The Charleston Civic Center and its participating schools, West Virginia and Marshall, have tinkered with the Capital Classic formula the past few years.
The men’s and women’s doubleheader — previously a January staple — was first separated into a two-night affair during the 2011-12 season. Then, with the Mountaineers’ move to the Big 12, the Classic turned into a two-night, early December event in 2012. Last December’s experiment involved a Saturday doubleheader.
For the fourth consecutive season there will be a new twist to the intrastate basketball matchup format — this year the game will be on a Sunday.
Civic Center general manager John Robertson confirmed Thursday the Dec. 14 date for the WVU-MU men’s basketball game. There will not be a doubleheader, he said, which he believes when combined with the new game day will provide a boost to a men’s hoops event that has lagged in attendance in consecutive seasons.
“Sunday may be better than the Saturday game because, I think,” Roberston said. “Saturday last year during Christmas season was a difficult compete because of so many obligations folks have on a Saturday during Christmas season.”
The Capital Classic became a Charleston fixture in 1992, but the Mountaineers and Thundering Herd have never played on a Sunday here. In fact, the only Sunday matchup between the two teams came in Huntington on Dec. 27, 1987.
From 2000 to 2012, the Classic’s average attendance was 12,405, which is more than 100 percent capacity for the 12,380-seat arena.
The men’s Classic drew 11,512 two seasons ago — the first December game the in-state schools played since 1996 — and 11,308 last season, which was the penultimate Saturday before Christmas. That’s an average of 11,410 fans for the last two meetings.
The women’s version of the Classic will get its own date, but that has yet to be determined.
“I think, this past year when we tried to play the women’s game earlier in the day, it wasn’t really beneficial,” Robertson said. “The game did better when we separated them and it kind of built interest in both of those programs.
“Two games is sometimes too much for people. This will be better.”
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SO THE PROSPECTS of the Classic’s new spot on the calendar seem good, but what about the prospects who’ll roll through the South Atlantic League this summer?
The West Virginia Power, the low-Class A affiliate of the Pittsburgh Pirates and a member of Baseball America’s top-rated farm system, could have four of the organization’s top 10 prospects when Austin Meadows is healthy.
Meadows is the No. 4 prospect in the organization and Baseball America’s No. 49 prospect overall.
Meadows ranks just behind Cincinnati Reds outfield Billy Hamilton (No. 43) and higher in the top 100 than Boston Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. (No. 50).
Catcher Reese McGuire (No. 8 in the organization), outfielder Harold Ramirez (No. 9) and pitcher Luis Heredia (No. 10) are all on the Power’s opening day roster.
Once Ramirez and McGuire debut and Meadows joins the roster, all of Baseball America’s top 15 Pirates prospects will have played in Charleston.
As far as the rest of the Sally League, Washington Nationals prospect Lucas Giolito will get his first shot at full-season professional baseball with the Hagerstown Suns. He is 6-foot-6, can touch 100 miles per hour with his fastball and is Baseball America’s No. 21 prospect.
Also look out for J.P. Crawford, a 19-year-old shortstop in the Phillies organization. He’ll start this season with Lakewood and is Baseball America’s No. 78 overall prospect.
One other newcomer to watch for in the league this season: Pete Rose, Jr. The son of the Cincinnati Reds great is the new manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators. This is Rose’s fourth season as a manager in the White Sox organization, and last season he was at the helm when Great Falls won a division title in the Pioneer League.
Rose, as you might expect, will wear No. 14.
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BACK TO HOOPS...
West Virginia State men’s basketball coach is searching for prospects of his own. The Yellow Jackets coach was on the recruiting trail this week in the wake of the Division II season ending with West Liberty’s loss in the national championship game.
The success of the Mountain East Conference in its inaugural season will provide a boost.
“Getting three teams in and having West Liberty make that run obviously bodes well for our conference,” Poore said. “We can obviously use that to our advantage.”
Poore’s recruiting ace, though, is the brand-new on-campus basketball facility that State debuted late last month. The 49-year-old carries an iPad with him on the recruiting trail so he can show prospective student-athletes pictures of the $19 million, 1,350-seat convocation center that features state-of-the-art locker rooms and film rooms inside the renovated Fleming Hall building.
“Our facility kind of speaks for itself,” Poore said. “We’re definitely going to be able to show it off in recruiting. The trick is getting the players on campus; I don’t think pictures do our facility justice.”
Poore endured consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 2002, when State finished 10-18 and 9-18 in back-to-back seasons. The Yellow Jackets lost in the opening round of the MEC tournament — its first loss in State’s new hoops home — to finish 13-14 after going 10-19 a year ago.
There could be eight or nine newcomers again on the next Yellow Jackets roster, including much-ballyhooed transfer Markee Mazyck, who was supposed to enroll at Division I Austin Peay. He averaged 22.5 points and 6.7 rebounds per game at Frederick (Md.) Community College.
Mazyck, who has two years of eligibility left, will be joined by a trio of players who sat out this past season: Tyrie Elliott (6-foot-2 shooter); Travaughn Newell (5-9 pure point guard) and prep school standout Jordan McMillian (6-3 guard). Elliott, Newell and McMillian are all freshmen.
Poore will fill out the rest of the roster in the offseason.
“We’ve done it before,” Poore said. “It’s not like we’re trying to tell these kids that nobody has done it before here. We’ve won three tournaments, we’ve won two regular seasons, we’ve been to the NCAAs and we’ve been in the top 10 ... we’ve got a pattern and we know what we need to do.
“We just have to get the right mix of kids together to buy into it.”