South Charleston's Jayla Brown drives on North Marion's Taylor Wells at the St. Albans Shootout.
ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- Lina Villanueva was glad to see Gary Greene back on the sidelines Wednesday."It builds my confidence,'' said the South Charleston junior-to-be guard during a break at the St. Albans High School Summer Shootout. "It's easier to play for him than anybody else.''Greene took a leave of absence from the Black Eagles last year as his wife dealt with blood cancer. Greene guided SC to Class AAA state runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011 and a quarterfinals appearance as the No. 2 seed in 2012."My wife's doing a lot better now,'' said Greene. "She had a stem cell transplant in Morgantown and they're optimistic about the long-term prognosis. We sat down and talked about it and we'll see what happens. I wasn't ready to get out and retire yet.''
Greene said Wednesday was a nice change of pace."I had fun,'' he said. "I don't know how to explain. It's something I've missed, but I really haven't been concentrating on missing it because there've been other more important things. The kids are taking the stress out of some of the things we've been fighting.''SC returns four starters in Villanueva, who averaged a team-high 11.6 points, guard Taliah Cashwell, who turned in 9.9 points per game as a freshman, guard Alexia Wade and post Aryaunna Mosley. The Black Eagles finished 11-12 last season. SC also has four sophomores and five freshmen, so the three-week practice period, which concludes Saturday, has been important for Greene."They got on the floor as a unit and we got to see the top 10 or 11 kids in the program,'' said the SC coach. "They're fun to be around, but they work hard. It seems like everybody, parents included, is on the same page. They've got a big upside.''Greene said he is optimistic about the young bunch. Four of the five freshmen led South Charleston to the Kanawha County Middle School championship this past season."We had five freshmen on the floor a lot,'' he said. "We're at Page 1. Everything's open in November. We should be in a position to go eight or nine deep.''
Villanueva said she is excited to see what this group can accomplish."We're really small, but we're really, really fast,'' she said with a smile. "We're going to surprise a bunch of people. We're already coming together as a team. We joke around a lot. We're more of a family already than a team.''nn
George Washington coach Jamie LaMaster will have to go to Plan B before the season starts.Kelli Jo Harrison, a Class AAA third-team all-state selection after averaging 17.1 points and 9.5 rebounds last season, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee this month playing with her AAU team.
"She has surgery scheduled for Monday,'' said LaMaster. "Her ACL is torn. I don't know anything about recovery time. From this point on it's going to be surgery, recovery and a mental approach.''Harrison, who eclipsed 1,000 career points last season, was going to be the focal point of this year's team since the graduation of top scorer and 1,000-point scorer Rachel Ward."We've been able to look at some other kids and build some leadership,'' LaMaster said of getting others experience during the three-week practice period that began June 10. "I did see a lot of good things. [We're] learning how to win in a tight situation.''The Patriots will expect more out of starters Alanna Mobayed (point guard), who averaged 7.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists, Hailey Stewart (shooting guard) and forward Lilly Ash, who played significant minutes down the stretch last season. Shionna Banks, a 6-foot-3 incoming freshman, should also give GW a boost."You don't replace a Kelli Jo Harrison,'' said LaMaster, who guided the Patriots to the state semifinals in 2011 and 2012 and a regional co-finals berth last year. "As a team you have to come together. Other players are going to have to be a year older and stronger and pick up their production.''nn
St. Albans put a few more feathers in its cap last year.The Red Dragons turned in a winning record (14-11) after a seven-win year the season before, upset third-ranked and perennial state tournament contender Huntington on its home floor in the sectional tournament and lost in the AAA regional co-finals to eventual state tournament runner-up Logan only one win away from states.The Red Dragons welcome back their top six players, but can't stand pat on their accomplishments in the rugged Mountain State Athletic Conference."We worked hard during the three-week period,'' said SA coach Scott James, who also doubles as the director of the two-day St. Albans Shootout, which is in its 11th year. "Between March and this three-week period [some of the players] have not worked hard so it's really important."As the three-week period has gone along, we've gotten better. We went to the WVU camp this past weekend and we played really well at times and we were 3-0 [during Tuesday's Shootout] and beat GW by 12.''Breanna Propst is a rising star for SA after earning AAA third-team all-state recognition. She was among the top 10 in scoring in the MSAC at 16.3 points per game. SA guards Torri Wilson, who scored in double figures seven times, and Lexie Cooper, who netted 16 in the regional loss, also return."Your success is determined between March and November,'' James said. "After this three-week period our girls have got to work hard.''Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.