Last season Beckley was on pace for its worst record in program history.
A late-season surge changed that as the Flying Eagles won five straight late, beating foe Greenbrier East on the road in the sectional championship and dispatching South Charleston in the regional championship.
The end result was a return to the state tournament after a two-year hiatus.
Now the goal is to get back and do what the program is accustomed to – winning state championships.
“Our goal is always be there at the end cutting down the nets,” Beckley coach Ron Kidd said.” We’re not going to ever get away from that goal. We’re just going to keep grinding and working hard towards that. That should be their ultimate goal.”
Doing so won’t be easy.
The Flying Eagles graduated double-double threat Ben Gilliam, the program’s second-all-time leading-rebounder. The first goal is to replace that production in the middle, something nearly impossible for one person to do.
“You got to rebound by committee,” Kidd said. “Ben was a rebounding show, so it’ll need to be by committee. But we’ve got the size and the kids that are athletic enough to kind of cover that. Rebounding is just wanting to go get the ball so we have to make sure our guys want to go do that.”
That athleticism will likely translate on both sides of the ball. It’s something Kidd believes to be strength for the team and he plans to deploy it.
“Our strength is going to be that we can hopefully turn some people over on defense and get some easy shots. But right now we’re kind of struggling with our outside shot a little bit.” he said.
Kidd is confident and optimistic largely because of the group he brings back. Amongst the returners are Keynan Cook, three-year starter Maddex McMillen, sophomore point guard Elijah Redfern, Mike Miller and Landyn Wolfe.
“I feel great about our experience,” Kidd said. “It’s a great bunch of kids and I think the only reason we’re not shooting good is they’re coming off of football and they need to get their basketball legs in. I’m really happy with this team. They’ve got to learn how to be as one on then offensive end and the defensive end though.”
The veteran coach is hoping last year’s rough start can be avoided by looking back at how it unfolded. He’s hoping it served as a learning experience. The Flying Eagles overcame a 4-10 start and the death of teammate Dwayne Richardson to make the state tournament.
“I think it was a great experience for them other than what happened with Dwayne,” Kidd said. “That’s probably one of the worst things that could happen to anybody’s team. I think our kids just kept grinding and working and the biggest thing they learned is hard work pays off. If you work hard good things happen in the end. I thought our kids worked and even though we had one of our toughest schedules in school history – I’ve been there for over 20 years and that’s the toughest schedule I ever had – we got all 18 of our games in in a Covid season.”
Kidd also expects some contributions from newcomers, including Class AAA golf champion Zan Hill who decided to come out for his senior year.
“I think Zan Hill is going to be pretty good for us,” Kidd said. “Coming off of golf season he knows what it takes to be a state champion. I think he’s going to help us a whole lot.”
Kidd feels good about his squad but has just one reservation, something he believes can be remedied with time.
“It’s just the shooting,” Kidd said. “I think when we get back to basketball legs I think we’ll be a little bit better. I think that’s something you can correct with practice though. It’s repetition.”