Since middle school, Tyler Gray had hopes of playing in the North-South Boys Basketball All-Star Game. He had plenty of other hopes, too, perhaps being part of the first team state title in Webster County High School history.
Both missions were accomplished this season. Webster County won the Class A state championship this past winter, and Gray joins two others from the Highlanders at this year’s All-Star Game — teammate Dorian Groggs and Gray’s coach and father Mike Gray.
The game begins at 7:30 p.m. Friday at the South Charleston Community Center, with a skills competition preceding the game at 6 p.m. Tickets are priced at $5.
“It’s super nice,” Tyler Gray said. “It’s been a joy, a blessing really. Not a lot of other kids probably haven’t had that experience.”
And what an experience the Highlanders had this past season. They became the first West Virginia boys basketball team to finish the season at 28-0, winning a state title that was the first team title since the school was founded in 1974. Both Groggs and Tyler Gray earned Class A All-State first team honors as well.
Mike Gray, coaching the South with former Charleston Catholic coach Matt Morrison, said this week has been a wonderful coda to the season, allowing him, his son and Groggs to savor the excitement a little bit longer.
“[Tyler Gray] and I talk about it every day,” he said. “You couldn’t have written the script any better, what we did through the year. Ever since he was little, we’ve been in the gym together.
“I don’t know if he’s enjoyed it as much as I have,” Mike Gray added, “but it’s been great.”
Tyler Gray said he definitely has enjoyed his experience, especially the opportunity to relax and have fun with his dad on the sideline. Tyler Gray admits there was plenty of pressure during the season, trying to stay unbeaten and navigating the tough Class A field in state tournament. Now that pressure is gone.
“It’s kind of like all this work [during the season] has given us the time to have fun,” Tyler Gray said. “We’re here to win, obviously, but it’s more of a relief than all that pressure on you.”
Groggs remembers when Brett Morris, a former Webster County standout, played in the North-South game and earned MVP honors. That he and Tyler Gray now have the opportunity to follow in those footsteps is something not lost on him.
“It was awesome to know he went to this game and was named MVP,” Groggs said. “Just to know a kid came from Webster County to the North-South and did that, that’s awesome. I’m going to try my hardest.”
Most of all, he and his fellow Highlanders will take the chance to enjoy the atmosphere of the weekend.
“That’s the main thing,” Groggs said, “just having fun and playing basketball.”
Several players on the original rosters of the two teams will not be able to make Friday’s game. For the South, George Washington’s Bunky Brown, Charleston Catholic’s Robby Williams, Nitro’s Joel Sweat and Greenbrier West’s Noah Midkiff all will not be able to participate. For the North, University’s Rodney Bucklew will not be in attendance.