TENNERTON – If the Buckhannon-Upshur Buccaneer basketball team is to improve on their 6-16 season from a year ago, head coach Travis Foster is going to have to turn to a young and inexperienced group to do so.
Foster lost four players to graduation and returning point guard Greyson Shepherd transferred to Shady Spring High School leaving the second-year head coach with a young team to mold for the 2018-19 season.
With the loss of seniors Taylor Whitehair, Drew Heatherly, Holden Edwards and Austin Bowen, along with Shepherd, Foster lost 48 percent of his offense from last season.
You won’t find Foster though worrying about who isn’t on his roster anymore, as he has been very pleased with his team after getting a week of practice under their belt.
His enthusiasm for this year’s team is apparent as is their willingness to improve on last year’s mark as the loss of five players has created a sense of competition in their early practices.
“Our goal is certainly to be better than last year,” Foster remarked. “But we have to change the mindset and the culture of this program. That is important, very important, before we even see the floor. We are building their confidence and building a competition within the program.
“Everything right now is wide open in practice, as far as who will see the floor for us this season. We have a lot of young guys competing. Whether a player is a senior or a freshman, it is going to be who can perform at a high level each night. I think we will be one of the youngest teams in the state, but we are going to be young and exciting.”
The cupboard also isn’t completely bare for Foster and this year’s team.
Junior forward Brayden Cutlip returns after leading the team in scoring and rebounding last season.
Cutlip averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game as he made the All-Big 10 Conference Second Team and earned a spot on the Class AAA All-State squad.
Cutlip also led the team in blocks with 11.
“We expect Cutlip to play at a higher level this year,” Foster stated. “I think a lot of teams are going to be keying on him this season which should open up some avenues for other players. He is a tough kid and I think he is going to contribute big time for us.”
Cutlip will be joined by a trio of seniors that hope to guide the Bucs to a winning season this year.
Guard Dawson Lilly averaged 23 minutes a game last season averaging 7.1 points per game along with 48 rebounds, 28 assists and 21 steals.
“I really expect Lilly to have a good year, simply based on his effort in the off-season,” Foster stated. “He has committed to everything we have been doing 150 percent. His goals are to play at the next level and with his hard work we want to do everything we can to make that happen. I think he is poised to have a great year.”
Unfortunately for Lilly he suffered a broken hand during the first week of practice and may miss the first few weeks of the season.
Seniors Logan Hitt and Jacob Loudin primarily came off the bench last season.
Hitt started three games and averaged 12 minutes a contest while scoring 2.8 points per game and collecting 1.2 rebounds.
Loudin, who was coming off a knee injury at the start of the season, saw action in 18 games playing 10 minutes a game, averaging 2.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per contest.
“I thought Loudin really started to play well near the end of last season,” Foster stated. “He really didn’t get to show what he could do last season with his injury, but he is dialed in right now and worked hard in the off-season. He brings a toughness and some leadership to the team.”
Four other returning players saw limited varsity playing time last season.
Sophomore Ryan Hurst played in 13 games (1.4 ppg), sophomore Zach White saw action in 12 games (1.6 ppg), junior Tyler Sandreth played in five games (0.6 ppg) and sophomore Will McCauley played in one game.
Sophomore Josh Loudin did not see varsity action last season.
A lot of the goals that Foster is setting for the program revolves around things that won’t even occur on the court.
“Much of what we want to accomplish will happen behind the scenes so to speak,” Foster stated. “We want to get our boosters together, getting our weight room workouts in a rhythm, getting the financial part of our program out of the red into the black and getting our coaches all on the same page. We need to get the program where people are proud of the work we put in and show the kids some success both off and on the court.”
The Bucs will face a grueling 22-game schedule that will feature the Big 10 Conference games along with a pair of games in the Shootout at the Big House Invitational.
The Bucs’ non-conference schedule will feature only Class AAA teams this year including Wheeling Park, Riverside, Princeton, University, Morgantown and Spring Mills.
“I am really happy with how the schedule turned out this year,” said Foster. “We will do a lot of traveling playing strictly Class AAA teams, but if somebody is going to beat us, it is going to be a Class AAA team.”
Joining Foster on the sidelines again this season as assistant coaches will be Darrell Burgess, Jason Westfall and Brandon Weese.
“We are going to be young this season, but I think we are going to surprise a few teams this year,” concluded Foster.
The Bucs will get the 2018 season underway Tuesday, Dec. 4 when they host Lewis County at 7:30 p.m.
2018 B-U Boys’ Varsity Roster
Logan Hitt – Guard
Dawson Lilly – Guard
Jacob Loudin – Guard
Tyler Kuhn – Guard
Tyler Sandreth – Forward
Ryan Strader – Forward
Brayden Cutlip – Forward/Center
Ryan Hurst – Guard
Will McCauley – Forward
Zach White – Forward
Josh Loudin – Forward
2018 Junior Varsity Roster