Dave Morrison

Now that we have a start date of March 5 for games, it’s time to look at some of the areas top returning talent in boys basketball.

Ben Gilliam, Woodrow Wilson

Last season Woodrow Wilson coach Ron Kidd called Gilliam the second-best big man in the state. Assuming he meant Chapmanville’s Marshall-bound Obinna Anochili-Killen was No. 1, Gilliam stands ready to take the mantle. Last season the big redhead averaged a double-double – 15.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Gilliam scored in double figures in 22 of 25 games, including 15 straight to end the season. He topped 20 six times, and had a season-high 25 twice, vs. George Washington and vs. Princeton in the sectional championship game. He’s hard to contain going to the rim and either extended possessions or scored with 103 offensive boards. Gilliam is 455 points from 1,000 for his career.

Braden Chapman, Shady Spring

On a team with two first-team all-staters in Tommy Williams and Luke LeRose, and was the top-ranked team in AA for several weeks, the freshman more than held his own. He averaged 15.2 points per game and had 17 double figure games. On an outstanding 3-point shooting team he had 45 treys. He had a career-best 28 points vs Robert C. Byrd in only his second varsity game and he shot 78.1 percent from the free throw line (57-73). 

3 AJ Williams, Liberty

Liberty’s AJ Williams

Williams missed half the season with a broken arm suffered vs. Wyoming East but returned to play in the sectional play-in game against, ironically, Wyoming East. When Williams was healthy he was a scoring machine. He scored in double figures in 11 of his 12 games (he had 9 in the other) and averaged 17.4 points per game. He can get up the rim and score or can hit the long ball He had 35 3s (hitting 5 in three different games) and he scored over 20 five times.

Ethan Blackburn, Westside

The rising senior returns as the leading scorer on a team that won the sectional and was set to host Shady in the regional when the season was halted by the coronavirus. He possesses the ability to get to the rim or score from outside. Blackburn averaged 14.9 points and had 40 3s. He had 17 double figure games including a season high 25 in the season opener vs. Princeton and in the section championship vs. Independence, which turned out to be the final game of the season. He had six 20-plus point games. 

Shady’s Cole Chapman and Westside’s Daniel Reed

5 Cole Chapman, Shady Spring

Same as his twin brother Braden, Cole Chapman more than held his own on a loaded squad. He averaged 10.5 ppg and he had just under half his points on his 40 3-pointers. Cole had 10 double figure games, including a career-high 24 (and six 3s) against PIkeView. He also shot 79.2 percent (38-48) from the free throw line.

6 Ethan Parsons, Princeton

Parsons, an all-state receiver in football, led Princeton in scoring last winter at 17.3 ppg. The Randy Moss-award winner as the state’s top receiver, had a career-high 30 points against Mercer County rival Bluefield. Five other times he topped 20. At 6-foot-4 Parsons can score inside but also has the ability to score from the outside with 21 3s.

He recently signed to play football at Marshall.

7 Kaiden Pack, Greenbrier West

Pack has been a two-year starter and three-year contributor on a team that has won 53 games. He has 694 points and 98 3s in 60 career games. Last season Pack, QB on the football team that has 19 wins in the last two years, averaged 18.5 points with 56 3s. He scored in double figures 22 times (35 in his career), with a career-high 31 against Montcalm on Jan. 3. 

8 Kaden Smallwood, GBC

The current junior was one of four double figure scorers on a team that had qualified for the state tournament, which was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. He is also the only one back from that 19-4 team. Smallwood averaged 10.2 ppg for the season, and drained 23 3s. He had 13 double figure games including 8 of 9 during a streak that saw the Crusaders real off 8 straight wins. He had a career high 21 in a MLK Classic victory against Webster County.

Indy’s Michael McKinney

9 Michael McKinney, Independence

In his first season of high school basketball, McKinney was huge, averaging 19.5 points per game for one of the areas highest scoring teams. He is the areas leading scorer returning this season. McKinney, a North Carolina State baseball commit, had four games of 30 or more and was the only player in the area with back-to-back 30 games when he had 32 against Van Feb. 18 and 30 against Liberty Feb. 20. Seven other times he had 20 plus. McKinney also had 45 3s and shot 75.5 percent from the free throw line (37 of 49).

10 Jacob Perdue, Oak Hill

On a team that made its bones making the 3 – 216 of them in fact – Perdue certainly held his own. He was one of the best in the area with 63, trailing graduated teammate Hunter Rinehart who had 68. Perdue scored 69.4 percent of his points beyond the arc, and finished his sophomore season averaging 12.4 points per game. Oak Hill is one of two AA schools moving up two classes, moving to AAAA this season. He had 14 double figure games, fine over 20 and a career best 26 against AA Region 3, Section 1 rivals Liberty and Westside. 

JM’s Shad Savage

11 Shad Sauvage, James Monroe

Another prolific 3 shooter, Sauvage has 131 3s in his two years, covering 45 games. He already has 726 career points with two seasons remaining.  Last season Sauvage averaged 17.5 ppg with 67 3s. Unlike many shooters Sauvage hasn’t had a hard time getting to the foul line, hitting 70 of 93 (75.3 percent) last season. He is a 73.3-percent free throw shooter (126-172). He scored in double figures in 22 of 23 games, seven with 20 or more. He has 39 games with double figures, 13 with 20+ and had a career high 31 as a freshman vs. River View.

12 Daniel Reed, Westside

Reed had a solid year for the Renegades. Not flashy Reed ran the show and did the things he needed to do, whether running the floor, playing defense or even rebounding. He finished the season averaging 12.1 points, with 18 double figure games, including seven straight to end the season. He had a season high 22 against Wyoming East at the New River CTC at the Armory, and had 20 in a section title win vs. Independence, which ended up being the final game of the season. Reed shot 72.8 percent from the foul line and had 18 3s

Wyoming East’s Tanner Whitten

13 Tanner Whitten, Wyoming East

Whitten showed his mettle in the season opener when he scored 19 in his first start, against Bluefield. At Brushfork. After several upperclassmen left the team midseason he took over the scoring duties, with a career best 31 against Liberty. He followed with 19 and 18 but was hurt in the next game against Liberty and missed the final seven games. He averaged 11.4 ppg had 24 3s and made 21 of 34 free throws. 

14 Bailee Coles, Greenbrier East

Never received any stats from the Greenbrier East team but opposing coaches have said Coles is the focal point when trying to stop East.

15 Jace Colucci, Woodrow Wilson

Colucci had a solid three year career at Westside where he appeared in 57 games, scored 409 points and had 17 double figure games. He had a career best 22 against Mingo Central and had double figures in both of Westside’s postseason games last season. He averaged 9.2 points and 7.2 rebounds as a junior. He will be counted on for that workmanlike-type performance for the Flying Eagles

16 Maddex McMillen, Woodrow Wilson

As a sophomore last winter McMillen was one of two players to start all 25 games for Woodrow and he logged the second most minutes of action. And he was solid averaging 8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists, shooting 42.6 percent from the field (75 of 176), 40 percent from 3 (22-55) and 73.6 from the free throw line (39 of 53). McMillen was a record-setting QB on the football team this past fall. 

17 Kobey Taylor-Williams, PikeView

A three- year starter, Taylor-Williams was the team’s leading scorer last year, averaging 14.1 ppg. He had 16 double-figure games and four of those were 20-plus, including 28-point effort against Westside. In three other games he had 19 points. He also had 35 3s on the season. In his 3-year career Taylor Williams is averaging 12 ppg with 93 3s, averaged 65.5 percent from the free throw line (114-174) and he is 243 points from 1,000 career 

18 Eli Allen, James Monroe

Allen missed the first nine games of his career with an injury but the freshman wasted no time making up for it, averaging 12.5 points per game. He scored in double figures in 10 of his 14 games, including a career-best 22 points against PikeView, when he had four 3s. Allen had 22 3s on the season and made 68 percent of his free throw attempts (17 of 25). He is considered an outstanding passer – averaging a team-best 4.9 assists – and averaged 4.5 rebounds. He is now 6-2 and growing. 

19 Ayden Lesher, Midland Trail

After opening with a 33-point effort against Clay County, only a concussion could stop Lesher. He missed the next two games but returned to score in double figures in 18 of the final 20 games and tallied over 20 fives times. Lesher averaged a team-beat 16.6 points, hit 66 percent of his free throws and hit 29 3 pointers.

20 Evan Colucci, Westside

Colucci had the season’s biggest shot when he drained a buzzer-beating 3 to beat Oak Hill 56-53. The junior averaged 10.3 ppg and had 23 3s. He scored double figures in half of Westside’s 24 games. Colucci followed that Oak Hill game with a career-best 23 against Mingo Central. The concluded that torrid 3-game stretch with 18 points be a career high five 3 pointers. He was also the team’s best free throw shooter making 77 percent from the line (49 of 

21 William Gabbert, Greenbrier East

Gabbert transferred into East after averaging 8.0 ppg and 4.1 rebounds at George Washington. His father Trent is originally from the Anderson area and attended East in the 90s.

Gabbert shot 50 percent from 3 (25 of 50)  and 56.3 from the field 45-80). He was also a 76.9 percent free throw shooter. 

22 Indy Eades, Midland Trail

A golf signee at West Virginia Wesleyan, Eades averaged 13.1 points per game for Trail, including 17 games in double figures. He had a career best 28 early in the season against Richwood, when he tallied 10 or more in 10 of 12 games. He finished the season with seven straight double figure games. Eades had 29 3s for the Patriots and shot 62 percent from the foul line. Eades is averaging 8.9 points fir his career and has 65 3s.

23 Zack Bolen, Independence

Bolen quietly put together a solid season for the Patriots, highlighted by a 31-point effort against River View Jan. 17. Bolen averaged 11.3 points per game and had 13 double figure games, his 31-point effort closing out a string of five double figure games over a six-game stretch. The rising senior had 16 in a sectional victory against Oak Hill.

24 Chase Boggs, Greenbrier West

Boggs quietly put together a solid season, and averaged 13.6 points including two games of 25 points – against Pocahontas County Jan. 10 and Meadow Bridge on Feb. 26. Had career-best five 3s in those two games. Had 14 double-figure games including four straight to end the season. Also had 35 3s despite missing four games.

25 DJ Coomes, NIcholas County

Coomes led the Grizzlies in scoring by averaging 13.8 points per game. He had 23 3s but really made his name by getting to the rim, and as a result made 160 trips to the free throw line and made 100 free throws (62.5 percent). He scored in double figures 18 times, including 14 straight to start the season. He had four 20-plus games including a career-high 25 against Herbert Hoover. He averaged 4.0 rebounds per game.

26 Adam Drennen, Liberty

Drennen, the Raiders resident big man, was a consistent force all season for the Raiders, scoring in double figures in 17 of 20 regular season games (he missed one game), including the first eight games of the season. He had a career-best 20 in the season finale against Oak Hill. Drennen finished with a 12.4 average and shot 46 percent from the floor (98 of 213). He also averaged 7.6 rebounds.

27 Tony Bailey, Mount View

Bailey had 13 double figure games including all three of the Knights sectional games, where the Knights won their way to the championship game before falling to Greater Beckley 56-46. Bailey averaged 11.5 points per game. He had three games of 22 point or more on a torrid four-game stretch in late January, early February. He had 22 against AA power Bluefield and a career-high 24 against River View. 

28 Braden Howell, Liberty

 After a slow start out of the date Howell was jump started with a 23 point effort against Van. He scored in double figures in 10 of the next 13, including a season-high 30-point effort against Midland Trail Feb. 18. Howell had 26 3s and the captain of the second team all-state defensive team this past fall filled up the stat sheet averaging 6.4 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.7 steals. 

29 Rylee NIcholas, NIcholas County

It was a tough season for Nicholas Vounty but the aptly named Rylee Nicholas certainly had a nice season averaging a  13.3 ppg, the second best in the team. He also led the team in rebounding at 6.8 per game and 3s with 31. The baseball prospect scored in double figures 16 times, eight straight to start the season. He had a career-high 24 against Calhoun County in the IOGA tournament. 

30 Chandler Johnson, Wyoming East

Johnson is another young Wyoming East forced into action with the mid-season departure of several seniors who quit the team. He averaged 4.9 points but was active on the boards, and got the the foul line 43 times where he shot 67.4 percent. He had a career high 13 points against Oak Hill.

31 Garrett Mitchell, Wyoming East 

Another player who got to play after the departure of several upperclassmen, Mitchell averaged 5.9 points per game and had a career best 14 against Liberty. In 14 games he had 18 3s and shot 78.1 percent from the free throw line (25 of 32). Mitchell scored in double figures in both of Wyoming East’s sectional games. 

32 Todd Duncan, Shady Spring

One of the area’s top shooters, Duncan, the Class AA state golf champion didn’t get much of a chance on a senior-laden team last season but will have a chance at a breakout season. The champion shot maker on the links showed off his long-range shooting ability on the court last year in JV action, and was consistent from 25 feet in and was not afraid to pull.

33 Jordan McGinnis, Greater Beckley

McGinnis sat out a year ago after moving over from Woodrow Wilson but the sky is the limit for the junior.

New Crusaders coach Justin Arvon said the big man is as good outside as he is inside.

The 6-foot-9, 215-pound junior is a consistent shooter and finisher around the rim, is also a good ball-handler. He uses his size on defense as a shot blocker and shot alterer. 

McGinnis plays for Team Crucial AAU. 

34 Keynan Cook, Woodrow Wilson

Not only has the junior’s game grown, so has Cook, shooting up to 6-4 from the 5-11 at which he entered Woodrow Wilson as a freshman.

He didn’t play major minutes as a sophomore, averaging eight minutes a game, but he appeared in all but two early season games.

Cook averaged 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds but had a game-high 12 points in a game against rival Greenbrier East. He also was 13 of 16 at the free throw line for the season.

He will move into a more prominent role this season and could well be a starter.

35 Cam Thomas, James Monroe

The 6-4 junior had a breakout season in 2020 averaging 11.6 points per game, and leading the team in rebounding (7.9 per game) and 1.7 blocks per game.

He really found his game over the second half of the season, scoring in double figures in his final 10 games, including a season-high 20 against Nicholas County to start the run. He has just six double figure games in the first 12 games.

He was also goods on the defensive end with 37 blocked shots and 45 deflections