With their exhibition games behind them, the University of Virginia’s College at Wise men’s basketball team will start their 2018-19 season on Nov. 9, as they look to improve upon last year’s 14-16 record.
“We’re excited. This time of year everyone is excited to get geared up and going,” Head Coach Blake Mellinger said. “I think we have a good balance of returners and also a good balance of younger guys, so right now we’re just trying to incorporate our younger guys and get them up to speed on what we do and how we go about doing things.”
This year’s roster will feature five returners, including lone senior Rahji Langford and junior Michal Seals, who led the Cavaliers in steals and assists last season while finishing second on the team in scoring.
“I feel good. We’re getting better every day,” Seals said. “We just had a game the other day so we’re going to take some things from that. I like that we’re working hard.”
The Cavaliers traveled to Richmond on Oct. 30 where they played Virginia Commonwealth University in their first exhibition match of the season. Freshman Briggs Parris led the team in scoring with nine points in the 87-41 loss, while Seals had a team-high six rebounds and freshman Kaeleb Carter recorded seven points, five rebounds and three steals.
“The biggest thing I saw (against VCU) was we played hard and did a great job of playing with each other, which is where it starts with everything that we do,” Mellinger said. “I think it really prepares us for the best teams in our league. VCU presses, they play really fast, and a lot of teams in our league will play us in a similar way, so we wanted to play that game to help prepare us for the teams we’ll face in the season.”
Mellinger added that he was impressed with what he has seen from Parris in practice and during the exhibition game, pointing to him as a potential breakout player for UVa-Wise this season.
“You know, he played really well in our scrimmage and our exhibition game. He’s a freshman on the roster, but he plays with a little more maturity because he’s been here a year,” he said. “He was here last year but he red-shirted — so he’s been in the program for a year so that helps him a little bit. He’s still somewhat of an unknown to everybody around, so I think he’s really geared up for a breakout season.”
When asked who he felt could have a breakout season, Seals also said he felt Parris could have an impressive year for the Cavaliers.
“Probably Briggs. I’ll say Briggs but it could be a number of guys,” Seals said. “I like what I’ve seen out of him at the VCU game. He seems confident because he was red-shirted last year, so for him to be a red-shirt last year and to play the way he did at the VCU game showed that he’s going to be ready to have a big season for us.”
The Cavaliers played in an exhibition match at the University of Pikeville on Nov. 6, but the results of that game were not finalized at time of publication. The team will start their regular season schedule on the road on Nov. 9 when they play Livingstone College in the Earl Lloyd Classic at West Virginia State University. After playing Elizabeth City State University on the second day of the tournament, the Cavaliers will return to Wise for their home opener on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. when they host Alice Lloyd College. Looking to the upcoming season, junior Tajh Eason said that he thinks this could be one of the better teams UVa-Wise has had in years.
“I feel like we’re going to have a good year. We’ve got a lot of depth on the bench, and we’re going to be playing pretty fast, so I feel like we have one of the best squads that we’ve had in previous years, so it should be a pretty good season,” Eason said. “We just need to take it game-by-game and play like we know how to play and get a ring.”