In Paden City, the boys' varsity basketball team is setting out to make some changes for the 2012-13 season.
"We're out to change the culture of the game here and the way we play it," said head coach of the team, Fred King. "We're going to bring more physicality and more aggression at both ends of the court, offensively and defensively. We want to dictate the tempo of every game, not have it dictated to us, as we have allowed to happen in the past."
The Wildcats will field a roster of 10 this season, one senior, five sophomores, and four freshmen, losing only three to graduation from last year's team in Jamie Billiter, Geoffrey Bidwell, and Trey Leonard.
Though the roster seems youth laden, the members of this team have already had more real game experience than the majority of juniors in West Virginia. "We're not going to say that we're young," King said. "Age wise we may be youthful, but our sophomores already have varsity experience in game situations and we're counting that as a plus. We're not counting our youth as a weakness. Instead, we're counting the experience we've gained, a strength."
The lone senior on the team, Drew Bidwell, (5' 9", 160 lbs.), returns to lead the Green and White, a stronger, more developed player. "Drew is more assertive this year," the coach said. "He's bigger and stronger and more focused on his responsibilities on the court and in the point guard position. He's going to create the big plays for us this year."
All five sophomores return to the team with quality varsity time under their belts: Zach Heasley, (6' 3", 210 lbs.); Brandon Cross, (6', 175 lbs.); Craig Allen, (6', 160 lbs.); Kennedy Cain, (6' 5", 165 lbs.); and Kane Pyles, (5' 10", 170 lbs.).
"These guys are all more developed than they were last year," King said. "Kennedy was our leading scorer and is obviously stronger than he was last year, especially defensively. We'll still be using him as an offensive threat, but he's worked on his defense and it shows."
"Brandon Cross will also bring a lot to our team offensively. He's a very coachable kid and can work his way to the basket. Zach Heasley will be our inside threat. He'll be going up against the big guys in the middle, but he's also versatile and confident enough to step outside and shoot the long ball. Craig Allen is more physical this year and will give us a lot of help in several areas. He's consistent, and dependable."
"Kane Pyles came off the bench consistently for us last year and brings a contagious energy to the court that we're counting on him to do again this year."
The four freshmen joining the team this season will also see their fair share of varsity time on the courts of the Ohio Valley and will likely come off the bench to contribute: Deven Price, (5' 8", 145 lbs.); Luke Cooper, (6' 2", 205 lbs.); Logan Carroll, (6' 1", 165 lbs.); and Andrew Dennis, (5' 4", 125 lbs.).
"This is also a good, hard working group of kids," said the coach. "They're going to see some quality playing time in game situations, which will not only be an asset to the team this year, but in the future as well."
King and Assistant Coach Jeff Bowers have a solid core of young men that all got good exposure at the varsity level last year as well as a group of freshmen willing to learn and get to work.
Because of that, there seems to be a sense of urgency about the team here at the beginning of the season. "We need to show that we're going to be good right off the bat, right now," King said. "We want to be a threat both offensively and defensively and prove ourselves from the beginning. We're excited to get the season started."
The Wildcats will begin their season on Dec. 4 at Hundred and will participate in their first tournament on Dec. 7 in their own Bob and Sharon Burton Christmas Classic Tournament.