The last few seasons George Washington Coach Rick Greene has produced solid basketball teams that have held their own against Kanawha Valley powers Capital and South Charleston. This year GW might be primed to not only hold their own but, if Greene has it his way, the Patriots will also be holding a state championship trophy at the end of the season.
"We feel like we’ve got a lot of experience right on down the line,’ Greene said.”I think we have a chance to be real good and make a run at the end.”
So far the emergence of senior center Tyquane Goard has got people feeling very optimistic about the school on “The Hill.”
"I just think he’s the best player in the state,’ says Greene who enters his 17th season with a 264-135 record in two stints at GW. “He’s playing inside a lot more than he did last year. He can take a big guy outside off the dribble or post up. I think he’s the most dominant player in the state. He just changes the game."
It’s not as if Goard was under the radar last season, averaging 12.4 points per game and six rebounds, but this season it seems as if he has taken his game to a whole new level averaging 21.3 points per game and clearing twice the number of rebounds as the year before.
"He’s very effective with his jump shot now. He makes us a lot better and we have good people to go along with him,’ said Greene.
Goard, who signed a national letter of intent to play for Ohio University last fall, put in hours of hard work last offseason that has translated into impressive numbers for the big man. He leads the Patriots in points, rebounds, blocks, steals and free throw percentage.
So far this season Goard has helped GW jump out to a 4-1 record and a number two ranking in the state. The Patriots have beaten their opponents by an average margin of victory of 15+ points despite losing to number one ranked Wheeling Park at home on Dec. 30.
"On the bright side, we haven’t been in a lot of those games,’ said Greene after the Patriot’s only loss. "That was our first close one all year. We kind of played poorly in one stretch, but I thought we grew up and tried to get back in it. We’re better for having played it, and I thought we grew up some.”
The most notable victory for GW thus far came on Dec. 15 when they pummeled cross-town rival Capital 74-48. Goard, who attended Capital his freshman year, scored a game-high 19 points against the Cougars, including four rim-rattling dunks.
"We’ve felt that once we get going, we’re ten deep," Greene said. "Of course, it’s got to be the right combination, but we really don’t feel like there’s a drop-off. Obviously, when Tyquane is out there that changes the complexion of things because he’s such a dominant player.”
George Washington also returns a strong supporting cast to compliment their marquee big man. Junior guard Tino DiTrapano has contributed a solid 11.5 points per game while providing the Patriots with a legitimate outside threat when teams choose to sag on Goard. DiTrapano ranked third in the Kanawha Valley last season with 45 3-pointers .
The majority of the ball handling responsibilities will lie in the hands of sophomores Luke Eddy, Ryan Switzer and Darian Williams.
"A lot of our kids can handle the ball," Greene said. "We won’t rely on one person. Once you get it across half-court, we rely on a lot of movement and cutting and screening.”
Six-foot-seven senior Thomas Francke gives Greene and the Patriots another post threat around the rim. Francke has played big in crucial minutes this season while Goard has been sidelined with foul trouble. He is averaging nine points per game.
Even though GW is playing without two key players from a year ago in Shawny Badger and De’Quon Miller, others have stepped up in their absence and seen significant minutes including; Dustin Crouser, Nick Britton, Joe Saunders and Assan Jones.
The Patroits were bumped out in the first round of the state tournament last season by Mountain State Athletic Conference foe South Charleston, so there is sure to be no love lost when the two teams meet on Feb.1 on “The Hill.”
"That was a bitter loss," said Greene, whose team finished 21-5 last year. "It should help motivate us."
If things keep going as planned for Greene, Goard and the gang, look for GW at the Charleston Civic Center come March.