By Cam Huffman
Fans of West Virginia University athletics are looking for any positive sign. After the year they just experienced — the late-season collapse by the football team and the forgettable basketball season that marked the worst finish in the hall of fame career of head coach Bob Huggins — they want to find some sort of hope to which they can cling that things are going to get better.
That’s where today’s Scott Brown Memorial Classic at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center comes into play. During today’s national game at 6 p.m., WVU’s four basketball signees for the Class of 2013 — Devin Williams, Elijah Macon, Brandon Watkins and Nathan Adrian — will take the floor together as members of the Little General All-Stars.
And they plan on giving the fans exactly what they’re looking to see.
“We want to go out and play hard and give them a little show,” said Watkins, a 6-foot-9 forward out of Grady High School in the Atlanta area. “A lot of folks haven’t seen me play, so it’s going to be fun.”
“I know it’s going to be packed,” added Williams, a four-star power forward who chose the Mountaineers over Ohio State, among others. “I’m pumped to play and put on a show for the fans. I can’t wait to hit the court.”
Many fans in the Mountain State have seen Nathan Adrian. The 6-8 forward played his high school basketball in the shadow of the WVU Coliseum at Morgantown High School, and he’s been on the Mountaineers’ radar for years.
But the last time he came to Beckley, he was only a spectator. Adrian cracked a bone in his foot in January, just before his Mohigans made the trip south for the Big Atlantic Classic. He could only watch as his team was blown out by Woodrow Wilson.
He’s hopeful today’s experience will be a lot different.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Practice was a lot of fun. I want to show everybody down here what I can do.”
Today’s game, though, won’t only be a show for the fans. It will also be a major opportunity for the players to get a feel for each other and develop a bond that they hope to keep for four or five years in Morgantown.
“I’m very excited,” said Macon, who was stuck in a Washington, D.C., airport on Friday and didn’t make it into town until late. “I played against Adrian my sophomore year. I’ve never seen Brandon play, and I’ve seen Devin play at AAU. I think it’s going to be really fun for us to get together and start to see how we’re going to be next year.”
The connection between the teammates could also help keep the game from becoming an NBA-style all-star game, where defense is about as prevalent as fastballs and face-offs.
“I’m not going to let it be easy for my opponent to score,” said Watkins. “But it’s really just about having fun and enjoying yourself. We’ll make sure we get the win. Defense wins games, and we’re expecting to win it.”
“We’ll have fun with it, but we’ll take it seriously at the same time,” Adrian agreed.
Macon, who was originally supposed to join the Mountaineers this year, before deciding to first go to prep school, has some extra incentive to perform at his best. He’s scheduled for surgery on Tuesday and won’t play on the AAU circuit this summer. His next competitive game will be as a Mountaineer, meaning today’s game will be the last of his high school career.
“For my last game, I want to have fun with it and play well,” he said. “I play with a lot of energy, and I get a lot of dunks and big plays. I like to run the floor and play a fast-paced game.”
That’s what Huggins — as well as his supporters — are looking to see.
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The four signees may not be the only future Mountaineers on the Little General roster. Donté Grantham was reportedly offered a scholarship from the WVU staff last week, and many expect him to soon give his commitment to Huggins and his staff. Chase Connor, the all-time scoring leader in Shady Spring High School history, is also hoping to be offered a walk-on spot with the Mountaineers.
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The 24th edition of the Scott Brown Memorial Classic will begin at 4 p.m. when the Jan-Care Class AA All-Stars take on the C. Adam Toney Class A All-Stars.
Following that first game, there will be a 3-point contest. And if Friday’s qualifier was any indication, it should be an entertaining shootout. Taking 25 shots — five on each of five different racks around the key — Grantham and Mikey Newsome made 18 each. Connor (17), Ryan Meadows (16), Q.J. Peterson (16) and Tyler Sprouse (14) were the other two qualifiers. The six will be whittled down to two finalists in today’s competition, and a final round will crown a champion.
A dunk contest will follow the 3-point contest, and players will be given 30 seconds each to impress the crowd with as many dunks as possible during that time frame.
The national game will follow the dunk contest and cap off the evening.
— E-mail: chuffman@
register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH