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WVC basketball: Poore expects Ford to be big contributor early on for W.Va. State

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It all happened in a matter of two minutes.

West Virginia State University men's basketball Coach Bryan Poore saw last season flash before his eyes during a preseason scrimmage.

The veteran coach watched freshman point guard Jalen Walker pull his hamstring, and then guard Bo King break his ankle.

So, after a 2011-12 season during which injuries kept the Yellow Jackets finished 14-13 overall and out of the race for the West Virginia Conference regular season championship, he started this season with two more.

"Last year was like the perfect storm," said Poore, whose team opens its season at 7:30 p.m. today in the Conference Challenge at Erie, Pa., against Kutztown. "We had some kids we were really counting on get hurt and had to change our style.

"We adapted to the change fairly well, had a home game in the conference tournament."

Walker, a former Greenbrier East star, isn't expected to miss a lot of time. However, King's ankle - which he broke almost three weeks ago - had a screw put in it last week. Poore said the doctor will look at it again in eight weeks and check the progress.

If King can't play this season, Poore said it'll be up to the NCAA whether or not he can get a medical redshirt. Poore also said that King - whom he dismissed from the team in the spring of 2011 for a violation of team rules - "was really doing a good job of being a leader on the floor" when he was hurt.

Despite the early depletion of the roster, Poore expects to get heavy contributions from returning leading scorer David Ford, who averaged 15.8 points and seven rebounds last season. Another key returnee is senior Howard Douglas III.

He averaged 8.3 points last season.

With Ford and Douglas, and the addition of junior college transfers, Poore said. "we have some versatile guys who can do a lot of different things."

Near the top of that list is junior Raymon Austin, a 6-8, 220-pound forward and former player from Paris (Texas) Junior College. Also, Anton Hutchins, who averaged 14.5 points last year for Cincinnati State, will provide immediate help.

"He's an awfully big, strong athlete," Poore said of Austin. "He's playing pretty well.

"Anton is solid, he can drive and hit the 15-foot pull-up."

Juan Johnson, who missed all of last season because of injuries, and Brandon Ross, will also be relied upon to bring State back to "what we like to do," Poore said.

He also added a pair of freshmen in former Ravenswood standout Ben Pannell and Michigan native Victor Sharpe. Pannell averaged 18 points, 12.1 rebounds and 3.1 assists for the Red Devils last year, while the 5-11 Sharpe averaged 14 points, five assists and three steals for Warren Mott High School.

The Yellow Jackets were seventh in the conference last year, their worst finish since ending the season in 11th place during the 2001-02 season - Poore's third as head coach at State.

"I like our team right now, the pieces we have," Poore said.

State will face Mercyhurst in the Conference Challenge at 3 p.m. Saturday, and then will play two games in the Pickle Classic at Mount Olive (N.C.) Nov. 16-17 and at Seton Hill on Nov. 20.

The Yellow Jackets first home game is Nov. 29 against WVC foe Concord.


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