TENNERTON – When Travis Foster took over the head coaching job for the Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneers four years ago, he knew he would need some time to rebuild the program that hadn’t had a winning season in over a decade.
Well, that time is now for Foster.
Foster won six games his first season in 2017-18 and improved that number to nine in 2018-19 and then to a 12-win season last year.
“I think when you are trying to rebuild a program, you have to get better each season,” noted Foster. “No matter where you start the rebuild you have to get better, if you do that then program is doing its job. I think we saw a little bit of day light with that last season. We won 12 games, but we felt we left at least five games out there that we should have won. We win those and that takes to a 17-win team. In your fourth year, you should see major results and we are hoping to prove that this year. We hope to shine this year and these players that have been with me all four years, they know what to expect from me and what our goals are.”
Coming off a 12-11 season last year that saw them post a winning season for the first time since 2011 and collecting statement wins over the then No. 1 team in Pennsylvania in Meadville and a win over ranked Musselman, 2021 is being set up for the year for Foster and his Bucs.
Foster lost just one senior off his team from a year ago due to graduation (Ryan Strader) and returns his top five scorers and seven players total that saw extended playing time at the varsity level.
Those top five scorers returning are senior point guard Ryan Hurst (16.6 points per game), junior forward Lamar Hurst (10.0 ppg.), senior forward Josh Loudin (8.7 ppg.) and senior forward Will McCauley (7.7 ppg.).
The other two players returning with extended playing time last year are junior guard Harrison Walker (3.6 ppg.) and senior guard Noam Keith (3.3 ppg.).
Making the move up into varsity roles will be sophomore guard Zach Calef-Boring, junior guard Sterlin Thropp and junior guard Oliver King.
Ryan Hurst earned Third Team All-State honors last year leading the Bucs in scoring, made three-pointers, free throw percentage, assists and steals.
“Ryan is just a tough, hard-nosed kid,” remarked Foster. “He gives you 150 percent with no back talk, great attitude and great effort. We have been molding him since his freshman year to handle the point guard position. We put a lot of pressure on him and ask a lot of him, but he can adapt to anything we ask on the floor and responds so well with it. He can make everyone body better on the floor and that is what a point guard should do.”
Foster is expecting bigger and better things from the athletic Lamar Hurst after getting his first season at Buckhannon-Upshur under his belt last year and earning Honorable Mention All-State honors.
“Lamar brings something special to the team,” stated Foster. “I think getting him more confident and more coordinated and letting him grow into his body is a big deal for us. His coordination is catching up to his work ethic and he understands now if he can do the little things right it can open up opportunities for other players on the team.”
The Bucs will be a force on the back line with the trio of White, Loudin and McCauley.
“You know what you are going to get with Zach every game and that is a junkyard dog mentality around the rim,” stated Foster. “He sprints from rim to rim. If you are guarding him you have to keep up with him on each end of the floor. Then you have to box him out and be physical with him and that is tough to do for four quarters. He has the potential to have a big year.”
Loudin was second on the team in rebounding with 5.7 rebounds per game and led the team in blocks with 25. McCauley was third on the team in rebounding with 5.3 caroms per game.
“Josh gives you a nice big presence inside for us,” said Foster. “You don’t realize just how big he is until you match up against him. He is very hard to defend with his size. Will is the same way. If Will can step it up defensively and find some consistency on offense, he can be dangerous. I think some teams will focus on some of our other players. He could create a lot of match-up problems for our opponents.”
Foster said looking at his bench he has guys that can come in and contribute and help the team.
“Keith, Walker, Thropp, Calef-Boring and King can all help us,” stated Foster. “Keith plays the game safe, understands his role and plays really good defense. He is long and smart and a big asset for the team. He might not score 20, but will give you that nitty, gritty play that will help. Walker, we really started to mold him last year and put him in some tough situations. I think that is why he will be successful. He doesn’t try to do too much and can knock down big shots for us. Thropp looked really good in our Tucker scrimmage. He has a chance to be one of the best defenders on the team, but we have to get him comfortable on the offensive end. He can be a game-changer for us. For Calef-Boring, we are grooming him for the point-guard position when Ryan Hurst leaves. We think he can step in this year though and be a big asset for us.”
With the experiences roster, Foster says that allows him to give his team the green to play a little bit more than it would with a younger team.
“They know what I expect, and I know them just as well and the work that they have put in,” noted Foster. “They believe in me and I trust them and that allows me to let them be who they are. They believe in each other and they work hard for each other. It’s why we stress the motto of family so much. Don’t believe in the noise outside but believe in each other. They do that and deserve to be successful.”
The Bucs will move up into the new Quad AAAA classification this year and will have a new section with Bridgeport entering the picture and Morgantown staying in the region but moving to the other side of the section.
“I kind of like how they split it up,” said Foster. “I think it gives us the opportunity to surprise some people. If we look at it in a positive way, I think it gives us a chance to get out of the section.”
Foster also knows that any game could be the last for the Bucs as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to create issues.
“We know any game that we play could be our last,” noted Foster “We are asking the players to do the right thing and be careful with who they are around so that we don’t cheat our seniors, and really the team, out of a season. We are doing everything we can to stay safe and that’s all that we can do. We have worked way too hard for our season getting called off because someone was not responsible with what they were doing outside of practice.”
The Bucs will get their season underway today at Lincoln and will then visit Preston on Tuesday.
They will open up their home campaign Thursday hosting North Marion.