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Howlett looks for Robinson, Yoakum to provide steady play for Hilltoppers

— By Taylor Kenney

WHEELING, W.Va. — West Liberty’s successful basketball program will have a new look this season with guards Dalton Bolon and Luke Dyer no longer around.

Bolon is now at the College of Charleston after a stellar career with the Hilltoppers, while last season marked Dyer’s final campaign as a collegiate player.

Junior Pat Robinson will take on an expanded role and returns for his third season with the Hilltoppers. Robinson, a 6-foot-3 junior, has already tabbed 1,000 career points at West Liberty.

Fifth-year head coach Ben Howlett sees Robinson as his team’s leader following the departure of Bolon and Dyer.

“He’s had success here on and off the court,” said Howlett. “He is doing a great job in terms of leading. He is more of a vocal guy this year. He has been with me for two years and he knows how I want things done.”

Howlett has also been impressed with the leadership of Bryce Butlers and Marlon Moore over the offseason.

Will Yoakum missed 11 games last season after suffering a season-ending injury. He appeared in 12 games and started nine, while shooting 56 percent from the field.

“Our team will always be as good as Will wants us to be,” Howell said of the 6-5 junior. “We have said that for two to three years. Will is a guy that has played in NCAA and conference tournaments and conference championship games. Will is a guy that we need to get back and be as healthy as possible. He has a chance to be one of the best players here.”

Howlett is bringing back six players that averaged 15 minutes or more last season, including 6-foot-3 junior guard Malik McKinney.

“Malik McKinney is that guy right now,” Howlett said of the Bowie, Maryland native. “I think he’s had a great fall. You can argue that he has been our number one guy during the fall. I am looking forward to watching him play this year. I think he will be a huge piece to what we do this year.”

Forty percent of this year’s Hilltopper team is newcomers. West Liberty’s style of play has always been high-tempo and energetic, but Howlett believes those newcomers are still trying to pick up on how he wants the team to play.

“The correct word to use would be inconsistent,” Howlett said. “There are days when those guys are playing well and there are days when they are not. I think that is typical, especially here. Three of the guys are coming from different college programs where they do things differently. [Transfers] have adjusted better since they know how college basketball works. The high schoolers are typical freshmen. That is part of being a freshman.”

One of the high school newcomers is two-time Class A first-team all-state selection, Aiden Satterfield of Charleston Catholic. The 6-7, 185-pound Satterfield averaged 21 points and eight rebounds for the Irish a season ago.

“This year will be good for him,” Howlett said. “His body is changing. One of the biggest things for Aiden is physical. I know he has added some weight with our strength and conditioning coach outside of what we do as a team. This is a huge fall for him since everything was easy for him in high school. He is now going up against guys that are four years older than him. I think Aiden will end up being a great player for us.”

West Liberty will begin its season in the Atlantic Region Crossover. The Hilltoppers play their first game against Winston-Salem State on November 12.

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Greenbrier fire claims life

QUINWOOD, W.Va. — A woman was killed in a house fire that occurred early Thursday morning in Greenbrier County.

According to investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s Office, the victim, age 75, was unable to get out of the burning home in the Quinwood area. Her 34-year-old son was able to escape.

The fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the blaze.

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MetroNews This Morning 10-28-21

A man is in custody in connection with potentially explosive devices found on barges in the Ohio River in the past week. Fire claims the life of a Greenbrier County woman overnight. An unforeseen problem with the soil puts a halt to construction on a much anticipated school construction project in Kanawha County. State Police believe there are more victims of a man already charged with violently raping six women dating back ten years. A Morgantown man charged in connection with January 6th asks the court to let him go to work. Marshall’s BOG will select the school’s next President today and school boards discussion extension of mask mandates. In Sports, the Braves and Astros are now tied at one game each, Kyle Wiggs has that story and all the day’s sports in today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.

Listen to “MetroNews This Morning 10-28-21” on Spreaker.

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Hopefully, Marshall Will Welcome Brad Smith Home Today

West Virginia has many needs, but one of the most critical is human capital—individuals with attributes that make them, and those around them, successful.

We have lost a lot of that capital over the years as young people have left the Mountain State to pursue their dreams elsewhere, only to return to visit family on holidays.

But occasionally there are opportunities for the best and the brightest to come home, bringing with them their talents, their passion and their hope for a better West Virginia.

Brad Smith is one of those unique individuals who wants to come home to make a difference, and the chance comes today when the Marshall University Board of Governors meets to choose a new president to replace the retiring Jerome Gilbert.

The Board should, and almost certainly will, choose Smith from the five finalists.

Brad Smith

The Kenova, West Virginia native and Marshall grad has a thick resume.  He served as CEO of the Fortune 500 software company Intuit for 11 years, and now is the board’s executive chairman.  Intuit credits Smith with leading the “company’s transformation from a desktop software company to a global, cloud-based product and platform company.”

That success established Smith’s substantial credentials in Silicon Valley and made him very wealthy.  Smith and his wife Alys have been generous benefactors for Marshall and the state.

They gave $25 million to the Marshall business school, and they co-founded the Wing 2 Wing Foundation to foster entrepreneurship in the state.  One of the signature programs is Ascend West Virginia, which pays talented, hard-working individuals to move to the state.

Granted, Smith has not come through the ranks of higher education, and that works against him.  Colleges and Universities typically prefer individuals who have achieved success in academia.  However, that should not be a disqualifying factor, especially in the case of Smith.

During the public portion of his interview, Smith was precise about why he wants to return here.  “When I stepped down as CEO of Intuit in 2018, I got clear what my purpose was and my final chapter,” he said. “That was to come back to West Virginia and invest in those who invested in me.”

Candidly, this may be a difficult transition for Smith and the University. He is coming from the private sector where transformational change is necessary for survival.  In higher ed, the ivy-draped buildings and the ivory towers bespeak of tradition and a certain way of doing things.

But change—and this will be a change—is often difficult.

West Virginia has been held back by the brain drain.  It is impossible to calculate how much we have lost because so many talented individuals have put the state in their rear view mirror.  Brad Smith, despite his Silicon Valley success, wants to come back.

Marshall should welcome him home.




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Authorities make arrest stemming from suspicious devices

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — An arrest has been made in connection to suspicious devices found on watercraft in the Ohio River.

The West Virginia State Police announced the arrest on Wednesday. The person was taken in custody in Marietta, Ohio, before being transported to the South Central Regional Jail in Kanawha County on probable cause. The suspect’s name was not released.

The arrest comes after authorities confirmed a suspicious device was found on a Marathon petroleum barge, the third instance involving a suspicious device over the last week. Pleasants County authorities found a device on a barge last week, and West Virginia State Police reported two devices were placed on a towboat located near Williamstown on Monday.

Authorities responded to a suspicious device call in Greenup County, Kentucky on Wednesday, but officers determined the situation was a false alarm.

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American Legion post renamed after Chuck Yeager

HAMLIN, W.Va. — An American Legion post in Lincoln County has been renamed in honor of Chuck Yeager, the late U.S. Air Force pilot who became the first person to break the sound barrier.

American Legion Post 111 on Wednesday held a ceremony celebrating the dedication and new name, the Gen. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager Post 111. Victoria Yeager, Chuck Yeager’s widow, attended the ceremony.

Chuck Yeager, a Lincoln County native, died in December at the age of 97. He became the first person to fly faster than sound during an October 1947 flight.

Matthew Burton, the Legion’s vice commander, said he contacted Victoria Yeager about a possible name change two years ago. She supported the idea, but it could not happen at the time.

“In the rules, you can’t name a post after a living veteran,” he said. “We had to wait until Gen. Yeager passed in order to rename the post.”

Chuck Yeager was a member of the post for 42 years.

“Growing up, that’s our hometown hero,” Burton added.

“The people here adore him,” Victoria Yeager said. “He’s their family. He’s them. I knew that they would be more honored than any other group of people, and they’ve been so kind and warm to me, it’s just great. They love him.”

The Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center hosted a memorial earlier this year for Chuck Yeager. Then Vice-President Mike Pence was among the speakers at the service.

MetroNews’ Chris Lawrence contributed to this story.

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Much of West Virginia yet to reach peak fall colors

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Multiple parts of the state have yet to pass the peak of fall colors, according to the West Virginia Department of Tourism’s latest fall foliage report.

The agency with the state Division of Forestry releases the report every week to help travelers plan autumn trips around peak foliage.

Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby said Wednesday colors have been slower to peak because of a warmer-than-average fall.

“Color is arriving a little late this year, so travelers still have time to experience the beautiful warm hues of fall,” she said. “Whether you prefer to get outside and hike or just enjoy a leisurely drive, you’ll find plenty of scenic leaf-peeping destinations in Almost Heaven.”

While higher elevations in the eastern mountains have already experienced this year’s peak, the north-central region, the panhandles and southern West Virginia have yet to reach the mark.

The state Department of Tourism’s recommended drive of the week is state Route 310 in Fairmont to Grafton through Valley Falls State Park.

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Yeager Airport looking into operations of electric infrastructure

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Officials at Yeager Airport are eager to take steps in leading the aerospace industry’s electric infrastructure.

On Wednesday, the airport’s board approved entering into a contract with The Thrasher Group. Airport Design Consultants Inc. and Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research will be sub-consultants. The agreement means a team of consultants will be fully engaged to prepare the airport (CRW) and West Virginia for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) infrastructure, a release said.

Yeager Airport is working on multiple funding opportunities for the build-out of electric infrastructure at multiple West Virginia locations to operate eVTOL aircraft.

“These are battery-powered aircraft that don’t have engines but battery-powered motors. They take off and land vertically like helicopters but fly like an airplane. it’s the forefront of new and emerging technology that has zero emissions,” Yeager Airport Director Nick Keller said.

The contract signed Wednesday will build on work conducted over the last six weeks where Thrasher and CRW, along with Marshall University, and the Robert C. Byrd Institute, have been working on, including: establishing air Taxi intrastate air service and an eVTOL Center of Excellence, creating the first aerospace battery research center, identifying potential sites and conduct design work for aerospace components manufacturing facilities, and designing electric infrastructure including charging stations, landing pad facilities, vertiports, heliports, and flight simulators.

Another opportunity includes an Airport Electrification Project that includes the design and construction of electrical infrastructure, landing pad, and aircraft charging stations. It also includes the design and construction of the aerospace economic development center, which would consist of a 10,000 square foot hangar for electric and other aircraft, a terminal building for general aviation users, an innovation center, and aerospace business incubator and accelerator that will serve as a hub for the state.

“The airport wants to be a center of excellence, we want to be the hub for this emerging industry. We want to bring it to West Virginia,” Keller said.

Nick Keller

“What we need to do is make the infrastructure happen, we need to have the proper electric charging stations at multiple locations throughout the state of West Virginia.”

Keller said his team was recently at a national airport conference and it led them to believe they have been ahead of the curve in this industry.

“A lot of airports have never heard of this technology, they are not sure how to respond. At the same time, we already have consultants working on it, we’re already having meetings with these companies to plan for the future and how we can attract them here,” he said.

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Mike Carey mixing four returning starters with seven newcomers as season nears

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Three weeks remain on the calendar before the WVU women’s basketball team opens up their regular season against St. Francis. As Mike Carey prepares for his 21st season leading the Mountaineers, he believes that time is not necessarily on his side to blend four returning starters with seven newcomers.

“I am starting to get real hyper about it,” Carey said. “I really am getting nervous about it because I really thought we would be a little farther along right now. We have talent. I told the team yesterday, ‘Talent doesn’t win. You can have all the talent in the world. If you don’t play together, if you don’t space, do all the little things, you are not going to win’.”

Expectations inside the Coliseum are elevated after last year’s 22-7 season where the Mountaineers finished second in the Big 12 in both the regular season and the conference tournament. West Virginia is ranked 19th in the AP preseason poll.

“It is going to be a lot of pressure but it is good pressure,” said WVU senior point guard Madisen Smith. “Teams are going to be gunning for us like coach said. They are going to try to come for us every night because we are ranked. So we have to give it right back to them.”

Kysre Gondrezick was selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the WNBA Draft, but the rest of the WVU starting lineup returns.

“If you are asking me right now, ‘What is the best combination?’ I don’t know,” Carey said. “You’ll see signs that this is a pretty good group right here, and then it is not, and then another group. Rotations are going to be very important for this team.”

Fourth-year starting point guard Madisen Smith is back at full strength after suffering a leg injury that cost her all but four minutes on the floor in the final nine games of last season.

“It became apparent in the NCAA’s that we needed her leadership at the point,” Carey said. “The ball wasn’t getting reversed. The ball wasn’t getting to the open man. It made a big difference last year when she wasn’t in there.”

K.K. Deans and Kari Niblack return for their third seasons as starters. As a sophomore, Esmery Martinez averaged a double-double with 11.6 points and 13.6 rebounds per game. Depending on lineups, Martinez could slide out to small forward and play at various spots on the floor.

“It was just all a matter of confidence for her. When she first got here, she was pretty uncertain about herself. Coming to West Virginia, she didn’t know anybody,” said Niblack.

“She is comfortable playing with us now. I think that’s really all it was, becoming comfortable and having the confidence to play with us. That’s how she blossomed so quickly.”

The Mountaineers will host WVU-Tech Thursday at 7 p.m. in their annual ‘Haunted Hoops’ game. It is the lone preseason game open to the public.

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Man accused in Preston County murder waives preliminary hearing

KINGWOOD, W.Va. — The Detroit man charged with first degree murder in the shooting death of a Maryland man in Preston County has waived his preliminary hearing in magistrate court and the case has been forwarded to a grand jury.

Damon Hudgens (WVRJA)

Damon Lamont Hudgens, 21, is accused of ordering the kidnapping of Jimmy Lee Barkley, 41, from his Oakland, Maryland home to a remote cabin in Preston County where court documents say Hudgens shot him for “retribution.”

According to authorities, Andrew Wassick, 24, of Morgantown, Dashawn Scott, 25 and Roy Cheshire, 20, located Barkley in Oakland on Oct. 12, brought him to the cabin and turned him over to Hudgens. Shortly after they turned Barkley over to Hudgens multiple gunshots were reported. Authorities said Barkley died in the early morning hours of Oct. 13.

Wassick, Scott and Cheshire have been charged with kidnapping and assault.

Barkley’s body was recovered after information was gathered during a separate drug raid.

That information was given to Preston County sheriff’s detectives who, along with a K-9 officer, found Barkley’s body and turned the crime scene over to state police.

Hudgens remains in the North Central Regional Jail without bail.

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