The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

High School Sports

November 15, 2007

MSU Academy going national

Basketball players from Serbia, Toronto, London and Macedonia.

A national schedule.

Big-time Division I schools requesting film of its top players.

If you think it sounds a lot like Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va., you’re right. Sort of.

Instead, it’s right here in Beckley.

Mountain State Academy has decided to “go a different direction,” according to coach Rob Fulford.

Already, the Falcons’ eight-man roster features five players from four different countries and another player from New York in addition to a pair of players who return from last year’s squad.

But Fulford, who turned down the director of basketball operations job at Duquesne to honor commitments to his new players, said the school won’t compromise its principles.

“If we can balance out academics and athletics and have a very successful program that means we’re on the level of Oak Hill Academy, then absolutely,” Fulford said. “But we will not compromise our academic standards to be another Oak Hill Academy.”

The Falcons open the season today at a tournament in Blacksburg, Va. They will play at 6:45 p.m. at a four-team tournament at Gateway Christian.

The academy’s first home game is 7 p.m. Nov. 27 against Covington Boys Home at the Bird Cage (Van Meter Gym).

Fulford said the presence of national-caliber players doesn’t mean he’ll turn a wary eye to local players.

“We want as many local players as possible to not only enroll but to play athletics,” Fulford said.

One reason for the national flavor is the fact the school was finding it hard to field a team at all.

Fulford had just two players — Jonathan Coleman and Todd Cornet — from last year’s team. When he had Serbians Milos Jerotijevic and Lazar Milinkovic confirmed to the fold, he still had just four players.

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