By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Hard work fueled the run to the state championship by the Bluefield Beavers boys basketball team last season.
It was no surprise on Monday, the first day of practice for boys basketball in West Virginia, that that was again the mantra of a trio of senior leaders and their coach, Buster Large.
Large said he saw “a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of hard work” from the 25 or so boys running the shiny new floor at the Herb Sims Youth Center. “I think the kids know what we expect.”
“It feels like we just won it, and now we’re right back in it, and time to do work,” said Michael Yost. “We’ve got some hard workers in here. That’s what we need. We’ve got some good leaders, from Lykel (Collier) and (Anthony) Eades.”
To be ready for the start of the season, he said, “We’ve got to come in here each day, and work hard. No distractions. Play team ball. Be leaders out here.”
Eades said to be back on the floor with his fellow seniors “feels great. We’ve played together since our freshman year. But we’ve still got to work. We’ve got to work hard, every day.”
“Every day, we’ve got come in here and be leaders, show our leadership, and we’ve got to work hard. I’m sure Princeton is doing the same thing, so we’ve got to try to work as hard as they are.”
“We were all leaders, coming into our sophomore year. We knew we didn’t have many seniors our last two years, so we knew we all had to be leaders, too.”
Collier said, “We’ve got to work hard this year. Our goal is to be back in Charleston, but we’ve just got to take it one game at a time, and let it play out for itself.”
“We don’t overlook anybody, because we’re the defending state champs and we know everybody’s going to be gunning for us. You can’t overlook anybody.”
The point guard is glad to have the legal wrangling over his eligibility resolved. The state governing board for prep athletics reversed itself last month and gave the green light to Collier to play his senior year for Bluefield.
Collier, who said “We did everything legal,” said the decision was “a big relief. I’ve been playing with these guys all my lifetime, and this is my dream, to play with my best friends, my senior year, and enjoy our senior year together — because this could be possibly our last time playing together.”
“When I got the (news) that I could play this year, we had joy for it, we were happy that everything worked out well, because it was a stressful summer ... a stressful six months. I’m glad everything worked itself out.”
“I’m very excited. I’m ready to go out here with my teammates and have a good senior year this year.”
Large said he is “very happy to have him. We can move forward. He’s a great student-athlete for Bluefield High School, a very good young man in the community. He’s one of our team leaders, both on the court and off the court, in the high school and in the community.”
“I think all of his teammates are very happy to have him. This is a very close-knit group of senior leaders that we have.”
Large said, “I think we have a lot of outstanding senior leadership. ... Lykel, Anthony and Michael have been starting since their freshman year. I couldn’t ask for a better nucleus to get the season underway.”
Collier said, “We’ve got that chemistry. We know where each other (is) on the court. That makes it so much easier for everybody, to know where everybody’s spots are at.”
Large said, “They’re going to be joined by other seniors later on ... D.J. Edwards, Cory Coppola, Matthew Woodrum.”
Those Beavers are occupied this week as members of the football team, readying for a second-round playoff game with Nicholas County on Friday night.
Large reiterated his enthusiastic support for the BHS football program. “We want them to do as well as they can, and be successful in their road, hopefully, to win a state championship,” he said.
The delay in having football players able to take part in basketball practice is nothing new at Bluefield High, he said. “We’ve been through this, four out of the last five years,” he said. “We’re sort of used to it.”
“It also gives the opportunity for some other young men to get better in the next few weeks,” he added.
Asked about the Class AA state title season, the coach said, “That was last year, and it was an outstanding year. We are very proud of what these young men accomplished last year.
“But this is a new year, and we have a very demanding schedule ahead of us. We’ll have to work extremely hard to uphold the accomplishments we had last year.”
“We’ve had a very successful summer,” he reported. That included trips to play games at UVa-Wise and at Radford and Marshall universities. He said he appreciated the support of the BHS administration.
He said this year’s seniors have played “easily 75 to 85 games” in the off-season, at camps and in summer league, “to become good quality basketball players.”
“You’ve got to put some time and effort into anything you want to be successful,” he said.
“Obviously, the success that we’ve had, we must give credit to the players first. They’ve put this program back where it is. ... It’s come through a lot of hard work.”
The team’s focus is summed up as “just get better,” Collier said. “Each day, get better as a team, as an individual. We’ve got to work on the things we didn’t do (well) last year.”
“Defensively, we’re trying to get better as a defensive unit, because if we get better defensively, then our offense will come easier.”
Large said, “It’s preparation and being focused every week, for every game. ... We can’t say ‘We’re Bluefield High and we’re the defending state champs.’ ... There are a lot of quality teams in southern West Virginia and in Class AA.”
“We have a very demanding schedule ahead of us.”
Collier said, “It’s a lot of expectations this year. We’ve got, basically, our whole team coming back, our starting five or six.”
“But, you know, we’ve got to take it one game at a time. Nothing’s going to be given to us this year. We can’t overlook anybody. Everybody’s good.
“Everybody’s zero-zero right now, so you can’t determine who’s the best team in the state, or who’s this or who’s that.”
Large said, “I think the community is very excited about this team. I have an awful lot of people wanting us to get started, and looking forward to seeing us in a few weeks.”
A lot of the preparation for the debut will take place in the Bluefield Recreation Center, which has a new playing floor.
Large said about the use of that facility, “We’re very thankful to the City of Bluefield. They have been extremely helpful to us in the last few years. And special thanks to Dwight Godwin and Chawn Martin, co-directors of the rec department ... in providing us with the opportunity to get in a large gym before we can get in the armory.”
The Brushfork Armory will again be the venue for the school’s home games.
Large said the playing floor there “should be ready in the next 10 to 12 days. That’s going to be the site of a lot of activity.”
— Contact Tom Bone at