If positive vibes and a positive attitude count for anything at all in the world of high school basketball, the Wildcats of Paden City High School are already ahead of the game. With only eight players on the roster this season, the 'Cats are about to face all competition and adversity head on, positively.
"Our kids have all worked extremely hard in the off season, and that hard work is paying off now in practice and will continue to pay off in the coming season," said veteran head coach of the 'Cats, Fred King. "Their basketball I.Q. has raised, their fundamental skills improved and we've seen a consistent improvement across the board in all of their abilities on the court."
"They understand their roles better and have accepted the roles they will each be playing on this years team. Each one of them have made a personal commitment to the team and that fact alone will go a long way in determining our success."
Paden City Wildcats 2013/14
Having lost only one senior to graduation last season in Drew Bidwell, the typical fan would expect the Wildcats to have an uninteresting, rebuilding year, however almost the exact opposite is true. The 'Cats return four players with vast varsity experience and add a freshman to the line-up with good basketball knowledge and intuition.
"We have kids that really want to play, and that's going to make a difference,"King said.
The Wildcats will be led by two juniors on the court this season in Kennedy Cain, 6'6", and Zach Heasley, 6'4".
Cain returns to the Paden City starting line-up as the cool, calm, shooting ace earning honors last year as a first team selection to the All Mason-Dixon Conference and second team All-OVAC selection. Holding down the spot at power forward this season, Cain has put in a lot of hours working on his game throughout the off season.
"Kennedy and his family both committed to improving his game and have been traveling to Parkersburg for him to play twice a week for the past several months," the coach said. "He is a dedicated young man, and the improvements in his game are evident."
A co-captain of the Green and White this season, Cain will be looked to for the majority of the points to grace the scoreboard on Paden City's side.
Heasley, also a co-captain of the team, was selected as a second team member of both the Mason Dixon and OVAC conferences last year and looks to bring a stronger, more adaptable style of play to the court this season for the Wildcats. "Zach's success in his role as the quarterback of the high school football team has made him a stronger, more aware player," the coach said. "He has more confidence and his rebounding skills have improved tremendously. He will most certainly be an asset to our team."
Junior Craig Allen, 6'1", returns as a strong defensive threat for the 'Cats in both the forward and guard positions. "Craig is undoubtedly the most improved player on the team since last year," King said. "Summer league saw this young man really come into his own. We'll be looking for him to contribute by taking more shots this season as well as keep up his excellent defensive strategies."
More often than not, Allen will get his number called to defend the best shooter any competition Paden City faces.
Sophomore Luke Cooper, 6'4", returns for the 2013 season as the center for the Wildcats. "Luke is running the floor better than he ever has," the coach said. "He has improved at the post position and really worked at his game. He's going to be a real threat for us defensively."
Freshman Hayden Hizer, 5'8", joins the varsity line-up for the first time, and will be controlling the game on the court for the 'Cats from the point guard position. "He's a scrapper," King said. "He has a very high basketball I.Q. and is able to see situations on the floor that other players may not be able to see. He's not afraid to take a hit either."
Hizer is expected to dictate the pace of the game for the Green and White and make sure the ball gets into the hands of Cain and Heasley for optimal scoring opportunities.
Sophomore Deven Price, 5'8", will play the sixth man position for Paden City this season. Price will be expected to be a versatile player, able to fill in at a moments notice in any position. "Deven and his excitement is a real asset to the team this season," coach King said. "When he plays under control he is a formidable competitor."
Two rookies will also be coming off the bench for the 'Cats, freshmen Aaron Heasley, 5'7" and Evan Shreve, 5'8". "Aaron is an outside shooter and that's what we'll look for from him this year," said the coach. "Evan is learning the program fast and will be counted on to come off the bench and contribute. The biggest challenge these two are going to face is learning to defend themselves aggressively among bigger guys in the positions."
"We have an excellent team chemistry," King said of his team. "We're not dwelling on anything negative, we're just going to keep on doing what we know how to do. Assistant coach Jeff Bowers and I are looking for these eight young men to do good things this year."
Celebrating his 27th year in the assistants seat for the Wildcats, Jeff Bowers brings more than a vast knowledge of basketball to the game. "Jeff has an insight and a vision out there and can spot details on the court and bring it to our attention," King said. "We're very fortunate to have coach Bowers as part of our basketball program and our school."
As for the competition the 'Cats are likely to face this season, the coach says they will be taking on any and every one with the same fervor. A few bigger teams on their schedule this season are Magnolia, Wheeling Central, Bishop Donahue, Williamstown and Tyler Consolidated. "We want to play bigger and better teams and we have them on our schedule," he said. "The only way we are going to get better is to learn from good teams. We're expecting every team to bring their best because that's what we'll be taking to the court."
Paden City will look to place in the Alexander Hoops Classic tournament in Marietta; the Magnolia Rotary Classic; their own Bob and Sharon Burton Christmas Tournament; as well as get past the Sectional and play for a Regional title.
"And it's all possible," King said. "I really like our team this year. I like that they are committed to each other and the team and that they are seeing that good things can happen with a positive attitude."
The Wildcats began their season on Dec. 10 at Hundred. The team will then host the Bob and Sharon Burton Christmas Tournament at Paden City on Dec. 13-14.