well as seniors Ethan Clark, Sam Neff and Hunter Ferrari. Junior Tyler Barton will help with the point guard duties while transfers Austin Goins (Riverside) and J.P. Mawyer (Sissonville) also figure into Faber's plans. Senior Lee Klocke and sophomore Kip Brewer will come off the bench. Nitro's season gets underway Tuesday at Poca.Poca: Despite losing graduating seniors George Hamrick and Clint Parsons, Poca could have a more balanced attack. The Dots return Cam Morrison, Caleb Samples, Hayden Bailey and Adam Sigman, who all logged minutes last season. Cam Cottrill and Jacob Payne expect to have larger roles this season for Poca, which finished 13-12 and lost to Tolsia in the regional championships. The Dots start the season at home Tuesday against Nitro.Riverside: Tim Womack and Tyus Woods are back for the Warriors after both were ruled ineligible last season. Returning seniors Marcus Reed and Nick Light and sophomore Josh Butcher are also back, while guard Roberto Innis from Columbus, Ohio, will also join the Warriors as a transfer. Riverside finished 8-16 last season, including a sectional loss to Woodrow Wilson. It begins Dec. 11 at Shady Spring.St. Albans: St. Albans enters the season looking to improve on last season's 5-17 record with a deep, sizable squad. The Red Dragons return senior Nathan McNeil (6- 2) and Connor Beck as players who saw time in the starting five a year ago. Taylor Clark (6-3) started in about half of St. Albans' games last season. St. Albans gained one transfer player - freshman Thaddeus Moss, son of 1994 Bill Evans Award winner and San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Randy Moss. The Red Dragons open Dec. 14 at Riverside.Sissonville: Sissonville enters the season with three returning starters but two of those will be adjusting to new roles. The Indians went 18-7 last season and bring back seniors Trent Stowers, Austin Crawford and Zach Null - all starters since they were sophomores. Stowers and Crawford, post players in the past, will move to guard after coach Rich Skeen's squad lost all its guards, except Null, from last year's team. The Indians' first game is Tuesday at Mingo Central.Winfield: The Generals return juniors Zach Fisher, who averaged 14 points, and Chris Turner (13 points per game). Others competing for starting spots on coach Pat McGinnis' squad include Garrett Grafton, Jake Lemmerman, Toby Show, Taylor Hearn, John Hodges and Bear Bellomy. Winfield finished 15-10 last season and lost in a regional championship game to Logan. The Generals open Tuesday at Point Pleasant.Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, email@example.com, or follow him at twitter.com/RPritt.