Still something to prove
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The last time he visited the Kanawha Valley, Donte' Grantham was on top of the basketball world.
The Martinsburg all-stater led his team to the Class AAA title at the Civic Center in March and was courting offers from several big-time Division I programs, including West Virginia, making him an instant hero for thousands of Mountaineer fans.
But here it is not even three months later and, in many ways, Grantham must feel like he's starting all over again.
Grantham is back in the Kanawha Valley this weekend to compete in the North-South All-Star Basketball Classic, which tips off at about 7:30 tonight at the South Charleston Community Center. Pre-game skills contests are set to begin at 6:15.
Since his triumphant journey to the Capital City in March, Grantham was selected as the state's player of the year, but then saw his college recruitment plans temporarily fizzle.
Following his April 2 visit to Morgantown, a commitment was anticipated by Mountaineer faithful, but it didn't happen. In fact, when the national letter-of-intent signing period came and went without his signature to any school, WVU, among others, pulled its offer from the table, and Grantham has now opted to attend a prep school.
Both of those developments only served to increase the burn factor on the spotlight that follows him around, and now Grantham must prove himself all over again.
"Every time I get on the court, I want to prove a point,'' he said at a North team practice on Thursday, "but this time, it's extraordinary.''
Grantham plans to attend Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., which pretty much puts his recruitment on hold for another year. He also considered playing this season at Brewster Academy, another prep school in Wolfeboro, N.H.
"It's closer to home,'' Grantham said of Hargrave, "where I can come home more.''
Before the signing period expired, the schools most often mentioned as possible destinations for Grantham included WVU, Clemson, George Mason, James Madison, Radford and Marshall.
When asked Thursday what schools he was currently in touch with, Grantham listed Indiana, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Miami (Fla.), Maryland, Clemson and Cincinnati.
So is WVU still in the mix?
"To me, yeah,'' he said, "but I'm just keeping my options open.''
Grantham said he'll have more schools looking at him when his traveling AAU team, the D.C. Assault, competes in a July tournament in Las Vegas.
He seemed resigned to going through the entire recruiting process again, but said it didn't feel right making a commitment over the spring.
"I think it's because the big-time schools came [recruiting] this year,'' he said, "and it all happened late. I didn't have a long time to make my decision on official visits or anything. I only took one to Clemson, so I didn't have time, really.
"I think a prep school will give me time to visit schools and think it out instead of rushing somewhere I didn't want to go. A prep school will only help me get better.''
Even exiled to a brand of basketball limbo, Grantham still remains the keynote player in tonight's North-South tussle, which is sponsored by the West Virginia Athletic Directors Association.
The only other Division I player in the game is South guard Luke Eddy of George Washington (Elon), and the only other Class AAA first-team all-stater is the North's Travis Tomer (University).
Each team lost potential first-team all-staters from the original rosters released in April - the South with Chase Connor (Shady Spring) and Ryan Meadows (Princeton) and the North with Nathan Adrian (Morgantown, a WVU signee), Mark Winters (Magnolia), Wes Mitchem (Parkersburg South) and Cody Triplett (Trinity).
In addition, the North also lost Hedgesville's Chris Shields, a recruit of Division I Longwood (Va.) who was given his release when that school changed coaches.
For tonight's game, the South sports seven first-team all-staters in any class - Eddy (AAA), Chapmanville's Mackenzie Martin and Webster County's Brett Morris (AA) and Tug Valley's Mikey Newsome and Austin Brewer, Buffalo's Levi Jordan and Greater Beckley Christian's Keith Mullins (Class A).
The North features four first-team all-state players - Grantham, Tomer and Bridgeport's Tyler Sprouse and Fairmont Senior's Travor Horton (both AA).
All 26 players listed on the final rosters showed up for practice Thursday afternoon, a recent rarity in the North-South contest. That included Morris, who is walking on at WVU and already attending summer school classes there, but wanted to honor his commitment to the game.
A family member drove Morris from Morgantown to South practice in South Charleston Thursday, then back to the WVU campus late Thursday so he could attend classes today, then will transport him again to the Kanawha Valley tonight for the game.
Serving as coaches are Martinsburg's Dave Rogers and Morgantown's Tom Yester for the North and GW's Rick Greene and Buffalo's Chuck Elkins for the South.
Since the game was moved to the Community Center in 2006, the sides have alternated wins - four for the South (which won last year 114-101) and three for the North. The South leads the current series 24-6 since it was revived in 1983.
The order of tonight's skills competitions is free-throw shooting (6:15), 3-point shooting (6:30) and slam dunk (6:45). The WVADA will also hand out a pair of $500 scholarships following the game, one to a player on each team.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.