KEYSER, W.Va. — Wes Washington, whose versatile and unselfish play led Keyser to its most successful season in more than 40 years, was voted the Cumberland Times-News boys basketball Player of the Year by area head coaches.
Washington, who became a varsity starter midway through his freshman season, is the first Keyser player to be voted player of the year, an award that dates back to 1977. The award will be presented at the Dapper Dan Sports Banquet in January.
An aggressive 5-foot-11 senior guard, Washington led a strong and balanced Keyser team to four championships, a 21-5 season, and a trip to the Class AA state tournament for the third time in four years.
Some players may have scored more points and some may have gotten more rebounds, but none, most coaches agreed, had a better all-around game than Washington.
He was 12th in the area in scoring with a 13.1 average, led the area in assists with 5.5 per game, and led the area in steals with 3.6 per game. He shot 47 percent from the field and also averaged 4.4 rebounds.
“His scoring statistics won’t jump out at you, but his assists and rebounds and steals were amazing and he’s probably our best defender, which never shows up in the stats,’’ said Keyser coach Gary Liston. “A lot of coaches and fans realized just how complete of a player he was.”
Perhaps most importantly, Washington had the ability to make everyone around him better, enabling Keyser to win Area and Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference championships as well as sectional and regional titles on the way to the state tournament.
Liston knew he had talented players returning this year. The key would be team play, chemistry and leadership. He got all of that, and more, from Washington.
“The best analogy I can use is it’s like having a BMW sitting in the driveway. It looks great but if you don’t have an engine under the hood to make it run, it’s not very good. Wes was sort of that engine for us. He makes a basketball team better by all the things he does.
“He always had the ability to find open people on the court. Over time, he developed the ability to score and his perimeter game has improved a whole lot,” Liston said. “We always knew he had the ability to get to the rim against anyone. He just has an extra gear to go from baseline to baseline.”
The 21 wins were the most in a season for Keyser since 1967, when the Golden Tornado won its first 22 games and finished 22-1.
Washington was also named Class AA first-team All-State Tournament, first-team All-Area, and first-team All-AMAC and AMAC player of the year.
Washington made an impact the first time he walked on the court as a freshman to the last time he walked off it.
“He was dominating at the jayvee level, and we just thought it was time,’’ Liston recalled about bringing Washington up to the varsity level during his freshman year. “We were struggling at the point guard position and after Wes moved up, I don’t know if it was just him or we just started peaking then, but we won six or seven in a row and got to the state tournament.
“It was like a whole new offense when he got on the court. Sometimes you hear people say a certain player has ‘it’. Well, whatever ‘it’ is, he’s got it. He has an ability to really make a team go.”
Washington’s high school career ended in a familiar place — the state tournament at the Charleston Civic Center.
Against top-seeded, unbeaten and defending champion Oak Hill, Washington scored 24 points, had eight rebounds and seven assists in a 66-65 loss in the semifinals. Oak Hill beat Scott the next day in the championship game, 57-48.
“He probably had the most exceptional game of anyone I’ve seen at the state tournament,’’ Liston said. “He did everything.”
Area head coaches nominated players for the All-Area team, then voted for the Player of the Year and All-Area team from a ballot. Twelve of the 14 coaches who nominated players returned their ballots.
Northern’s Matt Gibson, Keyser’s Peyton Hartman and Bishop Walsh’s Quincy Redmon also received player of the year votes.
The All-Area team will be featured in the upcoming Times-News Sports Magazine which will be a supplement to the May 28 Times-News.
Mike Mathews is a Cumberland Times-News sportswriter. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org