Huntington Prep loaded for '11-12 season
HUNTINGTON -- Sports fans in the Tri-State area might want to get really familiar with the Huntington Prep basketball program soon.
That's because those nationally involved in the sport are already taking notice of what coach Rob Fulford is doing.
Huntington Prep appears on its way to being one of the top basketball programs in the nation when preseason polls are announced before the start of the 2011-12 campaign.
"With what we have coming in and coming back, it's a legitimate preseason top 10 team, maybe even top 5," Fulford said of the team he has assembled.
Huntington Prep already brought back a pair of high-major players garnering national attention with Negus Webster-Chan and Stefan Jankovic -- both of whom played in the All-Canada Classic last month (the Canadian version of the McDonald's All-American game.
Webster-Chan, a 6-7, 195-pound small forward, grabbed MVP honors for the Classic, but then suffered a foot fracture while competing in the FIBA U19 World Championship for Canada against host Latvia.
The former Louisville commit reopened his recruiting following staff changes in April and is currently considering a multitude of high-major options.
Meanwhile, Jankovic has gained nearly 20 pounds in the last year and is now a hot commodity as a 6-10, 225-pound power forward that can stretch a defense and hit the 3-point shot consistently. With the bulk increase, Jankovic's scope has also increased in national recruiting circles.
Several Big East schools have looked at him, including Georgetown, Syracuse and West Virginia. Michigan and Wake Forest have also shown interest.
While those two players will serve as the backbone of the team for the upcoming season, there are several players who have committed to joining Huntington Prep that have elevated the program's already-strong status nationally.
The latest -- and greatest -- development for the Express basketball program came Friday when word circulated that Elijah Macon was officially coming to Huntington.
Macon is a 6-8, 215-pound power forward that is nationally-ranked in the top 50 overall in all three scouting services (Scout, 43; ESPN, 44; Rivals, 49).
Macon's skill set is perfect for the style that Fulford employs, and the veteran coach is eager to see him on the court with his players.
"He gives us a big kid that can guard multiple positions, make athletic plays and can put it on the floor when he has to," Fulford said. "He gives us a certain level of toughness on the inside, but he can also step out and shoot the 3."
Macon, who is drawing interest from UConn, Florida and WVU, is one of four new players that join Webster-Chan and Jankovic as Class of 2012 prospects.
The other trio of 2012 prospects are all guards that offer Fulford a multitude of weapons and athleticism on the offensive end.
Ray Lee is a 6-3, 175-pound point guard that has drawn comparisons to Derrick Rose in terms of his style of play.
While he has a long way to go to earn such accolades, Fulford said that his athleticism is something to marvel at.
"Ray is a kid that you just can't keep in front of you in open space," Fulford said. "At his former high school and in AAU, he attacks the basket and has been a scorer. Here, he will have to learn how to run the team and distribute."
Lee is rated No. 85 by Scout and No. 124 by Rivals and currently holds offers from Tennessee, USC, Iowa, Iowa State and Baylor.
Javontae Hawkins is another ESPN Top 100 kid for 2012 that Fulford is bringing to Huntington. Hawkins, a 6-5, 180-pound shooting guard provides athleticism, but his strongest attribute is his touch from the perimeter.
Fulford said that could especially be shown with Lee's ability to get into the paint and kick out.
"With the guards we have, they can get anywhere on the floor and kick to shooters like Javontae," Fulford said. "He's really going to be successful with the guys we have around him."
Evan Payne is a 6-1, 175-pound combo guard that Fulford labeled as "the most athletic kid on the team." Payne's versatility will allow him to be more of a defensive presence while seeing action at both the point and shooting guard spots.
Fulford is excited for the many Class of 2012 prospects that he has, but the excitement level is just as high for the younger crop of players coming in.
Right now, the headline catch is Xavier Rathan-Mayes, a 6-3, 175-pound shooting guard that originally committed to Findlay Prep before reversing course and coming back to the eastern U.S.
Rathan-Mayes was originally a top-25 recruit in the 2014 class, but he had to reclassify as a 2013 prospect upon coming to Huntington.
Despite being young in the recruiting process, he already has several high-major offers, most notably from Louisville, Kansas, Texas, Washington, Arizona and Memphis.
Fellow 2013 prospect Tanveer Bhullar joins Huntington Prep after seeing the success that his brother Sim had with the program.
While Sim Bhullar, the 7-4, 330-pound center, is moving on to Xavier this fall, his 7-2, 280-pound brother will continue Fulford's ability to have a shot-altering center on the court.
"Tanveer changes ends better than what Sim does," Fulford said. "He's not as good at Sim at this stage, but from all indications, he's a hard worker."
While the new additions are certainly noteworthy and put Huntington Prep in the national spotlight, the biggest announcement may still be to come.
Andrew Wiggins, a 6-7, 200-pound small forward, is one of the top prospects for the Class of 2014, and has been rumored to be joining Huntington Prep in the fall as well.
Wiggins plays AAU for CIA Bounce -- Canada's top AAU program that has made considerable headlines in the United States this fall.
CIA Bounce has also been the summer basketball home for several Huntington Prep players, including Webster-Chan, Jankovic and the Bhullar brothers -- Sim and Tanveer.
Fulford said that in addition to the strong roster for the upcoming season, he has assembled a schedule that will have the team in several high-profile games, including games at Cameron Indoor Stadium at Duke and Rupp Arena at the University of Kentucky.
A schedule announcement and potential television dates for games are expected to be announced soon.