TENNERTON – There is a general sense of optimism and excitement surrounding the Buckhannon-Upshur High School boys’ basketball program entering the 2021-22 season.
Under head coach Travis Foster’s leadership, the Bucs’ have put together a on a successful string of seasons, highlighted by last season’s team, that went 9-2 in Big 10 conference play, on their way to a 12-8 overall record. Last season, the Bucs’ season was highlighted by two huge wins over Bridgeport and a dominating win at Capital.
The Bucs’ varsity basketball team garnered preseason recognition heading into the season, as they are set to open at #14 in the Associated Press basketball preseason poll of Class AAAA squads. They are one of three teams from Region I that find themselves ranked in the top ten, joining Morgantown, University, and Wheeling Park High Schools. Morgantown, opens up as the unanimous top team in both Region I and Class AAAA as a whole, followed by University, who is tied with Huntington for the #3 spot, and finally Wheeling Park at #8 to round out the other ranked teams in Region I.
The Bucs’ will look to carry their winning ways from last year into this season, however there will certainly be challenges along the way. The Bucs are going to have find ways to make up for the loss of production from a very successful, experienced cast of seniors from last year’s squad. That cast of seniors, comprised of Ryan Hurst, Noam Keith, Josh Loudin, Will McCauley, and Zach White, played a pivotal role in last season’s success. Despite losing one of the winningest senior classes in recent memory, the Bucs have talented players returning that have spent the offseason preparing to step into bigger roles, plus a group of underclassmen looking to make their mark. Hurst, a second team all-state selection last season has stayed close to the program, assisting Foster in preparing the team for what is shaping up to be an exciting season.
The Bucs’ look to be a very competitive varsity squad again this season. Their line-up is expected to be anchored by a strong core of returning players, consisting of junior Zach Boring, senior Sterlin Thropp, senior Oliver King, Ian Strader, senior Harrison Walker, and senior Lamar Hurst. Complementing the Bucs’ veteran core are several other promising players expected to come in and contribute on the varsity level. This group highlighted by senior Mason Hyre, junior Shawn Blandino, sophomore Jaden Westfall, and senior Nigerian transfer Taiwo Thropp. The level of play the Bucs receive from these players will be critically important, as the Bucs’ are faced with one of the toughest schedules in the state, consistently pitting them against high caliber opponents.
The Bucs’ saw their first action of the season with several scrimmages, namely trips to East Fairmont and Tucker County, as well as welcoming Oak Hill to town. They are poised to kick off the season this week, with games against Wheeling Park and Morgantown. The rest of the Bucs’ schedule is highlighted by a mix of traditional, local rivalries, including games against Bridgeport, Lewis County, Elkins, and Philip Barbour; with a “who’s who” of some of the state’s top basketball programs, including Morgantown, University, South Charleston, Jefferson, Riverside, and Parkersburg South.
Adding to the sense of optimism surrounding the boys’ basketball program, is that both the boy’s junior varsity and freshman teams have shown great promise in practices and preseason scrimmages, pointing towards a bright future and sustained success for many years to come for Buccaneer basketball program as a whole. On the junior varsity level, a duo of sophomores, Bryce Johnston and Luke Yardley, look to breakout after both had their seasons cut short due to injury. They are joined on the Bucs’ deep junior varsity roster by juniors Keyton Lanier, Brayden Hamer, Ryan Snyder, fellow sophomores Nathaniel Ringer and Ryan Kelley, and freshman Carter Zuliani. It seems that Zuliani is set to play a large role on the freshman team at the beginning of the year, in addition to seeing playing time on the junior varsity level. Slaton Kowalkoski, Zikiyah Oliver Cooper Lantz, Hunter Lewis, Kaiden Marks, Aden McCartney, Joseph Shipman, Jevon Westfall, Damion White, and Jonas Barton on this year’s roster for the Bucs’ freshman team. Overall, the Bucs’ basketball program seems to be continuing to trend in the right direction with all three of their teams heading into the upcoming season!