VAN — Van High School Boys Basketball Coach Dave Gogas said that he will be leaning on his returning experienced players sprinkled with young talent for the 2019-20 basketball season.

“We have returning starters that we will be counting on this season to lead us on the court,” Gogas said. “We also have some young guys that are going to contribute on the floor in their first varsity experience so it is going to be an exciting year.”

Two-time CVN All County guard David Stewart returns for his senior season for the Class A Bulldogs.

Stewart, who also stars in football for the blue and gold averaged 14 points per game last season coupled with 2.7 steals. He is the best ball handler on the team and is an integral part of beating any press that is applied to the Bulldogs.

“That comes from Coach (Gogas),” he said. “He’s made me a better ball handler through the drills that he has us do,” Stewart said.

The guard said that summer play helped improve his skills.

“We played a lot during the summer and I want to lead and tried to play better with my teammates this summer and Coach Gogas got us in the weight room,” Stewart said. “We worked on our game and worked on ball handing and shooting this summer, too.”

Stewart said that he generally transitions from football season to basketball season easily.

“It really isn’t tough and I think most guys just flip the switch,” he said. “I’m pretty physical in basketball, too.”

The squad graduated six seniors last season including leading scorer Gavin Smith (16.0).

“You don’t replace a kid like Gavin,” Gogas said. “You look for guys to step up and bring what they have to the table and be the best that they can be. They are all unique and bring different skill sets that can make a team successful and we thing we can win some ball games with the talent and experience we have coming back.

Seniors Austin Javins and Hunter McMicken, a pair of 6-foot-3 trees in the paint that provide an opportunity for Van to once again be a good offensive rebounding team, something they have excelled at during Gogas’ tenure as head coach.

“Our guys are coming into high school with good fundamentals and that allows us to not have to focus on things they should be learning at the middle school level so I am thankful for that,” he said. “Our coaches do a good job of preparing our kids as they enter high school. If you are at the high school level and you are teaching basic fundamentals, you aren’t going to be very good.”

Senior Ethan Coleman and junior Kalen Booth provide athleticism and scoring support for the Bulldogs.

Underclassmen like Brady Green, Byron Stewart and Shaun Booth will get their first taste of varsity action in supportive roles and will challenge upperclassmen for playing time.

“We have a good group of young guys that will challenge,” Gogas added. “That is healthy for a team and I like to see that competitiveness in practices. It makes us all better.”

McMicken enters practices at around 295 pounds. The fullback and defensive lineman for the football team is down 30 pounds from where he began the season a year ago. He said that he personally takes a little bit of time to adjust from football to hoops.

“I guess it is a little bit of a different mindset in terms of how you approach the games,” he said. “You are still aggressive in basketball but it is a different kind of aggression. It takes me little bit of time to adjust. I want to play better defense this year and be quicker up and down the court. I’m definitely stronger than I was last year.”

Javins said that he likes what he sees from his teammates early on and that the work they put in during the summer will pay off.

“We got in the gym and went through some drills and hit the weight room and just focused on basketball related stuff,” he said. “I want to be a good rebounder and it is something I keep working on.”

Gogas said that ultimately, he’s looking for leadership from his seniors and the willingness to learn from his underclassmen.

“It starts with leadership and I think that Hunter and Austin will step up and help in that way and be leaders as well,” he said. “Stewart has to step up on the defensive side and be a better defender this year. When he focuses on defense, the results were amazing for our team. He understands that and I look for him to answer that challenge this season.” Gogas will be assisted by Phillip See once again in 2019-20.

The Bulldogs tip off their season on Dec. 13 as they play host to Class AA Lincoln County.

2019-20 Van High School Boys Basketball Schedule

12/13/19 H — Lincoln County

12/14/19 A — Tyler Consolidated

12/17/19 A — Buffalo

12/21/19 A — Charleston Catholic

12/27/19 A — Tug Valley

12/30/19 H — Liberty Raleigh

01/07/20 H — Tolsia

01/10/20 A — Lincoln County

01/14/20 H — Buffalo

101/17/20 H — Sherman

01/24/20 H — WVHIT First Round

01/30/20 6 p.m. H — Man

01/31/20 H — WVHIT Second Round

02/04/20 A — Tolsia

02/07/20 H — WVHIT Third Round

02/13/20 H — Tug Valley

02/14/20 A — Sherman

02/15/20 H — WVHIT Final Round

02/18/20 H — Independence

02/21/20 A — Liberty (Raleigh)

02/25/20 6 p.m. A — Man

Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at 304-307-2401.