Excitement is in the air in Paden City, where the beloved Wildcats will take to the hardwood with seven basketball players ready to give it their all.
"We may be small in numbers, but we have eight players that truly want to play," said veteran Head Coach Fred King.
The Wildcats return four starters from last season's 11-11 campaign, when the team also took the runner-up slot in the H.I.T. for the second year in a row. The 'Cats' 2013-14 schedule will only prepare them for bigger and better things down the road.
Returning from last season are 6'6" junior forwards Kennedy Cain and 6'5" Zach Heasley to go along with 6'5" sophomore center Luke Cooper and 6' junior guard Craig Allen. That will make Paden City one of the taller Class-A teams in the state.
The Wildcats will use 5'8" freshman Hayden Hizer on the point and will bring in 5'8" sophomore Devin Price, who should be the first one off the bench.
Meanwhile, 5'7" freshmen Aaron Heasley and 5'8" Evan Shreve will fill in where needed.
The Wildcat faithful can only hope that Cain can top last year's campaign with an average of 16 points and eight boards per game. Heasley can improve on his 13 markers and six rebounds a game. Both guys can shoot the rock from outside as well as lighting it up from the inside.
Other teams will find it difficult to match two big guys out front. And it will be extremely difficult to reckon with a third big man, Cooper, who can shoot, jump, and run the break.
However, the addition of Allen into the starting lineup will keep the better teams on their toes. This junior can light it up inside, as well as take it to the hole to keep the load off the big three of Cain, Heasley, and Cooper.
But, with every good team you need a conductor who can make the team gel and take charge on the court. For the 'Cats, that guy is Hizer. He is only a freshman, but plays like he's a junior. He can handle the rock as well as anybody the Wildcats have had for many a year. And, he can shoot the ball as well as anyone on the team.
If there is a weakness on this year's squad, it's probably the lack of a deep bench. However, when it comes down to it, they have the 'Price is Right" Devin Price. He saw some action last season and will be the team's most used player off the bench.
Price is quick, can handle the ball, and put it in the basket. The youngest Heasley, Aaron, is only a freshman, but this kid is a shooter. As a lefty, he can set the nets on fire while Shreve is learning the ropes. He also has shown he is a quick learner and knows he must get a lot better for his team when called upon.
Coach King has upgraded his schedule with the addition of Magnolia, Wheeling Central, River, and Belpre to the list that also includes St. John, Beallsville, Williamstown, Bishop Donahue, and county rivals Hundred and Valley to go along with a tournament in Marietta.
"I wanted to upgrade the schedule because I feel the kids deserve it and have earned it," said King. "And you are only going to get better by jumping in with the big dogs. If these kids play better teams and go out on the floor every night believing that they are going to win, then good things are going to happen, no mater who we play. I feel like they have earned, and deserve, respect," added King.
"Our goals are to get to the OVAC tournament and do well in the sectional and, hopefully, the regional. At the same time we know that Class-A in the conference is absolutely loaded. We have one of the toughest sectional and regional draws in the state. But, those are our goals, and we will do our best to make that happen."
Helping King will be Jeff Bowers, who has been there for school athletics for 27 seasons.