Generally, all-star games offer a chance for athletes to play one more high school game before they head off to college, or the opportunity to see how they measure up against some of the best.
For William Gabbert, though, it means a little more to get to compete in the North-South All-Star Classic June 18 at the South Charleston Community Center.
Gabbert, a recent Greenbrier East graduate and All-State basketball player, gets to suit up with some friends and former George Washington teammates who are also on the South squad — Alex Yoakum and Mason Pinkett. Gabbert played three seasons at GW before moving to Greenbrier County with his family and playing his final season with the Spartans.
In the recent Scott Brown/Little General Classic in Beckley, Gabbert, Yoakum and Pinkett all played for the Class AAAA team (C. Adam Toney Tires/Jan-Care Ambulance), which earned a 113-103 victory against a team comprised of Class AAA, AA and A standouts (Mid-State Automotive).
This time, however, it’s a matchup of top-notch players from all around West Virginia.
“I’m really excited we can go out and have fun one last time,’’ Gabbert said. “We had a lot of fun at the Scott Brown game. We got to play together there, and hopefully we can keep it together and get [a win] there as well.’’
Gabbert averaged 20.8 points last season for East, earning a spot on the Class AAAA All-State first team along with Yoakum and Pinkett of state champion GW.
The Patriots reserved their spot in the state tournament by beating Greenbrier East 73-58 in the Region 3 co-finals — the first meeting between their programs since 2012. In that game, Gabbert turned in a team-high 22 points to go with five rebounds at his old stomping grounds at GW High School. The Spartans were within four points with just over five minutes left in the game.
“Obviously, it didn’t end the way we wanted it to,’’ Gabbert said, “but we had a good year and we could have easily been there [at the state tournament. The regional game] went back and forth. We met the eventual champion in GW, and they made the plays down the stretch, and that’s what ends up winning it. I’d have liked to see what we could have done in the state tournament against the best, but it is what it is.’’
Gabbert had some state tournament experience with GW. As a freshman reserve, he was on the 2018 squad that captured the Class AAA title. The following season, he scored 12 points in the Patriots’ 64-62 overtime loss to Cabell Midland in the state tournament quarterfinals at the Charleston Coliseum. Last season, he averaged 8.4 points per game as GW again qualified for the state tournament, but the entire event was later canceled by COVID-19.
During those three years, Gabbert racked up some fond memories of playing at GW.
“There are definitely good memories,’’ he said. “The regional win at Woodrow Wilson my sophomore year, playing in the state tournament, winning the [Mountain State Athletic Conference title game] my junior year. And all the Capital and South Charleston rivalry games are always fun. Pre-COVID, anyway, last year was real fun.’’
Gabbert is bound for the basketball program at Wheeling University.
Four other Kanawha Valley athletes are set to play alongside GW’s Pinkett and Yoakum in the North-South game, which is sponsored by the West Virginia Athletic Directors Association. They are Aiden Satterfield and Zion Suddeth (Charleston Catholic), Jaimelle Claytor (St. Albans) and Ethan Kincaid (Winfield).
The rest of the South squad has Amare Smith (Huntington), Kaiden Pack (Greenbrier West), Ben Gilliam (Woodrow Wilson), Braden Howell (Liberty Raleigh), John Blankenship (Lincoln County) and Caleb May (Tug Valley).
On the North squad are Jaelin Johnson (Fairmont Senior), Bryson Lucas and Gavin Kennedy (Robert C. Byrd), Josh Alt and Bailey Thompson (Pendleton County), Jack Bifano (Bridgeport), Ryan Niceler (University), Sam Cremeans (Williamstown), Brayden Miller (Roane County), Mojo Chisler (Clay-Battelle) and Graden McKinney (Ritchie County).
Prior to the June 18 game, skills competitions will be held in free-throw and 3-point shooting and a dunk contest. Those are scheduled to start at 6 p.m., and the game will tip off at 7:30. All tickets ar priced at $5.
Coaches for the game were announced previously — Bryan England (St. Albans) and Jared Robertson (Greenbrier West) for the South and Scott Sauro (Williamstown) and Ryan Lambert (Pendleton County) for the North.
Contact Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @RickRyanWV.