Prep basketball: Grantham top draw for North-South game
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One more time to shine, another chance to add feathers to a well-decorated cap.
Many of the state's finest graduating high school basketball players will gather tonight to showcase their talents at the annual North-South All-Star Basketball Classic at the South Charleston Community Center.
The skills competition will begin at 6:45 p.m. with the tip-off at 7:30 p.m.
"To me, other than making first-team all-state, if you get picked to play in the North-South game would be the ultimate tribute to your high school career," said Buffalo Coach Chuck Elkins, who will direct the South squad. "I don't know how the young guys feel about it, but to me, that's right up there with the top of the best personal accomplishments they could have."
Of the 26 players scheduled to participate, 18 will play collegiate basketball, game director Bill Gillispie said. That list doesn't include Morgantown product Nathan Adrian, who signed with West Virginia, or Hedgesville's Chris Shields, who once signed a letter of intent to play at Longwood University before being granted his release.
That leaves Evans Award winner Donte Grantham as the top draw.
"To have a state player of the year committed is definitely a huge asset," Gillispie said.
Grantham, who averaged 18.3 points per game for Class AAA state champion Martinsburg, entertained offers from the likes of WVU, Marshall, Maryland, Miami and Cincinnati before ultimately deciding to attend Hargrave Military Prep School, Martinsburg Coach Dave Rogers said.
"He had some pretty good offers on the table," Rogers said. "Donte is 6-7, he can shoot the 3 and he can handle the basketball. He's a complete player. He's gotten even a little bigger since the State Tournament.
"He's had a good spring and now he's going to Hargrave Military Prep School next year, so that will give him an opportunity to play in this game and then attend prep school and decide where he wants to spend his next four years."
Rogers will coach the North squad that features two other Martinsburg stars in Jalen Lewis and Jordan Robinson. Class AA first-team all-state players Travon Horton, of Fairmont Senior, and Bridgeport's Tyler Sprouse will join the Martinsburg trio. Travis Tomer, a Class AAA first-team all-state selection from University, will play for the North team, too, among many other talented athletes.
Guard play dominates the South roster led by Elon commit Luke Eddy, of George Washington, and Class A state champion teammates Mikey Newsome and Austin Brewer, of Tug Valley.
"The South squad's going to have some great guards," Rogers said.
Eddy averaged 26.2 points per game as a senior. He was runner-up to Grantham for the Evans Award and a Class AAA first-team all-state selection. Newsome and Brewer led Tug Valley to the Class A state title one year after winning the Class AA championship. Both were honored as Class A first-team all-state selections.
"It just so happens that Mikey Newsome and Austin Brewer are playing with Tug Valley and they dropped to A this year," Gillispie said. "If they would have stayed AA, they both would have still played (in the North-South game). Those are two of the better players in the state regardless of class."
In addition to the Tug Valley duo, fellow first-team all-staters Levi Jordan (Buffalo) and Keith Mullins (Greater Beckley Christian) and honorable mention Zach Casto (Charleston Catholic) will look to represent Class A strongly.
Gillispie, in his third year as director of the North-South contest, is also athletic director of Charleston Catholic. Though Gillispie said the player selection committee does not pick individuals by class, he's pleased to see so many athletes from the smaller schools.
"When we go to pick the teams, we don't really look at A, AA or AAA," he said. "We just try to get the top players. We're picking positions, so you can't have all guards or all forwards, but it's definitely a nice touch."
The South squad will also feature a slew of Kanawha Valley players in South Charleston point guard Ra'Shaud Kincaid, Nitro's Angelo Sirianni and Cody Morris, of Herbert Hoover.
First-team captain for the AA all-state team Brett Morris will also join the South team. Morris, a 6-4 forward from Webster County, averaged 25.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game and will walk on at WVU.
Chapmanville's Mackenzie Martin averaged a double-double with 20.5 points and 11 rebounds per contest en route to a AA first-team all-state selection.
While talent abounds on both team rosters, time together does not. Each team is afforded two two-hour practices before the all-star game.
"It's going to be very difficult to judge and we might not find the best five that goes together until halfway through the game," Elkins said.
Because of the unique situation, teams will not be allowed to employ zone defenses and may only press when behind 10 points or more.
"It's a game of one-on-one, five guys playing five guys and one-on-one," Elkins said. "You're going to see some great passes and some great plays, but it's going to come down to one-on-one play, because you can't get a great offensive set in two two-hour practices. It's going to come down to guys making plays on their own, kind of ad lib situations."
With those rules and that talent, the stage will be set for the players to shine one final time.