ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- Lina Villanueva was glad to see Gary Greene back on the sidelines Wednesday.
"It builds my confidence,'' said the South Charleston junior-to-be guard during a break at the St. Albans High School Summer Shootout. "It's easier to play for him than anybody else.''
Greene took a leave of absence from the Black Eagles last year as his wife dealt with blood cancer. Greene guided SC to Class AAA state runner-up finishes in 2010 and 2011 and a quarterfinals appearance as the No. 2 seed in 2012.
"My wife's doing a lot better now,'' said Greene. "She had a stem cell transplant in Morgantown and they're optimistic about the long-term prognosis. We sat down and talked about it and we'll see what happens. I wasn't ready to get out and retire yet.''
Greene said Wednesday was a nice change of pace.
"I had fun,'' he said. "I don't know how to explain. It's something I've missed, but I really haven't been concentrating on missing it because there've been other more important things. The kids are taking the stress out of some of the things we've been fighting.''
SC returns four starters in Villanueva, who averaged a team-high 11.6 points, guard Taliah Cashwell, who turned in 9.9 points per game as a freshman, guard Alexia Wade and post Aryaunna Mosley. The Black Eagles finished 11-12 last season. SC also has four sophomores and five freshmen, so the three-week practice period, which concludes Saturday, has been important for Greene.
"They got on the floor as a unit and we got to see the top 10 or 11 kids in the program,'' said the SC coach. "They're fun to be around, but they work hard. It seems like everybody, parents included, is on the same page. They've got a big upside.''
Greene said he is optimistic about the young bunch. Four of the five freshmen led South Charleston to the Kanawha County Middle School championship this past season.
"We had five freshmen on the floor a lot,'' he said. "We're at Page 1. Everything's open in November. We should be in a position to go eight or nine deep.''
Villanueva said she is excited to see what this group can accomplish.
"We're really small, but we're really, really fast,'' she said with a smile. "We're going to surprise a bunch of people. We're already coming together as a team. We joke around a lot. We're more of a family already than a team.''
George Washington coach Jamie LaMaster will have to go to Plan B before the season starts.
Kelli Jo Harrison, a Class AAA third-team all-state selection after averaging 17.1 points and 9.5 rebounds last season, tore her anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee this month playing with her AAU team.