PRUNTYTOWN—24 players will be on the sidelines this season for TCMS head boys’ basketball coach Jonathan Curran, who is entering his second year at the helm of the program.
Curran, a former WVU walk-on who played under former greats Gale Catlett and John Beilein, leaned heavily on his group of seventh graders last season and will again look to those players as eighth graders to shoulder most of the workload.
“All of my eighth graders fight and compete,” said Curran. “We have six kids that can all start, and we are deep enough that all of them will get in the game and get significant minutes.”
Those six eighth graders that will be relied upon to improve on last year’s win total will be Harrison Maier, Isaiah Vanscoy, Dustin Keener, Mason Dunham, Jacob Maier, and Isaac Lough.
Curran was asked what each one brings to the table for his program and to elaborate on any other players that fans may need to keep an eye on this season.
“Harrison is very fundamentally sound. I look for him to translate his skills into the game and break out of his shell and be a big contributor. Isaiah doesn’t quit. He plays hard every possession and we’ll look for him to set the tone defensively, especially when we pressure the basketball. Dustin is the coach on the floor and understands what we are trying to do. He makes the right play every time down the court. Mason could have a huge year because of his versatility. He has great size, can shoot, and has been hustling and playing great defense so far in practice. Jacob was a huge contributor last year. He understands offensive sets and knows how to get himself and others open to get good shots. And Isaac really matured physically since last year but still kept his ability to handle the ball.”
Curran also mentioned two other players that he calls “diamonds in the rough” who could also have a huge impact on the upcoming season.
“Kenny Humphries is a hard-nosed player and not going to stop. He does what we tell him to do and we look for him to really contribute this season.”
Curran also added that seventh grader McCray Blackwell has caught his eye this preseason because of characteristics that successful basketball players generally possess.
“McCray’s length and athleticism could get him on the floor this season,” stated Curran. “He could be a defensive guy that we use to pressure some opposing players and make them uncomfortable.”
Assisting Curran again this season will be Bartsel Keener, who will be overseeing the middle school’s JV program for the second straight season as well.
“Bart and I have been on the same page since Day 1,” Curran said. “We get along great. He’s very “by the book and “matter of fact.” He’s a huge asset to our program and I couldn’t do this without him. When there is a JV game, I’ll help him out and let him know what I think about certain things, but he runs the show. And during the varsity game, he does the same for me.”
In addition to his players’ overall performance on the court, Curran said he is just as worried about their overall performance in the classroom as well.
“You have to have a 2.0 GPA to play basketball but we stress maintaining a 2.5,” Curran added. “If a player’s grade drops below that, then we start monitoring it. We understand that academics are very important.”
The Knights look to begin their season with a home scrimmage versus Doddridge County Middle School on December 2nd at 6:00pm, before opening their regular season on December 5th against East Fairmont Middle School on the road for a 5:45 tipoff.
They will also play in a holiday tournament again at Mountaineer Middle School (Clarksburg) on December 6th and 7th, opening up against Robert L. Bland on the 6th at 7:30pm.
“We told our guys last year that our job is to teach the basics and prepare them for high school basketball,” Curran went on to say. “With the camaraderie these kids have, they can be a very dangerous group and will be exciting to watch as well.”