WHEELING - Danny Sancomb's first recruiting class graduated last spring, but not before it helped the school to its first NCAA Division II Tournament victory when it beat the University of Charleston in the first round of the Atlantic Regional, barely a month after it became the only West Virginia conference team in two seasons to beat West Liberty.
Those seniors - Steve Catich, Obi Ukwuoma, Pete Brogdon, and Marquis Moore - are gone, but the standard they set remains.
"I think that's the message," Sancomb said. "The great thing about our team is our guys expect to win."
The Cardinals return a seasoned backcourt in seniors Ben Siefert and Recardo Gaddy. Siefert averaged 11 points, seven assists, and four rebounds, while Gaddy led the WVC in 3-point field goals made (101) and averaged 14 points per game.
"I truly believe at our level, and most levels, you win with your guard play," Sancomb said. "And I think our point guard (Siefert) and our 2 guard (Gaddy) are as good as there is in Division II for what they do. Ben takes care of the basketball and is unbelievable at setting people up. I think he'll be called upon to score more this year, and he'll take that role on. When Gaddy gets open, he'll knock it down."
Phillip Green, another senior, will have his role extended, while Sancomb thinks 6-foot-6 senior Joe Prati, the first player off the bench the last 18 games a season ago, has the ability to turn in an all-conference type year with a little consistency.
"He's one of the best 3-point shooters in our conference, not on our team, in our conference," Sancomb said. "He's a guy that's going to be close to a double-double every night."
Prati averaged six points and four rebounds and led the team in blocks.
Four touted newcomers enter the fray in what looks to be bumper recruiting class at WJU, including Ohio's Mr. Basketball Justin Fritts.
"He's good," Sancomb said. "He's somebody that can score at this level. As far as freshmen go, he's as skilled an offensive player as I've ever coached."
Eric Siefert, Ben's brother who is a little more athletic and a little bigger than his sibling, is also on board, along with Darrin Harris, and Ohio Dominican transfer Steve Bridgeman.
"Our freshman class will be called upon to play this year," Sancomb said. "And they are ready to play. Sometimes freshmen think they're playing hard, but they don't understand what playing hard in college is. We will play hard this year. They don't have an option to do that. It hasn't been an adjustment as much as it normally is. The group that we brought in, they do get after it."
The juniors on the roster are Andre Harris and Shadyside's Justin Andes, while the sophomores are Bridgeman, Charles Bard, and Aaron Dinterman. Other freshmen are Tim Goff, Jacob Sisson, Alex Bergen, Cottrell Wise, Christian Gatwaza, Rashaad Hargrave, Joe Peduto, and Sam Peduto.
"I do know our team, as the year goes on, will get better," Sancomb said. "We have a long, long way to go to be the team I think we can be."
While Sancomb had a hard time seeing his seniors go, he's invigorated by the youth of the program.
"I just think, as a coach, you are called upon to do more," Sancomb said. "Last year, we were a veteran team. They knew how we were going to play, they knew what we were going to do. They were all business. This group has different personalities they're very outgoing for freshmen. They have bonded unbelievably and brought energy to our program."