The West Virginia Thunder represent what skilled, fundamental basketball is supposed to look like. Coach Scott Johnson gets his players to pass the ball and set screens for one another, which leads to a pure version of the game of basketball. His players for years have had skill sets that allow them to contribute in a variety of ways on the floor. The 2014 edition of the Thunder was no different as they have a number of prospects who are already gaining the attention of college coaches.
There history within the Thunder organization runs deep as they now have former players that are concluding their collegiate careers. Class of 2010 guard Kayla Cook of South Webster, Ohio, graduated from the University of Cincinnati this year. She finished fourth on Cincinnati’s all-time list in minutes played. Also Whitney Bays of Huntington, W.V., heads into her senior season at Purdue. She was named the Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year in the 2013-14 season. This year also marks the freshman year of the Thunder’s trio of guards that lit up the Peach State Basketball tournaments in years past. Mychal Johnson of Huntington, W.V., is at Notre Dame as a part of a No. 8 ranked recruiting class nationally. Griffin Dempsey of Proctorville, Ohio, will join coach Cara Consuegra’s roster at Charlotte while Jenna Burdette of Coolville, Ohio, heads to Dayton this year.
Huntington, West Virginia
PeachStateBasketball.com Tournaments Attended:
Tip-Off Classic TN *
Elite 32 Summer Jam Session I
Lexi Barrier – 2016
Shayna Harmon – 2016
Mychelle Johnson – 2016
Taryn McCutcheon – 2016*
Sarah Price – 2016
* – Has ProspectsNation.com highlights added
** – Has PSB video added.
Season Highlights from Scott Johnson:
When asked what the goal of his program was, coach Scott Johnson simply replied, “We want to replicate a college basketball environment with our program. We structure the game so that our players’ strengths can be enhanced.”
Johnson talks about finding the balance of letting the kids make plays versus them running plays as one of the biggest challenges. “We work really hard to get the right players the right shots every time down the court. It is important that we expose our kids strengths to college coaches, but more importantly they must prepare mentally.”
Johnson goes on to say, “Our ultimate goal is help every kid who plays for us go to college for free while playing basketball.”
Every season has its’ successes and shortcomings. Moving through both are equally important when developing a team. Johnson talked about how he made conscious decision to keep this year’s 2016 team in the elite divisions of every tournament that the Thunder played in. As he said, “We knew that this would be a rough year at times, but we wanted to take the lumps. We wanted to go into next summer as one of the country’s best 2016 teams in the nation. We had to go through this summer to get there next year.”
When asked about a highlight of the summer, Johnson immediately mentions 5-foot-11 forward Lexi Barrier of Lavallette, W.V. “Lexi grew leaps and bounds this summer. She stuck with the program and most importantly she learned how to be coached. She began to listen to advice and applied it on the court.”
Barrier’s recruitment reflects this growth in her game as she has picked up over a half dozen offers since July ended. She has already begun the process of visiting schools this fall.
Two other players have already made the decision of where to play their college basketball, when their high school playing days are complete. No. 33 in the class of 2016 Taryn McCutcheon of Washington, W.V., gave her verbal commitment to coach Suzie Merchant and Michigan State University earlier this year. McCutcheon has proved to be one of the more skilled play-makers at the point guard position in her class. While 6-2 forward Sarah Price of Owingsville, Ky., gave her commitment to coach Michelle Clark-Heard and Western Kentucky. Price is a skilled forward who can score on the block or stretch the defense with her jumper.
The strength of the West Virginia Thunder centers around the depth of skill that is on their roster. Guards like 5-8 Shayna Harmon of Ashville, Ohio, and 5-7 Kacie Hall of Huntington, W.V., are examples of shot makers and ball handlers. These are the types of players that make it hard for opposing defenders to help too long on penetration, because of their ability to hit the open jumper. Add in the contributions of 5-7 combo guard Mychelle Johnson of Huntington, W.V., makes on both ends of the floor and the Thunder have a balanced inside and outside attack.
Do not expect the West Virginia Thunder to disappear off of the radar of girls grassroots basketball in the near future. As coach Johnson says, “The talent with our younger kids is an all-time high. Our 2018 team won their division at the Battle of the ‘Boro this year. And our 2020 team has now won AAU Nationals in back to back years.”
Look for class of 2018 guards such as Alexis Hall of Kitts Hill, Ohio, and Gabby Lupardus of Pineville, W.V., to pick up where older guards like McCutcheon and Johnson have left off. In addition, class of 2019 guard Dena Jarrells of Dunlow, W.V., is a player long on talent and potential. Count on Johnson having the shooters and the handlers like these in the program, which will continue to wreak havoc on the summer circuit in the future.
ProspectsNationTV: Team Tennessee versus West Virginia Thunder
Jonathan Hemingway is the Assistant Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com. The service is used by more than 150 colleges and universities nationwide. He also serves on the selection committee for the EBA All-American, Fab Five and Super 64 Camps. He has been involved in the community since 2002 as a coach, camp director and evaluator. You can reach him via email at JonathanHemingway@PeachStateBasketball.com and follow him on twitter @JLHemingwayPSB