2007 Huntington Highlanders: West Virginia’s best-ever team
SHEPHERDSTOWN — There have been undefeated teams that sailed through West Virginia’s high school basketball winters. There was once a swath of seasons where Northfork High School won eight-straight state championships. Legendary coaches Boyd Jennings (Northfork), Dave Barksdale (Beckley Woodrow Wilson), Sam Andy (Wheeling Park), Willie Akers (Logan), Clyde “Hard Times” Green (Morgantown and Romney), “Preach” Wiseman (Beckley Woodrow Wilson), Huck Miers (Piedmont), Don Nuckols (Mullens), Lewis D’Antoni (Mullens) and Jerome Van Meter (Beckley Woodrow Wilson) crowd toward the top of the list of the state’s all-time best.
But none of those coaches ever collected the raw talent or won so convincingly as did the 2007 Huntington Highlanders of Coach Lloyd McGuffin.
Huntington had already won state championships in both 2005 and 2006, when the cast of players came together for a try for a third consecutive state title.
The Highlanders didn’t win them all in 2007. They lost twice — to Scott County (Kentucky) and St. Patrick (New Jersey); however they tamed the 21 teams they faced from the state of West Virginia by the average of a staggering 41.3 points a game.
In the 2007 state tournament, the Highlanders averaged 101.3 points a game in ripping through Fairmont Senior, Bridgeport and South Charleston. Huntington won its three state tournament games by an average of 48.3 points.
An all-state team of Class AAA players listed eight members. Four of them were from Huntington — O.J. Mayo, Patrick Patterson, Mike Taylor and Jamaal Williams. Mayo would later play for USC in Los Angeles and Patterson was a four-year starter at Kentucky. Both had lengthy careers in the NBA.
So impressive were those Highlanders that Chris Early landed a berth on the second-team all-state team, and even a sixth team member, Bruce Senior, was placed on the third-team all-state squad.
The 6-foot-5 Mayo was only in Huntington for that one season. He had been an all-state selection in Kentucky as an eighth-grader and made various Ohio all-state teams for the next three seasons. Patterson, at 6-foot-8, was on Huntington’s state titleists in both 2005 and 2006. Point guard Taylor, forward Williams, 6-foot-7 Early and 6-foot-6 Senior rounded out the Highlanders’ crew of destruction.
USA TODAY newspaper listed Huntington at number eight in the nation, following completion of the 2007 season. Three other national polls had Huntington in the Top 5.
The Highlanders played two times in Marshall’s Cam Henderson Center, selling out the 9,100 seat arena both times.
Even though few people expected even a close game, when Huntington came to the Civic Center Coliseum in Charleston for the state tournament the place was filled.
A significant number of games were played out-of-state against private schools, which also annually played a schedule of nationally-known teams.
The state of West Virginia has produced prodigious individual talents in Jerry West, “Hot Rod” Hundley and Rod Thorn, but never another team the likes of the 2007 Huntington Highlanders.