By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The best high school athletes don’t retire from their favorite sports, they just move on to the next level.
Anthony Eades knows where that ‘level’ is for him.
“I had about 10 schools, some offered, some didn’t,” Eades said, “but I just really liked Tusculum, I thought that was the place.”
The Bluefield Beavers basketball standout made it official on Wednesday, committing to continue his education and basketball career next fall at Tusculum College, a Division II school located in Greeneville, Tenn.
“It is a great school, basically my role will probably be shooting the ball, that is what I am best at,” Eades said. “I am just going to go down there and help the team as much as I can.”
With that decision out of the way, Eades can now focus on the immediate task ahead.
“It is a great feeling,” Eades said. “I wanted to sign early to get it out of the way so I can focus on my senior season and look to focus on back-to-back state championships. It takes a lot of pressure off. I just want to focus on my senior season and look to get back-to-back rings.”
With all five starters back, including Eades, who was the Pocahontas Coal Association/Bluefield Daily Telegraph Player of the Year and an All-Class AA first team selection last season, hopes are high that the Beavers can repeat as state champions.
The Beavers finished 25-3, winning Bluefield’s third state title and first since consecutive state crowns in 1995-96.
“We have definitely got to go out there and earn it,” Eades said. “People are gunning for us, but we have just got to keep working hard and hard work will pay off at the end of the season.”
Basketball success is nothing new for the Eades family. His father, Mike, won a pair of state championships at Princeton in 1979 and 1981, and was later a point guard at Lees-McRae College. He is currently a well-respected college basketball official.
“He has played a huge role in my life,” Anthony said. “He has taught me everything I know about basketball, a lot of the credit goes to him.”
The same goes for his mother, Gina, and so many others that Mike wished to recognize for their contributions to their son’s success.
“What is lost a lot of times in this is my wife, Gina, she has been kind of like the buffer zone when we bang heads and knock around at times,” said Eades, who has been married to Gina for more than 18 years. “She has been great, a great mother, a great wife, she is just as much a part of this as I am...
“The coaching staff, the teammates and just the entire community of Bluefield, they have been so great, not only to myself, but to my son and they are a great part of this as well.”
Anthony had long dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps, not only as a state champion, but as a college athlete.
“That has always been something I have been looking forward to, playing college ball,” Eades said. “After my sophomore year I started getting looks from colleges. I am just blessed.”
Few observers were happier about last year’s state title than Mike, and it wasn’t any different on Wednesday when Anthony signed a full athletic scholarship with the Pioneers.
“It is almost a dead heat, we talked after the state championship and I was so happy then and this here is more of an accumulation of all the hard work he has put in since he was a little kid,” Mike said. “He is definitely a better player than I was, now I do have two state championships to his one, but hopefully he will tie it up this year which would be great.”
That is one of many goals ahead for Eades.
“Our main goal is for sure to get another state championship,” said Eades, whose Beavers open the season on Dec. 12 at Princeton. “We are going to work really hard the next three weeks until our first game and we are going to keep continuing to work hard.”
Eades has numerous individuals goals ahead as well, one of which is to break the school scoring record held by Dexter Moore.
He is about 300 points short of the former Bluefield shooting star.
“That is one of my goals,” said Eades, with a smile, “and another player of the year and another first team all-state.”
Bluefield head coach Buster Large won’t be surprised if all that occurs.
“Anthony is a very special young man, we are so happy for him as a coaching staff,” Large said. “Any time you get to see one of your players, especially as good a student-athlete as he is, to be able to move on and get an opportunity to get a college education and play at the next level...
“It is an opportunity that not many basketball players have in this area and he will be a tremendous asset for Tusculum College because of his work ethic.”
While Bluefield has won 53 games in the last two seasons, the Michael Jones-coached Pioneers — who play in the South Atlantic Conference — last finished above .500 in 2010.
“I just loved the school, the coaches and the coaching staff and the style of play,” said Eades, an avid fan of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers and Duke basketball. “I really liked the style of play.
“I am trying to make an impact on the offensive end and the defensive end and just try to bring some wins to Tusculum. Obviously I am going to take my offensive skills to Tusculum, but I have a lot to work on and I am going to work on that after this season...
“Definitely (have to) get my weight up, my defensive skills, I am going to work on it and get it right.”
Large has no doubt that Eades — who was joined for the ceremony by six senior teammates — will do what it takes to be ready for the next level. He already does much the same for the Beavers.
“He is one of the first ones to come out, he is one of the last ones to leave and always smiling and always has a great attitude...,” Large said. “He is such a huge part of our basketball program and he has got a good surrounding cast.
“It is very important to have the good chemistry that we have and I think the kids all enjoy his presence with his abilities and he really enjoys theirs too...He has been such an enjoyable young man to coach and I am very proud to have had the opportunity to have coached him because he is a fine young man.”
Expect this to be the first of several signings for the Beavers. Fellow seniors Lykel Collier and Michael Yost should have a similar opportunity on hardwood, while D.J. Edwards will have suitors for football.
“We are always happy to see a young man move on, especially as far as the economic situation is now in this country,” Large said.
“Anyone that gets a full athletic scholarship, it is quite a tribute to the family and a very enjoyable day for the Eades family.”
“We have got a few that are going to sign, and for football too,” added Anthony. “I hope they get to have a chance like I do right here.”
—Contact Brian Woodson