Hoops recruiting, clarification and a farewell to Wilbur
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ye olde notebook:
WVU will begin practice Monday of next week. (Teams may practice 30 times in 42 days.) Marshall will have its basketball media day Thursday and first practice Friday.
First, though, let's turn our attention to Huntington Prep, the basketball-focused school that produced the nation's best recruit last season, Andrew Wiggins.
"We're really deep this year, which is a good thing," said Express coach Rob Fulford.
The pick of Fulford's litter this year seems to be five-star junior power forward Thomas Bryant, ranked No. 19 nationally by Rivals. Fulford said the 6-foot-9 Bryant, originally from Rochester, N.Y., seems to have a natural lean toward Syracuse, but North Carolina, Kentucky, Kansas and, yes, WVU are also on the player.
Mountaineer coach Bob Huggins is also recruiting Express rising junior Montaque "Tiki" Gill-Caesar, a 6-6 four-star prospect who, according to Rivals, is the nation's 24th best recruit. Fulford hinted that Huggins has a very good shot at the small forward, who also has offers from Baylor, Ohio State, Illinois, Purdue, Memphis, Georgetown and Central Florida. (Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky and Louisville are also recruiting him.)
As always, Fulford's team is loaded with prospects. His point guard, Josh Perkins, committed to Gonzaga. JaQuan Lyle, a 6-5 guard, is available after dropping his commitment to Louisville. (The Cardinals picked up junior college guard Chris Jones, a highly regarded prospect from Northwest Florida State.)
Miles Bridges is a very highly regarded forward who won't even turn 16 until March. ("He could probably be the second best player I've had after Wiggins," Fulford said. "He could be really good.")
Jalen Lindsey, a forward, is committed to Providence. Senior big man Angel Delgado has committed to Seton Hall.
Then, of course, there's big man Levi Cook, who transferred to Huntington Prep from Liberty Raleigh. Cook has already committed to the Mountaineers.
"Levi is really playing well," said Fulford. "He's figured out how big he is. He's getting in shape and dropping weight. I think it took him a couple weeks to understand he belongs here.
"Now when he gets in the paint, he either scores or is fouled or both."
At the end, I wrote that "if anyone can straighten out the mess that's Tech athletics, it's Casto."
I, perhaps properly, was scorched by some within the Golden Bear athletic department, who said the situation in Montgomery is much better these days.
That's good to hear. My comment, however, was targeted at the school's struggle with conference/division affiliation. I should have been specific.
A farewell to a man I have a hard time accepting is gone.
In truth, I don't know if I can even bear to attend Wilbur Jenkins' wake or funeral.
I don't know if I can bear to see him without a smile.
For those unaware (and you have to be outside of the Kanawha Valley sports scene to be unaware), Jenkins was a South Charleston basketball player, coach, official and media liaison who died way too early Saturday at the age of 48. He was a man about our sports town. He was everyone's Man about our sports town.
A bear of a man, Jenkins always lit up a room with his smile and quick, funny wit. It didn't matter what mood you were in, Wilbur made you smile. And laugh. And love the guy.
Once, back in 2005, I wanted to write about Riverside High's girls basketball team. At the time, it was 0-19. The Warriors were on a 43-game losing streak.
I wanted to visit the girls and pick their brains. What was this losing streak like?
I knew I could put the piece together because of their coach: Wilbur Jenkins.
When I went to Quincy, I didn't find gloom, despair or agony.
"We're having a blast," shooting guard Chelsea Hill told me.
They were. Point guard Sumer Cooper spoke of an errant pass in a game. "It went over [Hill's] head and smacked a cheerleader in the belly," she giggled. "I went, 'Oops.' "
They were the new era of the Bad News Bears.
"Yeah," Jenkins said, "but all [movie coach Morris] Buttermaker had to do was crank a couple of beers and his team was ready to go."
Get the tone? Jenkins made the sport fun. Sure he wanted the Warriors to win. But it was more important the girls had fun.
"This is the best group of kids I've ever had as a coach," Jenkins said.
Once during the stretch, Riverside almost tripped up Hurricane. After losing by 34 points earlier in the year, the Warriors fell by just one in Quincy.
"I cried afterward," Jenkins said. "I'm not afraid to say it. I cried with them. They poured their hearts out."
Now all who knew Wilbur will cry for him. Or, rather, for the loss of him.
Our big bear was a special, special man. We'll miss him terribly.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.