The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

March 24, 2013

Selection of all-state teams not an easy task

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

— If you follow high school basketball at all and have picked up a newspaper — or simply looked at one in a rack — anywhere in West Virginia this week, you’re probably aware that the high school basketball boys and girls all-state teams were released this week.

And if you’ve talked to any player, coach, fan or parent, you’ve probably discovered that not everybody is happy.

That’s the way it is every year, in every state at every level when postseason awards are released. It’s just the nature of the beast. No matter who’s on the committee, how much research they put in and how much effort is put forth to put together the best team, somebody is going to be left out and many are going to be disappointed.

This year’s lists are no different, and I certainly understand. I was a member of the committee that met in Charleston on championship Saturday of the boys state tournament. I had my voice. I sat in on the process, and even I left disappointed with the list.

Frankly, any Class AA boys list that doesn’t include Summers County’s Ta’Ron Ayers just doesn’t seem right. He scored more points than anybody in the entire class. And if Rondale Watson isn’t one of the best basketball players in Class AAA, I need to take some sort of class on how to evaluate talent.

Those are just a couple of examples. There were other area players whocould have been ranked higher and some very good players who didn’t make the list at all.

But unlike many of the disgruntled readers I’ve heard from this week, I’m not pointing a finger or looking for somebody to blame.

There’s just no perfect system. The committee sends out ballots to writers and coaches from all over the state, simply to make sure the input of those who know the game is considered and no deserving player is overlooked. But we can’t rely simply on votes.

To explain it in simplistic terms, there are just more writers and coaches in certain areas than there are in others. The Kanawha Valley, for example, is loaded, while Hampshire and Mineral counties may only have a couple of voters.

That’s why sports writers from all over the state are invited to sit in on the meeting. We all give our input, we study statistics, we debate players and when we can’t agree, it comes down to a vote.

Sometimes that task is difficult. It’s not easy, for example, to choose whether Donté Nabors or Andrew Johnson is more deserving of first-team honors from Woodrow Wilson. And it sometimes feels a little weird for a writer to defend a player from his or her area to another from another area who he or she hasn’t even seen in person.

I’ll admit it. Some of the votes didn’t go my way this year. But there are writers in Huntington, Parkersburg, Charleston and Wheeling all probably saying the same thing this week. It’s just a side effect of the process.

I’m proud of the list we put together, because I know the effort that was put into making it the best we could.

What players need to realize, is that the basketball talent in the Mountain State is deep and it’s only getting deeper. Making the team — whether it’s first-team, second-team or even honorable mention — is an honor, and that’s the way it should be perceived.

— E-mail: chuffman