Following a near one-year layoff from games, high school basketball teams across West Virginia will be looking to shake off the rust when regular season play returns this week.
Just how many kinks teams have to work through will likely go a long way toward deciding success rates in the early going.
For George Washington’s boys basketball program, however, it is expected there will be fewer issues than what most teams face with the return of a standout senior backcourt in Mason Pinkett and Alex Yoakum.
Pinkett was a Class AAA first-team all-state selection a season ago after averaging 17.3 points, while Yoakum earned honorable mention honors with a 10.6 scoring average.
“We’ll be led by our two senior guards — Alex Yoakum and Mason Pinkett, who I think personally he’s a candidate for player of the year,” GW coach Rick Greene said. “If you have senior guards and you have less prep time, hopefully that can close a lot of the gap on weaknessess that come from not having prep time.”
With a strong core returning from a team that finished 19-5 and was the No. 3 seed at the state tournament prior to the stoppage of last season, there’s plenty of reason for Greene to be optimistic.
“I’m really happy with this team. I really like this team,” Greene said. “These kids have been with me for a long time and played a lot, so we have high expectations to be competitive.”
Although talented forward William Gabbert is now at Greenbrier East, Greene has high hopes for 6-foot-6 sophomore Ben Nicol, who made a strong impression as a freshman.
“We’ll have a sophomore who’s really good in Ben Nicol. He started last year,” Greene said.
With a 62-13 record and state tournament berths each of the last three seasons, including a state championship in 2018, Greene’s group has become accustomed to winning.
The Patriots hope to prolong their winning ways starting with Friday’s season opener against Winfield. Soon after, they’ll begin a daunting Mountain State Athletic Conference schedule, with the likes of Cabell Midland, Huntington, South Charleston, Capital and St. Albans also carrying high expectations.
“I’ve always felt like if you’re competitive in this conference and you can be runner-up or win the conference, then you can beat anybody in the state,” Greene said. “I think that holds true. I think the conference is a great measuring stick for everybody to see what’s going to happen potentially in the state tournament.
“Except, we eliminate over half ourselves because they won’t seed us. I had to get it in.”