Need a break after a long day of shopping, watching football or eating leftovers?
How about a little basketball?
The annual Currence Classic will tip off tonight at Bluefield State’s Ned Shott Gymnasium, with three local colleges, and Mountain State from Beckley participating in the event.
Bluefield College (3-3) will play Mountain State tonight at 6 p.m., followed by Bluefield State (0-2) and Concord (0-4) at 8. It will continue on Saturday, with the Rams and Mountain Lions at 6, followed by the Big Blues and Cougars.
Jimmy Voight, in his first season as the men’s coach at Bluefield State, is hoping for a big crowd on both nights.
“You’ve got four local teams, you’ve got the two Bluefield colleges, and you’ve got Concord, which is right here up the road and Mountain State is only 45 miles away so you have got four local teams,” Voight said. “I think they will probably see two good games both nights.
“I would encourage them if they are basketball fans to come out and watch a couple of good games both nights.”
Mountain State, ranked third in the nation when the NAIA Division I preseason rankings were released, has played like it this season, winning seven of eight, although four were exhibitions, and the loss came to NCAA Division I Morehead State.
The Cougars have scored 122 points and 113 (twice) so far, and defeated the Blues 85-56 on Nov. 6. Mountain State, which won a national title in 2004, and was runner-up in ‘03 and ‘08, is coached by Bob Bolen, who played at Bluefield State.
“They are big and they are very talented, they’ve got like five Division I transfers in their program,” Voight said. “He has, year in and year out, one of the best programs in the NAIA level.
“He has talked about having a bunch new cast of characters so to speak, but they are talented. They are definitely a national championship caliber team at the NAIA level, and they are very big.”
Real big. Included on the roster is 7-foot-8 Paul Sturgiss, who is averaging 2.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game off the bench. Among the starters is Jamar Board (19.7), a transfer from Alderson-Broaddus, who led the West Virginia Conference in scoring last season.
Others to watch include Connecticut transfer Doug Wiggins (14.2 ppg, 4.8 reb, 2.6 ast), 6-8 Cam Miller (15.0 ppg, 4.7 reb) from Marshall, 6-7 Tay Spann (11.2 ppg, 9.5 reb), who formerly played at Georgetown, and 7-1 Sudanese product David Nyarsuk (7.2 ppg, 7.2 reb), who originally committed to West Virginia.
They’ll meet Bluefield College tonight at 6. The Rams, which started 1-2, have won two of their last three, led by Byron Carpenter, who is leading the Rams with 17.8 points and 8.2 rebounds a game. Borgia M’bala (16.0 ppg) and lone senior Rob Wright (8.6 ppg) are others called upon by second-year coach Richard Morgan.
“I know Richard as a good friend...,” Voight said. “I know he does a good job, I haven’t seen them play so I don’t really know how to comment on their team this year. I know he will do a good job with them and has done a good job with them.”
In tonight’s nightcap, Mercer County will take center stage, with the Lions and Blues meeting for the first of three times this season. Much like Voight, who is trying to blend new talents with those left over before he arrived, Concord coach Steve Cox is doing the same in Athens.
“I think he brought in about five or six JUCO transfers and when you bring in that many JUCO transfers with returning guys, it takes a while to get your chemistry right,” Voight said. “I heard some of his comments and I think they have a better basketball team than they had last year, they are more talented.”
Concord, which is 0-3 in the WVIAC, has been led by Javaughn Acree-Manuel, who has scored 24.8 points in the Mountain Lions’ four games. Rick Alderman, a 6-6 forward, is tallying 12.8 points and 5.3 rebounds. Corey Neeley (11.5 ppg) and Jerontae Hunter (10.3) are also scoring in double figures.
“They’ve got one kid (Acree-Manuel), he’s been a big-time scorer for them, I have actually seen them play and he is a very good player,” Voight said. “They have some other players too, they’ve got a 6-6 kid (Alderman) that played for them last year who can score around the basket, he is a pretty good effective scorer with his back to the hole.
“I think they are a lot like us, searching for chemistry right now.”
Voight, in his first season at Bluefield State after replacing Don Jones, is still trying to get players eligible or cleared to play by the NCAA. With six games remaining, all at home, before the Christmas break, he’s hoping his Blues can get on a roll.
“Obviously we need to get some more guys cleared eligibility-wise and we need to be able to defend our home court and win some of our games here at home,” Voight said. “When your program is down and you haven’t enjoyed a lot of success, nothing gives you more confidence or helps (develop) swagger other than getting some victories.”
The Blues lost to Division I Duquesne and played Charleston close before the Cougars went on a late run to win by 24.
Julius Lang leads Bluefield State, tallying 17.5 points and 6.0 rebounds, including 17 points and 19 boards in the exhibition loss to Mountain State. Joseph Spiers (18) and Myles Nicholas (17) — who were cleared to play for Charleston — reached double figures, while holdover Jerome Johnson is averaging 15.5 points and 5.0 boards.
Size is a definite issue for the Blues, not only having just nine players, but very little height or bulk. Voight hopes to get 6-9 George Roquemore and 6-8 Malik Edwards declared eligible to play soon.
“Right now depth is a major problem with us,” Voight said. “We have four guys over on the bench, but they are all small guys. When you come in off the bench at 5-7 and two 5-10s, I am as tall as those guys coming off the bench.
“It creates problems. We are trying to get to the break where we can get some more guys eligible and hopefully the ones that could possibly get cleared this fall semester will get cleared to give us some much-needed size.”
Voight is excited for the Currence Classic, an event that honors the memory of former Daily Telegraph sports editor V.L. “Stubby” Currence.
“Mountain State is very good ... Bluefield College, Richard has a good program, and Concord is probably like us,” he said. “They have got some new junior college transfers and probably just trying to get together chemistry-wise right now.
“The schedule hasn’t been good to them either, they started out conference play with two of the better teams in the league.
“I don’t know how they did the conference schedule, but playing those to back-to-back like that is not a good situation for anybody.”
—Contact Brian Woodson