Morgantown's Nathan Adrian, the 6-foot-9 forward who has already signed a letter of intent to play at West Virginia University, and Martinsburg's Donte Grantham, a 6-foot-7 forward who is getting a lot of recruiting attention from WVU as of late and very well may join Adrian on the Mountaineer squad, waged a pitched battle from start to finish.
In the end, Adrian's Mohigans earned a very hard-fought 64-59 victory. The Morgantown win avenged its only loss thus far this season, as the Mohigans, who are now 10-1 on the season and No. 4 in the state, had lost at Martinsburg a couple weeks ago. For the Bulldogs, who entered the game No. 1 in the state, they tasted defeat for the first time this season, falling to 10-1.
Certainly Martinsburg and Morgantown are far from one-man teams. The Mohigans have a number of players capable of scoring in bunches from three-point range, and Saturday night it was Mark Johnson, the son of former WVU assistant football coach Dave Johnson, who was draining threes to help bring Morgantown back from an early 11-2 deficit. For Martinsburg, Grantham is surrounded by talented guards, like senior Jalen Lewis and freshman Jarrell Jones, who can create their own shots and drive to the bucket. Though each team turned the ball over far too often for their coaches' liking, both squads got production from numerous players.
But most in the crowd, including WVU assistant coach Ron Everhart, who had come straight to the Morgantown High gym from the Mountaineers' charter flight back from Purdue, came to check out Adrian and Grantham.
Adrian got the better of Grantham on the scoreboard and in the scorebook. The Morgantown forward was outstanding, scoring 25 points while also pulling down 12 rebounds, blocking four shots and handing out six assists. His complete skill set was in evidence Saturday. Though his outside shots weren't always falling (1-3 from three), he scored often inside, at times over Grantham himself.
Even more impressive than his point production, though, was his ability to handle the ball in the face of a withering Bulldog press that was causing Morgantown's guards fits. Adrian also is an excellent passer who constantly found open teammates who were sniping from the perimeter. Adrian has always had the ability to shoot, handle and pass better than most 6-foot-9 high schoolers. That's what drew WVU's attention when the Mountaineers first saw him on the AAU circuit several years ago. The one thing lacking at times in Adrian's game was an aggressiveness that will be demanded by Bob Huggins. But in the face of No. 1 Martinsburg, Adrian played with a fire and aggression that had to leave Everhart smiling. He was dominating in a game that featured other high-level talent. If he can continue to combine his skill set with the aggression he displayed Saturday, he's got a chance to be an outstanding wing player in the college ranks.
Because he's a tall kid from West Virginia who can hit outside shots, everyone likes to compare him to Kevin Pittsnogle. That's probably not accurate. Adrian is a good perimeter shooter, but Pittsnogle was one of the elite shooters of his time. Adrian's ability to handle the ball and pass makes him a unique big man, different than Pittsnogle, and it make it hard to find an adequate comparison. Maybe part D'or Fischer and part Devin Ebanks – tall, versatile, not great athletically but well above average.
Grantham isn't as polished as Adrian, but at 6-foot-7 and a lanky 200 pounds, he definitely has a high level of athleticism. He did hit a three-pointer against Morgantown, but at least Saturday, he operated better inside, crashing the offensive glass and driving down the lane. His game is still a bit raw, and he's not asked to handle the ball or distribute it like Adrian. Grantham's shooting motion isn't extremely fluid, but it was effective, both from the foul line (where he scored most of his 17 points against the Mohigans) and on his one outside attempt.
Grantham also rebounds well and blocked a number of Morgantown shots, though he also wasn't as aggressive at times as the Bulldogs' veteran coach Dave Rogers would have liked. Grantham is similar to Adrian, in that both need to hit the weight room to increase their strength and girth. The best comparison for Grantham in terms of former Mountaineers is probably a young John Flowers. Grantham is probably a better shooter than Flowers was as a college freshman, though Flowers developed into a more than adequate shooter over the course of his career. Grantham has a similar type of high-flying athletic ability in a relatively tall, lanky body. He's still raw, and he's still probably a year or two away from fully tapping into his full potential, but his combination of size and athletic ability is obviously intriguing. Grantham will have work at it, because he's definitely not a finished product, but his potential is evident.
In talking to sourcesfrom Martinsburg, it appears WVU may offer Grantham a scholarship in the very near future. If they do so, odds are Grantham, who currently also holds scholarship tenders from the likes of George Mason and James Madison, will likely commit. Though each projects as a small forward at the college level, the skill sets of the two are different, but both could ultimately be very effective for Huggins' squad, if they buy into his aggressive style of play. With that aggression, both could be very good college players, but they'll need that to reach their potential.