Now that we have a start date (Feb. 15 for practice and March 5 for games), it’s time to look at some of the state’s top talent.
I’ll begin with 12 of the top area players to keep an eye on from what is generally considered the former Region 3 area in southern West Virginia.
1 Ben GilliamBenGilliam6'5" | CWoodrow Wilson | 2021StateWV
, Woodrow Wilson, 6-5, Sr.
Last season Woodrow Wilson coach Ron Kidd called Gilliam the second-best big man in the state. Assuming he meant Chapmanville’s Marshall-bound Obinna Anochili-Killen was No. 1, Gilliam stands ready to take the mantle. Last season the big redhead averaged a double-double - 15.7 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. Gilliam scored in double figures in 22 of 25 games, including 15 straight to end the season. He topped 20 six times, and had a season-high 25 twice, vs. George Washington and vs. Princeton in the sectional championship game. He’s hard to contain going to the rim and either extended possessions or scored with 103 offensive boards. Gilliam is 455 points from 1,000 for his career.
2 Braden ChapmanBradenChapman6'0" | SGShady Spring | 2023StateWV
, Shady Spring, 5-11. So.
On a team with two first-team all-staters in Tommy Williams and Luke LeRose, and was the top-ranked team in AA for several weeks, the freshman more than held his own. He averaged 15.2 points per game and had 17 double figure games. On an outstanding 3-point shooting team he had 45 treys. He had a career-best 28 points vs Robert C. Byrd in only his second varsity game and he shot 78.1 percent from the free throw line (57-73).
3 A.J. Williams, Liberty, 6-2, Jr.
Williams missed half the season with a broken arm suffered vs. Wyoming East but returned to play in the sectional play-in game against, ironically, Wyoming East. When Williams was healthy he was a scoring machine. He scored in double figures in 11 of his 12 games (he had 9 in the other) and averaged 17.4 points per game. He can get up the rim and score or can hit the long ball He had 35 3s (hitting 5 in three different games) and he scored over 20 five times.
4 Ethan Blackburn, Westside, 6-1, Sr.
The rising senior returns as the leading scorer on a team that won the sectional and was set to host Shady in the regional when the season was halted by the coronavirus. He possesses the ability to get to the rim or score from outside. Blackburn averaged 14.9 points and had 40 3s. He had 17 double figure games including a season high 25 in the season opener vs. Princeton and in the section championship vs. Independence, which turned out to be the final game of the season. He had six 20-plus point games.
5 Cole ChapmanColeChapman6'0" | SGShady Spring | 2023StateWV
, Shady Spring, 5-10, So.
Same as his twin brother Braden, Cole ChapmanColeChapman6'0" | SGShady Spring | 2023StateWV
more than held his own on a loaded squad. He averaged 10.5 ppg and he had just under half his points on his 40 3-pointers. The dead-eye shooter had 10 double figure games, including a career-high 24 (and six 3s) against PIkeView. He also shot 79.2 percent (38-48) from the free throw line.
6 Ethan ParsonsEthanParsons6'6" | SFPrinceton | 2021StateWV
, Princeton, 6-5, Sr.
Parsons, an all-state receiver in football, led Princeton in scoring last winter at 17.3 ppg. The Randy Moss-award winner as the state’s top receiver, had a career-high 30 points against Mercer County rival Bluefield. Five other times he topped 20 points. At 6-4 Parsons can score inside but also has the ability to score from the outside with 21 3s.
7 Kaiden PackKaidenPack6'0" | CGGreenbrier West | 2021StateWV
, Greenbrier West, 6-1, Sr.
Pack has been a two-year starter and three-year contributor on a team that has won 53 games. He has 694 points and 98 3s in 60 career games. Last season Pack, QB on the football team that has 19 wins in the last two years, averaged 18.5 points with 56 3s. He scored in double figures 22 times (35 in his career), with a career-high 31 against Montcalm on Jan. 3.
8 Michael McKinney, Independence, 6-3, Jr.
In his first season of high school basketball, McKinney was huge, averaging 19.5 points per game for one of the areas highest scoring teams. He is the areas leading scorer returning this season. McKinney, a North Carolina State baseball commit, had four games of 30 or more and was the only player in the area with back-to-back 30 games when he had 32 against Van Feb. 18 and 30 against Liberty Feb. 20. Seven other times he had 20 plus. McKinney also had 45 3s and shot 75.5 percent from the free throw line (37 of 49).
9 Jacob PerdueJacobPerdue6'2" | SFOak Hill | 2022StateWV
, Oak Hill, 6-2, Jr.
On a team that made its bones making the 3 - 216 of them in fact - Perdue certainly held his own. He was one of the best in the area with 63, trailing graduated teammate Hunter Rinehart who had 68. Perdue scored 69.4 percent of his points beyond the arc, and finished his sophomore season averaging 12.4 points per game. Oak Hill is one of two AA schools moving up two classes, moving to AAAA this season. He had 14 double figure games, fine over 20 and a career best 26 against AA Region 3, Section 1 rivals Liberty and Westside.
10 Shad SauvageShadSauvage6'0" | PGJames Monroe | 2022StateWV
, James Monroe, 5-10, Jr.
Another prolific 3 shooter, Sauvage has 131 3s in his two years, covering 45 games. He already has 726 career points with two seasons remaining. Last season Sauvage averaged 17.5 ppg with 67 3s. Unlike many shooters Sauvage hasn’t had a hard time getting to the foul line, hitting 70 of 93 (75.3 percent) last season. He is a 73.3-percent free throw shooter (126-172). He scored in double figures in 22 of 23 games, seven with 20 or more. He has 39 games with double figures, 13 with 20+ and had a career high 31 as a freshman vs. River View.
11 Daniel Reed, Westside, 5-11, Sr.
Reed had a solid year for the Renegades. Not flashy Reed ran the show and did the things he needed to do, whether running the floor, playing defense or even rebounding. He finished the season averaging 12.1 points, with 18 double figure games, including seven straight to end the season. He had a season high 22 against Wyoming East at the New River CTC at the Armory, and had 20 in a section title win vs. Independence, which ended up being the final game of the season. Reed shot 72.8 percent from the foul line and had 18 3s
12 Tanner Whitten, Wyoming East, 6-2, Jr.
Whitten showed his mettle in the season opener when he scored 19 in his first start, against Bluefield. At Brushfork Armory, one of the areas toughest venues in which to win. After several upperclassmen left the team midseason he took over the scoring duties, with a career best 31 against Liberty. He followed with 19 and 18 but was hurt in the next game against Liberty and missed the final seven games. He averaged 11.4 ppg had 24 3s and made 21 of 34 free throws. His dad Darren holds the Wyoming County record for points in a game with 74, set in 1984.