One state school with major college talent is doing fine
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When it comes to major college basketball, not much is going right within the Mountain State.
WVU is 11-11. Marshall is 10-13.
There is, however, one in-state team with major college talent that's chugging along just fine, thank you very much.
That team is Huntington Prep.
As you may know, the Express imports some of the nation's best talent and plays a national hoops schedule. Its players attend St. Joseph High during the day and then attend the academy.
"We've just been traveling around the world," Prep coach Rob Fulford said Thursday.
The team is 24-2 and ranked No. 6 in an ESPN poll and No. 8 in the latest USA Today poll. It played on national television twice, against Cape Henry (Va.) and New Hampton (N.H.). Entering the season, Huntington Prep was No. 1.
"We've had a really good year," Fulford said. "Our schedule has been brutal, not only in regard to our opponents, but in the travel.
"Coming into the season ranked No. 1 was a little high, probably because of Andrew [Wiggins]. We dropped a game we shouldn't have. But with the schedule we have, I knew we weren't going to run the table."
"Andrew," you might know, is regarded as one of the top couple of recruits nationally. He has yet to make a college decision.
"Once the season finishes, he'll make a call," Fulford said. "He took his Florida State visit a month and a half ago. He's deciding between Florida State, Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina. But he hasn't given it a whole lot of thought. He's concentrating on the schedule and school. He's a little different. He doesn't get into all the hoopla, which is great."
Wiggins is a 6-foot-8 small forward averaging 22.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, 2.6 steals and 4.3 assists. He can play multiple positions - but apparently won't for either of the in-state major colleges.
"He went to [WVU's] Georgetown game [last season] and just didn't get a good feel," Fulford said. "He said it wasn't the right fit for him."
The Mountaineers apparently did have a shot at another Express player in Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a 6-4 shooting guard averaging 14 points.
"Coach [Bob] Huggins didn't feel at the time he needed another shooting guard with [Terry] Henderson and [Eron] Harris coming in," Fulford said. "You can look at it in hindsight, but sometimes that's how recruiting goes."
Rathan-Mayes is instead headed to Florida State. Moses Kingsley, a 6-10 power forward, is going to Arkansas. Dominic Woodson, a 6-10 power forward, is headed to Baylor. Point guard Travon Landry will be going to Tennessee.
"We get lots of questions on who Hugs is recruiting or who Marshall is recruiting," Fulford said. "But what it comes down to is fit and need at position.
"People look around and say, 'Wow, you got all these kids; why doesn't West Virginia get some?' But does West Virginia really need another [incoming] power forward?"
WVU has signed four big men for next season, including four-star recruits Devin Williams and Elijah Macon.
Fulford said the Mountaineers are in on a sophomore, Montaque Gill-Ceasar, a 6-5, 200-pound small forward.
"He went to the Kansas game [in Morgantown]," said the Express coach. "And he got a totally different feel than Andrew [Wiggins] did."
Gill-Ceasar is a "Top 25 kind of kid for the sophomore class" and that Ohio State and Baylor have both already offered.
"He's athletic and can shoot," Fulford said. "He just needs to work on his handle. He makes a lot of turnovers now, but that will improve with age."
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.