The top high school talent in West Virginia and the immediate area descended upon Charleston this week.
West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins rushed to the state capital following the Mountaineers game at Kansas and was in attendance at some of the games in the slate known as The Shootout in the Big House, sponsored by Little General Stores.
No, this is not the Big House in Ann Arbor, Mich. This is West Virginia’s big house – the Charleston Civic Center. For some teams, in the shootout, playing in the CCC is a taste of what is to come next month in the WVSSAC state tournament.
For others, like Mountain Mission of Virginia, it was a chance to play somewhere new and show the host state what their team is made of.
That’s why Huggins made sure he was in attendance.
Mountain Mission’s Maciej Bender is a 6-foot-10, 235-pound big man who is also a West Virginia commit. According to 247sports, Bender also had offers from Arizona State, Davidson, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Mississippi, Providence, Purdue, among others.
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Bender originally hails from Poland, but has played at Mountain Mission for a few years with other players from foreign countries.
He has been committed to the Mountaineers for about six months and could make an immediate impact with the Mountaineers next season.
With senior Jonathan Holton departing next season, Bender could compete with Elijah Macon and Brandon Watkins for a starting spot.
That’s why Huggins wanted to see what Bender could do against some top competition in Charleston.
Mountain Mission took on First Love Christian Academy out of Washington, Pa. Mountain Mission limited First Love to just nine points in the first half and ran away with a 63-36 victory.
First Love is no slouch, though. The Knights were coming off a 100-point performance against Richmond (OH) Edison and have 19 wins on the season.
First Love has some Division I recruits, too. WVU assistant coach Ron Everhart has been to a few games and practices scouting some players, who also hail from around the world.
As for Bender’s performance against First Love, he scored 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes of play.
Three other players scored in double figures for Mountain Mission, so this is definitely not a one-man show. The team’s style of play meshes well with what the Mountaineers do, so Bender should have a seamless transition to the next level.
But, like former WVU basketball player Deniz Kilicli, who hailed from Turkey, there may be a bit of a language gap.
In an interview with BlueGoldNews.com, Bender seems timid and shy. So, he lets his game do the talking.