The West Virginia Thunder continue the ascension into the conversation as one of the nation’s top travel programs. This year coach Scott Johnson’s program brought as many as six teams to exposure tournaments during the calendar year. More impressively, the ladies from the Mountain State often had two teams in the tournaments top brackets. Here is a review the Thunder’s 2015 accomplishments.
Huntington, West Virginia
PeachStateBasketball.com Tournaments Attended:
Class of 2014 guard Jenna Burdette of Coolville, Ohio, started 32 games last season for the Dayton Flyers. She was named to the A-10 All-Rookie team and helped the Flyers advanced to the NCAA Elite 8 before being defeated by the eventual National Champions from UConn.
Kortney Eisenman (2016) – University of Georgia
Shayna Harmon (2016) – University of Akron
Kristen Mayo (2017) – East Tennessee State University
Tayrn McCutcheon (2016) – Michigan State University
Sarah Price (2016) – Western Kentucky University
Notable Uncommitted Players
Season Highlights from Scott Johnson:
Johnson was proud to say that his teams had reached true program level. With at least five teams traveling during the evaluation periods, Johnson noted “We have depth in every class now. All of teams are competitive and we have the ability to replace players after they graduate.”
Johnson went on to talk about the level of competition that his teams played and how they proved they belonged in the conversation of some of the best teams nationally. “We beat every Nike program that we played. Some of them beat us as well, but we can say that we played right along side of most of the teams who were the elite 8 at Nike Nationals.”
The veteran coach pointed to his team’s bracket championship at the #PSBSummerInvite as one of the high points of the season. “Our Gold team knocked off one of the best team’s nationally in Kentucky Premier EYBL. That team is well-coached and has an abundance of talent. We were fortunate to play well that day a pull out the victory.
West Virginia Thunder has a star in Taryn McCutcheon of Washington, W.V. She led Johnson’s top group for years as his teams have played ‘up’ at exposure tournaments. Now for the first time, McCutcheon’s group played with their own age group and proved that the investment paid off. The 5-foot-5 point guard is currently ranked No. 55 in the class and is verbally pledged to play for coach Suzy Merchant at Michigan State in years to come.
Coach Johnson immediately mentioned 5-11 wing Lexi Barrier of Ironton, Ohio, name when asked about players who have made the biggest jump in years past. The versatile wing produced on the circuit while dozens of college coaches followed her around July. The coaches following turned into offers this summer. Barrier’s play puts her in the #PNElite150 watch-list when the rankings expand this fall.
Another player who made a huge leap in recent months while playing for the Thunder is Kortney Eisenman of Columbus, Ohio. The 6-3 post entered the year with nearly a dozen offers from mid-major programs centered around the Midwest. After July, her interest took on a whole new level as coaches from Power Conference schools began to call. In August, Eisenman accepted a scholarship offer from first year head coach Joni Taylor at the University of Georgia. Eisenman’s strength around the basket combined with her ability to stretch the defense with her perimeter jumper make her a valuable recruit for the Lady Bulldogs.
The Thunder’s talent draws deep into Johnson’s Gold team. Dazha Congleton of Huntington, W.V., is Thunder’s best uncommitted player after Barrier per Johnson’s assessment. The 5-7 guard is a good athlete who makes plays on both ends of the floor. Congleton is still wide open in her recruitment.
The pipeline of talent for West Virginia is far from drying up after the graduation of the 2016 class. The class of 2017 is shaping up to be exciting both on and off the floor. Look for ETSU commit Kristen Mayo of Grayson, Ky., to lead the way for the Thunder next year. The confident ball handler and shot maker split time between Johnson’s 2016 squad and Gold team. Right behind Mayo in terms of production is Gabby Burris of Baltimore, Ohio. The 5-11 forward is versatile and fundamental, which has earned her plenty of college attention at this point. Look for 6-3 post Shionna Banks of Charleston, W.V., to possibly have the same trajectory of development as Eisenman. Banks will anchored the block for Johnson’s Gold team this year. Johnson also points out that Jordyn Dawson of Huntington, W.V., is one of the most overlooked players in program. He calls the 5-9 wing “the player that makes the Gold team go.” Finally, point guard Aaliyah Dunham of South Charleston, W.V., is a quick ball handler who should continue to make plays for the Thunder.
The Thunder’s connection with Peach State Basketball tournaments and the Elite Basketball Academy camps have helped underclassmen earn positive reputations. A prime example of this is Gabby Lupardus of Pineville, W.V., The slashing guard has earned the adoration of evaluators in the camp setting while also gaining the attention of college coaches while playing for the Thunder Gold team. Class of 2019 post Emily Saunders of Bud, W.V., is another prospect that created a buzz at the #PSBTipOffClassic and #EBASuper64 Camp. Look for the left-handed stretch post to help carry the tradition of the Thunder for years to come.
Watch West Virginia Thunder on ProspectsNationTV #PSBSummerInvite vs. Kentucky Premier EYBL
Media Exposure / Showcase Opportunities
Jonathan Hemingway is the Assistant Director of Scouting for the JumpOffPlus.com International Scouting Report, is on the Naismith Trophy Board of Selectors and owns CoachHemi.com, the go-to source for coaches for X’s and O’s. He is the floor director of #TeamEBA camps, a site director for #TeamPSB tournaments and can be reached at email@example.com.