New kids on the block

The+Appalachian+Online

The Appalachian Online

Lee Sanderlin

Men’s basketball head coach Jim Fox trusts his freshmen players enough to start one and let him take 14 shots, and to let one play down the stretch, giving him the opportunity to score 10 second half points and hit a big 3-pointer to ice the game.

Freshman Ronshad Shabazz and Emarius Logan have their teammates excited. Shabazz came in with high expectations after attending Huntington Prep School in Huntington, West Virginia, the same place where current day NBA players like Andrew Wiggins also played basketball.

Logan, perhaps less touted, has proved in his high school tenure that he deserves the same hype as his teammate after earning South Carolina All-State honors three times at White Knoll High School in Lexington, South Carolina.

But they aren’t the only two capable players in a freshman class that is as deep as it is large.

Tyrell Johnson, a 6-foot-8 forward from Atlanta, Georgia, joins the Mountaineers after averaging 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks per game in high school, something which earned him All-State honors in 2015.

Bennett Holley brings quite the resume from Roanoke, Virginia, where the 6-foot-8, 220 pound forward averaged 14 points and eight rebounds at North Cross School. He was a four-time all-conference player, and earned both conference player of the year and All-State honors in 2014-15.

Frank Eaves, last season’s leading scorer for the Apps, expects a lot out of his younger teammates this season, and knows they’re capable.

“All of them, from Tyrell [Johnson], to E, [Logan Emarius], to [Ronshad] Shabazz to Bennett [Holley], they all bring something different,” Eaves said.

Sophomore big man Griffin Kinney also offered his view on the freshman class, acknowledging that they were ahead of the learning curve when it comes to Fox’s offense.

“I think having the older guys knowing the details of the system, we’ll be able to help teach the younger guys to get it down faster,” Kinney said. “Last season in coaches first year, we were all like freshman, and I know that it took me until about halfway through the season to really start figuring out the offense.”

Ronshad Shabazz is in agreement, having acknowledged that having his teammates has helped him grow used to having an offensive system, something he lacked at Huntington Prep.

“Here, we have an offense and that’s what drew me to here. Over the summer during workouts, I figured it out and was able to figure out where I can attack in the system,” Shabazz said. “At Huntington, we had a lot of all around great players, so we just kind of rolled the balls out and played the game.”

Perhaps the biggest adjustment for all of the freshman will be playing in a system that relies on ball movement and relying on their teammates. Most of these players are used to being the primary ball handler or scoring option on their high school teams.

Although they have to share a ball now, their teammates have no problem sharing it with them as well. If things can remain this way there should be no problem for the Mountaineers moving forward this season.

Story by: Lee Sanderlin, Sports Reporter