The Herald-Dispatch All Tri-State
HUNTINGTON — The Herald-Dispatch All Tri-State boys basketball team is so talent-laden the honorable-mention squad likely would contend for state championships in West Virginia.
The eight-player boys first team is headed by Huntington High School star Mikal Dawson, a repeat choice as H-D All Tri-State Player of the Year. The 6-foot-4 senior forward/guard and first-team Class AAA all-stater averaged 20 points and 7.8 rebounds per game to lead the Highlanders to a 17-7 record and the state tournament for the seventh consecutive season.
Dawson, who scored his 1,000th career point this season, has a scholarship offer from Marshall University and has drawn interest from Bowling Green and Youngstown State, but has yet to decide where he will play after high school. He also is a college football prospect as a wide receiver.
HHS coach Ron Hess, who resigned following the season, said Dawson improved dramatically from his freshman to senior seasons, stepping up as a player and a leader in helping the Highlanders win two state championships.
“The more you play, you get into that leadership role,” Hess said. “You understand that you don’t only have to score, you have to get other people involved in the game when you have the ball as much as Mikal has. If you don’t, they’re just going to stand around and watch you. He realized that and understood the game better this year and got more people involved.”
The boys first team is a combination of big men and guards that any school would love to have.
Centers Kollin Van Horn, a 6-8 senior from Fairland, and Zach Loveday, a 7-1 sophomore from Gallia Academy, are forces on defense but also highly capable scorers.
Van Horn, a first-team All-Ohio Division II pick, has committed to Cedarville University. He averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots per game to help the Dragons to a 23-4 record, an Ohio Valley Conference championship and a spot in the regional semifinals, Ohio’s Sweet 16.
Van Horn finished his high school career with more than 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 250 blocked shots. A game-changer on defense, if there was an all-defensive team for Tri-State Players he would lead it.
Loveday averaged 17.3 points, 11.5 rebounds and 4.3 blocked shots per game. He has scholarship offers from Ohio State, Purdue and Xavier, among others.
The opposite end of the height spectrum from Loveday is Ashland 5-3 junior guard Chase Villers, who averaged 20.4 points per game to help the Tomcats to a 24-6 record and a runner-up finish in Kentucky’s 16th Region.
Two other guards from the Bluegrass State made the first team. Greenup County’s Gage Hughes, a 6-1 senior who signed to play baseball at the University of Cincinnati, averaged 30.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Hughes finished his career with more than 2,300 points and broke the 30-year-old school record set by former University of Kentucky 7-footer Mike Scott.
Gunner Short, a 6-4 senior who transferred to Boyd County from Fairland, also made the first team. Short helped the Lions win the 16th Region title, to a 29-7 record and to the state tournament Sweet 16. A University of Rio Grande recruit. Short averaged 17.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Short’s former teammate, Fairland 6-2 senior guard Luke Thomas, was a second-team All-Ohio selection and is mulling several college offers, including a preferred walk-on proposal from Marshall University. The sharpshooting Thomas averaged 14 points per game on a team in which all five starters were capable scorers and scored his 1,000th point this season.
Hurricane’s Nick Muto, a 6-5 senior forward, rounds out the team. Muto averaged 22.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
The second team lacks the size of the first unit, but is nearly as talented, featuring one forward and seven guards. The forward is Huntington High’s 6-3 Amare Smith, an athletic, talented player who looks to be the next in a line of Highlander greats. He is joined on the second unit by teammate Jadon Hayes, a 5-10 senior guard who has signed to play football at Arizona Western Junior College.
Fairland also had two senior guards on the second team with Ty Staten, a 6-1 point guard who has committed to Ohio Northern University, and Isaiah Howell, a 6-4 guard who is considering small college offers. Howell finished his career with more than 1,000 points and 500 rebounds.
South Point’s Tayshaun Fox, a 6-footer who broke the 1,000-point barrier as a junior this season, is joined on the second squad by Cabell Midland 6-1 senior Jovaun Light, whom as did Howell, recently visited Kentucky Christian University.
Devaunte Robinson, a 6-3 junior from Ashland averaged 17.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. Coal Grove’s Sam Angelo averaged 11 points and 7.1 rebounds per game while serving as a rugged defender inside.
Coal Grove’s Kevin Vander-hoof knows how Williamson feels and is The Herald-Dispatch Boys Coach of the Year. Vanderhoof led the Hornets to the regional tournament for just the second time in school history and to a 19-6 record, one short of the school record for wins. If not for a weather cancellation. Coal Grove likely would have finished with 20 victories.
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Vanderhoof said. “They can say something not a lot of kids can say. They made it to the region tournament, some of them in football and basketball.”
Vanderhoof earned the nod over a strong field that included Boyd County’s Randy Adkins, Fairland’s Nathan Speed, Gallia Academy’s Gary Harrison and Huntington High’s Ron Hess.