MORGANTOWN, W.Va.--Obviously the bloom is off the rose--at least right now--for the revered 16-and-under Lynchburg Master's Hoops AAU team under the direction of longtime coach Buddy Mason.
Last year's Mason-coached team produced six--count 'em--Olympians playing for qualifying teams worldwide this summer, including Jose Garcia (Angola), a Charlottesville St. Anne's-Belfield product headed for the University of Richmond.
This time around the team is rebuilding--not that it lacks talent--but the squad is raw this year, and built around Chad Hardway, the Piedmont District player of the year from Group AA Tunstall, and John Woodward of Lynchburg Virginia Episopal School.
Friday, in the opening round of the Reebok-Hoop Group Summer Jamfest here, the Master's Hoopsters nicked North Jersey Zoo Crew 54-50, but then came right back as a replacement team in Game 2 to get squashed by the WV Pump'N'Run out of Martinsburg, W.Va., 103-65.
The Pump'N'Run, which finished second in the Charlie Weber Invitational at Catholic and Gallaudet universities in Washington earlier in the spring, had the perfect ammunition for Lynchburg, inside with 6-foot-7 Herb Pope, a national super sophomore from Rockville (Md.) Montrose Christian; 6-5 Gene Johnson of South Hagerstown (Md.), and 6-4 Andre Hornes of Martinsburg, combined with outside shooters like Aaron Dobson of South Parkersburg (W.Va.).
Pope, just back from the NIKE national invitational in Indianapolis, is getting early interest from Virginia and Florida State, and showed why with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson added 25 and will be a senior in Hagerstown, and Hornes, a rising junior at Martinsburg, totaled 10. Dobson connected on seven three-pointers against the decidedly shorter Master's Hoopsters and totaled 23 points.
Hardway led the Southwestern Virginia aggregation with 18 points and Woodward had 16. The team also features guards Cody and Damen Altizer of Hot Springs (Va.) Bath County, Robbie Carrington of Lynchburg Holy Cross and Eric Woody.
Team Richmond, a 16s group composed of players from Prince George, Meadowbrook, Douglas Freeman, Benedictine, Trinity Episopal (6-9 Tomas Jasiumilionis), Matoaca, Midlothian, St. Christoper's, New Kent and Mills Godwin, lost earlier in the day to the Beckley (W.Va.) Clydesdales.
The tournament here features national prospects like Ben McCauley, a 6-9 senior at Yough (Pa.) High; 6-9 junior Derrick Carracter of Scotch Plains (N.J.) Fenwood; and freshman O.J. Mayo, 6-6, of Cincinnati North College Hill. Sixty teams are entered, including a heavy dose from the Old Dominion, the Mountain State, the Mid-Atlantic, and Ohio.
Coaches from NAIA and all levels of NCAA observe during this period of evaluation.
Other Virginia contingents expected to play today include the New River Comets and 6-4 Terrell Dobbins of Radford joining products from Salem, Pulaski, Auburn and East Montgomery; Team Richmond; the Virginia Storm, made up of Thomas Dale, Lloyd Bird, West End Charter, Meadowbrook and L.C. Byrd all-stars; and the Fairfax Stars, including athletes from Middleburg Notre Dame Academy, Fairfax County R.E. Lee, Parkview, West Potomac, Hayfield, Fairfax High and Washington Gonzaga.
Former Richmond coach John Beilein, entering his third season at WVU, was on hand during the first sessions. His roster includes senior forward Tyrone Sally of Meadowbrook; redshirt freshman forward B.J. "Brad" Byerson of Thomas Dale; Radford true freshman guard Darris Nichols, and son Patrick Beilein, a junior guard from Benedictine. Team manager Wes Brooks is also a Benedictine alumnus.