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20191225-log-man boys roundup Austin Ball

Steven Browning | For The Logan Banner Man High School’s Austin Ball puts up a shot in the Billies’ 71-61 win over Tug Valley on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 in the Country Roads Classic at Chapmanville.

MAN — The Man High School boys’ basketball team has a lot of optimism heading into the 2020-21 roundball campaign.

With its entire team coming back from last year’s 18-6 squad the Hillbillies are looking forward to another successful season.

And with it, Man will be challenged with a difficult schedule.

Man, projected to be one of the challengers for the Class A state title, are slated to open the season on Dec. 11 at home against Buffalo.

Some of the season highlights include a home-and-away series with Class AAA county rival Logan and also home-and-away series with Class AA Mingo Central, Liberty Raleigh and new Class A sectional rival Tug Valley.

The Panthers, a traditional powerhouse in basketball, had advanced to the state tournament this past season but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit everything was shut down and the state tourney never happened.

The Billies are scheduled to play in Chapmanville Regional High School’s Bob Runyon Memorial Holiday Tournament on Dec. 18-19.

Host Chapmanville and Man could meet in the finals. It was Chapmanville, the two-time defending Class AA state champions, which ousted the Billies from the Class AA sectionals this year.

Grafton and Mount View are the other two teams in the four-team Bob Runyon tourney.

Also over Christmas break, Man is slated to play in Logan’s King Coal Classic, Dec. 28-29, at Logan’s Willie Akers Arena. The first night, Man plays Van, then on the last evening, the Billies play host Logan.

On Jan 4 and Jan. 9, the Billies are scheduled to take part in the New River Invitational at Beckley.

Single-A Buffalo and Calhoun County is new to Man’s schedule as well as James Monroe.

“It’s a tough schedule and we wanted to push the players,” Man coach T.J. Blevins said. “You play the regular season for the post-season to get you ready for that. I think the more challenges that we have the better that we could be in the long run.”

The WVSSAC moves to a new four-class format next season, the first time that’s ever been done. The pilot system will last two years through the 2021-22 season.

Opposite Man and possible regional foes in Class A Region 4 Section 2 are Calhoun County, Gilmer County, Hannan and Wahama.

Man’s new Class A sectional should be an interesting one as the Billies are set to participate in a new Single-A section with traditional basketball powers Tug Valley and Tolsia. Sherman and Van, two Class A schools in Boone County, round out the field.

The Billies played Tug Valley, Van, Tolsia and Sherman last season. Man plays Sherman again this season in a home-and-away series.

Man downed Tug Valley, 71-61, at Chapmanville’s inaugural Country Roads Classic last season.

The Billies swept Van, winning 69-43 and 93-48 and whipped the Sherman Tide, 90-34, at home in a single matchup.

Man then played late in the season at Tolsia, blowing out the Rebels 77-48 on their home floor at Glenhayes.

The Hillbillies have landed a couple of transfers in Israel Canterbury and Colton Blankenship. Canterbury, a 5-foot-11 guard, comes from Belfry, Kentucky. Blankenship is from Mingo Central.

Man has several players coming back this season, including Caleb Blevins, the coach’s son, Austin Ball, Ryan Cozart, Peyton Adams, Jeremiah Harless and others.

Caleb Blevins broke Man’s all-time 3-point shooting record for most 3s in a game last season with 10.

Man was led last season by 6-5 sophomore Ball, who averaged 19.2 points and 9.5 points per game. He closed out the year with 12 double-double performances. Ball also had a team-best 49 blocked shots.

Caleb Blevins, a 6-3 sophomore, averaged 13.3 points a game and was Man’s top 3-point shooter, sinking 53 from beyond the arc.

Adams, a 5-8 junior guard, checked in at 9.6 points per contest last season. He dished out a team-high 100 assists and made 38 shots from 3-point land.

Jackson Tackett, a 6-2 sophomore, averaged 8.7 points per contest last year for Man. He had 207 rebounds, second on the team to Ball, and had six double-doubles.

Cozart, a 6-3 junior, averaged 6.1 points a game last season, making 15 3s.

Harless, a 6-3 junior, averaged five points a game lat season for Man.

Christian Toler, a 5-10 sophomore, checked in at 4.7 points per contest last year.

Rounding out Man’s roster last season were: sophomore Brady Hall-Montgomery; junior Hunter Anderson; and freshmen Jordan Adams, Jacob Walls, James Scites, Andrew Cozart and Ethan Spence.

Three-point shooting was the name of the game for the Billies a year ago.

Man wasn’t afraid to launch those bombs.

As a team this season, Man sank 151 of 536 3-pointers for 28 percent. Man was 593 of 1,388 in total team shooting for 42.7 percent. From the free throw line, the Billies netted 257 of 382 of their charity tosses for 67.3 percent.

With the additions of Canterbury and Blankenship Man’s already deep team just got deeper.

“We are going to be deep down the bench,” Blevins said. “It’s a double-edged sword I guess. I believe going forward with this we can work it out. There’s always a chance that it might not work but I’d rather have kids that I can go and look down the line and say, ‘hey, let’s go.’ And hopefully, they will be ready to go.”

2020-21 Man High School Boys’ Basketball Schedule:

Dec. 11: Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 16: Calhoun County, 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 18-19: at Bob Runyon Memorial Holiday Tournament (at Chapmanville), TBA

Dec. 28: vs. Van (at King Coal Classic at Logan), TBA

Dec. 29: at Logan (at King Coal Classic at Logan), TBA

Jan. 2: Mingo Central, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 4: at New River Invitational (at Beckley), TBA

Jan. 9: at New River Invitational (at Beckley), TBA

Jan. 12: Liberty Raleigh, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 15: at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 19: River View, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 21: at Sherman, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 23: James Monroe, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 26: at Mingo Central, 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 29: Tug Valley, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 2: Sherman, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 6: at James Monroe, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 9: at Liberty Raleigh, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 12: at Calhoun County, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 16: at Tug Valley, 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 18: Logan, 7:30 p.m.

Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at padkins@hdmediallc.com