By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
There are very few basketball teams, even in the NBA that return all five starters from one season to the next. The Bluefield Beavers fit in that category as all five players who started on last season’s state championship team return and look to reach the state finals for the third consecutive year and in the process win back-to-back titles.
Three of those five starters have been three-year starters for Beavers head coach Buster Large – Anthony Eades, Lykel Collier and Michael Yost, all three All-State performers in 2012-13, Eades and Collier first team, Yost second team. Post players D.J. Edwards and Corey Coppola round out the starting lineup.
“It feels good having all these guys back and hopefully we go back-to-back and have another ring for this season,” Yost commented.
“We’re going to definitely have to work harder,” Eades said. “Everybody is going to be gunning for us – defending state champions. The main thing, really, is to stay focused and work hard every day.”
Point guard Lykel Collier said, “It feels good knowing that we have everybody back. Now with the football players back it feels better and we can work on our chemistry and how we’re going to be able to get back to Charleston.”
Two of the football players Collier speaks of are Edwards and Coppola both of whom are excited about the upcoming season.
“It’s good playing with everybody,” Edwards said. “We know what we’ve got to do and we know what we had to work on from last year. It will be good for all of us to come back and play together this year.”
Coppola is the lone starter who is not a senior. The junior realizes what needs to be done to meet the expectations not only of the public, but those goals the team sets for themselves.
“It helps a lot to have all of us back, but we’ve still got to work hard just to get back to where we were last year,” Coppola said. “It would be kind of a disappointment for the defending state champs not to make it back to the state championship.”
It appears that complacency has not set in with the Bluefield players and each one realizes what must be done during the preseason and once games begin.
“We’ve got to come to practice, work hard, be focused, take each game one at a time, teamwork and just play hard,” Yost said.
Eades added, “A lot of teams are good this year and they are going to be gunning for us, so we’ve got to prepare each day in practice, get ready for each team. That’s all we can do.”
The Beavers have plenty of weapons. Collier is the crafty point guard who can penetrate, dish it off or sink it from the perimeter. Yost is a wing who can drain the three and is a tough defender and can also take the ball inside. Eades is a deadly shooter from behind the three-point line and has averaged more than 20 points in each of the last two seasons. Edwards and Coppola are players who crash the boards on both ends of the court.
Asked about the team’s strengths, the players had their own thoughts, but it seemed that working together topped the list.
“Definitely our chemistry is our strong point,” Eades commented. “We know where we’re going to be at on the floor and everything just clicks. That’s definitely the best part.”
Collier added, “After practice, before games, we go out to Bob Evans and eat with each other. We like to do things together and that’s what we’ve done to grow our chemistry. We go out to eat, go to watch the girls play. We just like to do things together because it’s like a family thing.”
“It you don’t have team chemistry, you don’t have a team,” Edwards said. “We’ve got that. We’ve got real good team chemistry.”
During the off-season those who did not play football did other things together.
“We played pretty much every day, lifted some weights,” Yost said. “I ran cross country to keep my stamina and I just worked hard.”
“The people that didn’t play football ran cross country,” Collier said. “So that was one thing to keep us in shape and then we just worked out two or three days a week with each other. We played all the time.”
Large also commented on his team’s chemistry.
“It’s something we’re very proud of,” Large said. “I think we’ve got a lot of team unity among these young men. They respect each other. They respect opponents that we play every week and the thing that I really like about it all is they are all good student-athletes.
“They work hard in school, they work hard in the community. We did a lot of things this past year for our community in helping kids out in camps and different organizations and that’s all a part of representing Bluefield High School and representing the Bluefield community.
The Beavers realize it will not be easy to repeat but they are up for the challenge.
“We’ve got some pretty tough games this season, Wyoming East, Greenbrier East, Graham,” Yost said.
Collier said, “We open up with Princeton, that’s a big rivalry game and it’s kind of bad that we open with them, but it’s kind of good to see where we are standing at the beginning of the season. Other than Princeton we’ve got some tough games with Wyoming East, the Big Atlantic Classic, Greenbrier East, Graham, we’ve got a tough schedule this year but it gets us prepared for March.
Collier a four-year starter summed up the team’s attitude that has led to its success.
“We are not selfish. We play together,” Collier said. “We know our roles on this team and that’s a good thing for us. We expect a lot from each other and we know what to do.”
The Beavers open the regular season Thursday night at Princeton.
— Contact Bob Redd at