By John Veasey
Times West Virginian
New Fairmont State men’s basketball coach Jerrod Calhoun is getting mighty anxious to begin practicing his Falcon cagers next month. He’s been waiting for this date (Oct. 15) since April.
His recruiting is believed to have been top-notch as he has brought in 11 new players — all of whom are optimistic about starting for the Maroon and White this winter.
“We have 33 days until we get started,” he said at a community breakfast Wednesday morning at the Clarion Inn in Fairmont. “This will be my first opportunity to show people I can coach. I’ve shown them that I can recruit.”
He says “we’ve done a tremendous job getting the kids on campus. We kept five guys from last year. We were very fortunate in getting good players right away.”
The five players Calhoun kept from last season’s squad coached by Brett Vincent are Ty Garrison and Nick Bonnett from Fairmont, Andrew Gunnoe from Hinton, Melvin Rhodes from Baltimore, and Isaac Thornton from Martinsburg.
Calhoun believes his team boasts some tremendous kids.
“We have a tremendous team, an exciting team,” he said. “It will give us the chance to prove to the fans that we’re back where we belong. I think you’re going to like our team when you see how hard it plays.”
He said Ty Garrison, who starred for the Polar Bears, and Nick Bonnett, who was an East Fairmont standout, both have made great progress over the summer months. Both are juniors.
“Coach Retton comes up and talks about the traditions at the college,”
Calhoun went on. “President (Dr. Maria) Rose is a tremendous lady. She has great vision. The first thing I asked coach Retton was, ‘Is she at the games?’ He said, ‘She’ll be sitting at half court.’ Those things were very, very important to me when I took the job.
“That’s what I consider important. When I first saw the Feaster Center, I immediately saw we needed to upgrade the facilities. We’re going to start a brand-new locker room next week, one I think our guys will be very, very proud of.”
Calhoun said putting together his 2012-13 squad has been a team effort.
“Different people in the community have all helped. This really is going to help our recruiting. I kind of learned from coach (Bob) Huggins and coach (Rollie) Massimino why settle for second when you can work from the top?”
He said a fundraiser is coming up next Friday, an elimination dinner at Jimmy Sears’ restaurant.
“All the proceeds from that will go into the kids’ summer school program. We want our kids to continue to get bigger and stronger in the summer.
“Our guys have been working out with some of the WVU players this summer,” he said.
“We’re very limited to what we can do with them until Oct. 15,” Calhoun said. “During this period we get the guys for eight hours a day. We get two hours on the court and we can work that out any way we want.”
In looking to the upcoming season, he predicts that West Liberty will be very, very good.
“They will probably be the preseason No. 1 team in the country. Charleston is very good also,” he said.
Calhoun’s staff includes Paul Molinari, who has 22 years of Division 1 experience.
“He does a great job with post players and with academics,” Calhoun said.
Chris Robinson and Mantoris Robinson are both graduate assistants. “And Joe Lambiotte has done an unbelievable job for us getting us acclimated to Fairmont.”
Lambiotte is a former Fairmont State head coach, guiding the Fighting Falcon fortunes from 1985 to 1989. His won-lost record was 61-115.
Calhoun said he was having an experienced college coach come to Fairmont for a couple of days to give him an assessment of how Fairmont State is doing to date from an opponent’s standpoint.
The coach also said he feels very good about the new league coming out of the West Virginia Conference next year.
“Four teams are really, really good,” he said, and noted that his Falcons will be in that status before long.
Email John Veasey at email@example.com.