The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

January 15, 2014

A week's worth of basketball crammed into 6 columns

By Cam Huffman
Sports Editor

BECKLEY — Over the last five days I’ve seen two state basketball powers go head-to-head, journeyed to Morgantown to watch the Mountaineers and watched one of the nation’s best high school basketball teams.
That experience provided me with more than enough thoughts and opinions to fill this entire page.
But in the interest of time and space, let’s just hit the highlights.
n n n
What has happened to the WVU Coliseum?
While covering the Mountaineers’ 73-72 loss to Oklahoma State Saturday, my pen fell off the table on media row. What made this event newsworthy is that when it hit the concrete below, I actually heard it bounce.
Still not impressed? Keep in mind that WVU was leading the No. 11 team in the country midway through the second half at the time.
See where I’m going?
The WVU Coliseum — not long ago one of the most difficult venues for visitors in all of college basketball — has become just another arena. The crowds, for the most part, have been small, and even when the light blue seats are filled, the bodies in them make about as much noise as the galleries at The Masters when Tiger Woods is about to putt.
Who’s to blame? I’m not sure.
Obviously fans would make a little more noise and show a little more excitement if the team was playing a little better. But that’s sort of the old chicken or the egg argument. Maybe the team would play a little better if it could feed off the crowd’s energy.
All I know is that the Coliseum isn’t close to being what it was even five years ago.
n n n
If WVU wants to create some excitement, the Mountaineers need to do everything in their power to get Oak Hill Academy point guard Terrence Phillips to Morgantown.
I got a chance to see the Scout.com three-star prospect play Tuesday night at Greenbrier East, and he was as impressive as any high school player I’ve seen in years.
Phillips isn’t a guy that will be featured much on ESPN’s top plays or a guy that’s going to go for 25 or 30 points a night. But he runs a team as a high school junior better than many college seniors.
The 6-foot guard isn’t a 3-point specialist, but he can knock down a shot when open. He doesn’t get to the rim like Juwan Staten, but he can handle the ball and split the defense. He sees the floor well and almost always finds the open man. He plays great defense and is clearly the leader on the floor.
What impressed me most, though, was Phillips’ maturity. I had a chance to sit next to the Oak Hill Academy bench and watch the guard’s interaction with coaches and teammates throughout the night. He was always calm and in control, and obviously very coachable.
Recruiting isn’t always about the stars. Phillips would be a huge get for the Mountaineers, but it’s not going to be easy. According to Scout.com, California, Georgia, LSU, USC, Virginia, VCU, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest are all in the mix, along with WVU.
n n n
Finally, let me make a high school basketball prediction. There will be at least two state champions out of our area this March.
It’s really not that bold of a call, because so many teams have a chance. On the girls’ side, Greenbrier East, Westside, Summers County, Bluefield and PikeView all have the teams to go all the way. One of those teams will end the year holding the big trophy.
There are even more contenders on the boys side. Greenbrier East and Woodrow Wilson both have the teams to take home the hardware in Class AAA, and Bluefield, Westside and Wyoming East have the talent to do it in AA.
The new team to the party is Greater Beckley Christian. After an impressive win over Tug Valley, the Crusaders have to be labeled among the favorites in Class A.
Get ready basketball fans. It’s going to be a fun March.
— E-mail: chuffman
@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.