Area college basketball teams in transition as season draws near
WVU Tech's basketball program is in no danger of being discontinued, and could thrive.
Coach Bob Williams returns for his 10th season and a lot of familiar names dot the Golden Bears' roster. And being an NAIA school, this area team hits the hardwood first, taking on Ohio Valley at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Baisi Center.
The game counts as an exhibition for the Fighting Scots, but Williams gets his first chance to see what he expects to be one of his better teams.
"We have seven seniors, so we're a little more experienced," Williams said Thursday. "Our basketball IQ is better, our point guard play will be better. I think we'll be better defensively."
Leading the band of seniors is 6-foot-8 Josh Proctor, who averaged 15.3 points and 9.5 rebounds. An honorable mention All-American, he played this summer on a select team of Division II and NAIA players which toured Europe.
Also back is Donald Robinson (14.4 points per game) and Rahshon Tabb (12 points, 3.0 assists), as well as Nigerian Doma Ibrahim and Herbert Hoover product Josh Stricker. David Rawlinson, a 5-11 junior-college import from Las Vegas, figures to be a major factor.
Also joining the fray is senior Eddie Hayden, a Weirton native who is transferring after three years at Coppin State. Ben Shannon, another Hoover grad, is on the verge of returning from a knee injury in which he "blew everything out." He scored 33 points in two games before his injury.
University of Charleston coach Mark Downey said it hasn't been a problem getting five Division I transfers to unite with his returning talent. He has three transfers from Marshall, alone - Xavier Humphrey, Noah Fischer and the big prize, Eladio Espinosa.
Espinosa is practicing while he awaits NCAA clearance to play, as his career at MU was ended on medical grounds. Also on board is former Radford shooter Evan Faulkner and P.J. Reyes, a 6-5 guard who played a semester at South Alabama after arriving from junior college.
Downey said his returning players not only welcomed the transfers, they helped recruit them. The other part of the smooth transition comes from the transfers themselves.
"A lot of people think when you get transfers, you get a lot of problems," he said. "Eladio transferred in over 100 hours with a good GPA. Noah Fischer has a great GPA, and Faulkner made the Big South All-Academic team. ... It's been pretty easy for them to mesh."
Also making his UC debut will be 6-2 sharpshooter Hayden Arnett, the Australian sidelined last year by the NCAA.
Bryan Poore knew he'd have to retool the Yellow Jackets after five of the top six scorers departed, but he didn't know the injury bug would bite so hard.
The Jackets won't have their leading returning scorer, wingman Corey Bethea (8.7 points per game), until Dec. 19. Bethea has just one semester of eligibility remaining.
At least he'll play. Junior guard Juan Johnson blew out his knee and is gone for the season, and his junior-college teammate, Brandon Ross, is out indefinitely with a sprained foot. Robbie Lewis, a 6-6 returning inside player, may have a slight tear in his meniscus.
"That right there is definitely four of our top five players," Poore said.
The Jackets may have to take a step back from their usual methods of mayhem. "It takes nine or 10 good, healthy bodies to press and run. Right now, we don't have that," Poore said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.