WJU Men Back for More
By SHAWN RINE
WHEELING — Coach Danny Sancomb steered the Wheeling Jesuit men’s basketball team to the cusp of the NCAA Division-II Elite 8 a season ago, falling to eventual runnerup Fairmont on its home floor in the regional final. That marked the deepest postseason run in program history.
A mix of veterans and newcomers make up the roster of a team that began the season ranked No. 19 in the county and has visions of grandeur this time around.
The Cardinals kicked off the season by sweeping their way through Gannon and Bowie State at a tournament on the campus of Shepherd, before returning to the Alma Grace McDonough Center and holding off Virginia Union. That’s three victories against Atlantic Region foes that will all likely win 20-plus games this season.
“We played three really hard games and we’re very fortunate,” Sancomb said. “There haven’t been any easy games, that’s for sure. But those are the type of games we want to play so we’re ready for conference play.
“We want to make sure we’re playing tough teams.”
To be sure, Cardinals opponents will be facing a tough team each night out. Picked to win the Mountain East Conference, Wheeling Jesuit will be led by its trio of senior captains, Pat Moseh, Haywood Highsmith — each an all-conference pick last season — and the heady Drake Goddard at point guard.
“The leadership of our three seniors is great, as well as their knowledge of what it takes to win,” Sancomb said. “We need the to carry that insight to our new guys.
“As a whole, we need our team to play together, take good shots and play great defense.
Moseh led the team in scoring last season with 16.2 points to go with averages of 5.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
“We need Pat to do everything,” Sancomb said. “He is our best perimeter defender and has the ability to play the point through the four.
“Pat has improved dramatically with his shooting but he needs to continue to attack the rim and put pressure on the defense.”
Highsmith gives the Cardinals a second 1,000-point career scorer, and in fact he and Moseh are separated by just 28 points during their time at WJU. A season ago, Highsmith had averages of 15.3 points and 10.8 rebounds. He is on pace to have 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, which is rare in WJU annals.
“We need Haywood to do what he does,” Sancomb said. “He is the top rebounder in the region, scores inside and outside and can defend multiple positions on defense.
“He is a much improved player from last year.”
Goddard committed only 29 turnovers in 34 games while handing out 50 assists. He has been bitten by the injury bug throughout his career, and is currently battling another that is limiting playing time to 8-12 minutes a night.
“It’s unfortunate because Drake came back in tip-top shape,” Sancomb said. “He does a good job leading the floor and as a defender.
“He does an excellent job of knocking down the open shot and running the team.”
That trio is joined by sophomore Preston Boswell, a graduate of Magnolia, who has moved into the starting lineup. He had a tremendous freshman season averaging 13.5 points and scoring more than 20 five times. Boswell already has a game-winning basket against Virginia Union to his credit in 2017.
“he makes shots and scores by attacking the rim,” Sancomb said. “His is bigger and stronger and better than last year and has the ability to be a playmaker this year.
“And even though he’s still a young guy, he is one of our leaders.”
The Cardinals have three new guards in true freshmen Brent Pegram and Brendan Hoban, each seeing quality minutes, as well as junior transfer Miguel Rodriquez.
Pegram is quick and is a good on-ball defender. Hoban is a scorer who can knock down the outside shot, and he will only get more comfortable as the season progresses. Rodriguez averaged 10.4 points and 2.1 assists for Garrett College.
Sophomore Zach Collins is an improved player who can knock down the open shot. He will spell Moseh.
Freshman Jakoby Lane-Harvey is another good defender that makes plays in the open court, while redshirt freshman Alex Kassolis adds depth at guard and is capable of burying shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
Junior transfers Jeremiah Wilson and Ryan Cooper will look to replace graduated 1,000-point scorer Kyle Ritz on the interior. Wilson is a physical player and good rebounder from Chicago who averaged 10.3 points and 7.9 rebounds for Kennedy King College.
Cooper, who stands 6-foot-8, can stretch the defense with his shooting range. He is also an adept passer who averaged 3.7 points at Wabash Valley Junior College.
Brandon Joseph, a true freshman, and redshirt freshman Jeremiah Brooks will look to provide minutes off the bench inside.
Sancomb is assisted by Ryan Kostur and graduate assistants Steve Bridgeman and Bobby Brackett.