They take their basketball very seriously in Logan. It’s a place steeped in great basketball tradition. The Wildcats have won six state championships including the 2010 crown won by defeating Wheeling Park 63-48.
It’s their first state championship in nearly 20 years and Logan has one of the best teams in the state again this season. However, the Wildcats are missing one very important piece of last year’s puzzle. West Virginia player of the year Noah Cottrill is now in Morgantown, attending West Virginia University.
“We think we are a good team, maybe not as explosive as last year’s team, but we do think we are a good team, maybe a little bit better under the basket and maybe a little bit better defensively than we were this time last year,” said head coach Mark Hatcher. “We hope we can get back to Charleston and I think if we get back to Charleston anything can happen.”
Cottrill averaged nearly 30 points per game (29.2 to be exact) for Logan last year and that is point production that can’t be replaced.
“He brought so much to the other guys in practice and games,” said Hatcher. “They knew they had a guy out there who had played against major competition and was very talented and they could rely on him to get the ball down the floor and make good decisions most of the time. Noah came through with 30 points a game pretty much every game, and that’s nice to know that you had that, but I think his passing and his leadership last year were so strong. Our chemistry was the number one reason we were so good last year. He just made the whole thing click.”
While the Wildcats won’t likely be scoring at the clip they were last year—they were averaging 95 points per game at one point in the season—they can still put the ball in the basket thanks to two seniors who are among the best in the state.
Paul Herbert Williamson and Deyonta Coleman return this season, bringing stability and leadership to go along with some good, old fashioned scoring.
“I’m putting a lot on those two guys. How we do, and how we finish, I think will be determined by those two guys right there,” Hatcher said of the duo that will take over the role as the ‘go-to-guys’, “[Williamson] has taken it upon himself and we’ve put a lot on his shoulders this year and now it’s not going to be Noah getting the ball in the final 13 to 15 seconds to make something happen, it’s going to be Paul Herbert Williamson and Deyonta Coleman. Those two guys work well together, they’ve played together for a long time, very close friends, and they’re my two best players. I think they’re two of the top ten or so players in the state.”
Both Williamson and Coleman should be all-state candidates by the end of the season, but they won’t have to do it alone. Fellow senior Gary Miller also returns as a presence in the paint, “He’s a lot more at ease in the system. Put on a little more muscle and weight.”
He’s going to need the muscle as the Wildcats take on a whole slew of heavyweights this season. Hatcher has a philosophy of playing a tough schedule and this season is no different. Logan has played three high-caliber teams at a tournament in South Carolina, losing all three. But Hatcher says it’s not the wins and losses that are important—it’s the experience.
“Ever since we got back to [Class AAA] I felt the best way to prepare us for tournament time was to play some of these out of state teams,” said Hatcher. “It’s a challenging thing, it’s something I like to do to challenge myself and my team, and our community likes the fact that we play strong schedules. In basketball everybody gets to go to the playoffs, so why not play a strong schedule?”
Hatcher says it’s also about state pride, “When we go play these teams out of state we’re not just playing them for Logan or for our school, or ourselves, we’re playing them to represent our state. Most states look at our basketball and our sports in general as not that strong, so when we have a chance to go out and beat teams it makes our state look a little better.”
It also builds character for his tem and provides exposure outside of the state for players who would like to play basketball after high school.
But, in the end, what matters most is what happens in the state in late February. That’s when the playoffs begin and Logan tries to repeat as state champions. However, Hatcher’s not worried about a repeat, so to speak.
“We’re not trying to repeat,” said Hatcher. “We don’t have the same team we had last year. We’re not the same guys. We’re not trying to repeat anything. We’re just trying to get ourselves good again and be prepared and face as many different quality opponents as we can to learn and get better.”