Boys basketball: GW will lean on star guard
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - George Washington has played in the final boys basketball game of the season in each of the past two years.
The Patriots captured the 2011 Class AAA state title, before dropping a one-point decision in the 2012 championship game.
"It's been special," GW Coach Rick Greene said of his team's late-season runs. "It's humbling as a coach to think of how many other coaches, that are much better than I am, that haven't had a run like that. You have to understand that very little of it is coaching and a lot of it is because you have really, really good players.
"There are a lot of good players in this state, but if you watch a really good team, they're always talented and unselfish. That's what's unique about our last two teams and why they were successful."
That's the same attitude that Greene hopes his current group of players adopt as the team looks to return to the State Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive season.
Leading the Patriots will be senior guard Luke Eddy, who returns after earning both first- team All-State and Daily Mail Kanawha Valley Player of the Year honors as a junior.
Eddy, who'll play collegiately at Elon University, led the Patriots to a 21-7 record last season while averaging 15.5 points per game.
"When you have good guards, you can be competitive, especially at the high school level," Greene said. "We feel like with the kids we have, we'll be competitive. To what level we can get to will be interesting to see, but it's going to go through Luke.
"We all understand that and he accepts that. He's not just going to go out and try to get 40 points a night. He's trying to make everybody better and to me, that's the sign of a great player.
"You can have talent and not make anybody else better, but right now he's making everybody on the floor better."
Eddy will need to take on more of a leadership role given the loss of a pair of seniors that were expected to contribute heavily.
The Patriots will be without the services of Dustin Crouser (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and Cole Salmons (6-5, 220) this season after both sustained season-ending injuries on the football field this fall.
Crouser averaged 11.9 points per contest as a junior en route to earning special honorable mention All-State honors.
Those losses also mean more playing time for the Patriots' younger players.
"We were reloading a little bit and we had guys like Dustin, Luke and (senior) Austin Breeden to help take some of the pressure off of our young guys," Greene said. "Now we've got to kind of rebuild a little bit, but when you're starting with who I think (Eddy) is the best guard in the state, it's a great place to start."
Breeden, a starter early in the season a year ago, does return to help Eddy with the leadership role.
"He's seasoned," Greene said of Breeden. "We'll rely on him and Luke for leadership. He does whatever we ask him to do. He's just a team player.
Senior Lucas Mullenax (6-6) will provide size in the post for the Patriots, with juniors Chris Kay (6-2), and Dorian Nixon (6-1) also seeing plenty of playing time.
Sophomore guards Alex Lewis (5-10) and Chance Blaney (5-11) will also contribute.
Greene is also pleased with a handful of talented freshmen in forwards Mark Glines, Cam Hoston and Austin Henrich, along with guard Drew Baker.
"We have a really good group of freshman," Greene said. "Those four have really stood out. How much they'll help at the varsity level remains to be seen, but they have bright futures."
Greene knows that his team isn't as talented as his past two teams, but he still believes there's enough talent to make another postseason run.
"I'm really pleased with them," Greene said. "Their attitudes have been really good and they're working really hard. We don't have the same talent level that we've had the last couple of years, but they're going to close the gap for us to some extent with their attitudes and their work ethic.
"There's not any reason that we can't competitive against anyone we play. Then it's going to come down to making the right plays at the end, being fundamentally sound, and playing smart.
"As for closing people out, that's a whole different level. But I don't see why we can't be really competitive with how hard the kids are working.
"One goal we have is to get back to the tournament again. We're not really looking at it as the first game, the second game, the third game ... we just honestly want to get better and hope that however good we become, it happens at the end of February."