TENNERTON – There will be a new but familiar face in charge of the Buckhannon-Upshur girls’ basketball program when they take to the court this winter.
With the resignation of prior coach Jeremy Maxwell in August, assistant coach Rob Kittle will take over the reins of the Lady Bucs.
He will have huge shoes to fill as Maxwell led the team to four consecutive regional titles and two straight appearances in the Class AAA title game, and that is just the way Kittle likes it.
“I love it, I look forward to the challenges that await,” remarked Kittle. “That is why I coach. Our goals haven’t changed a bit. We are still expecting to make it to Charleston and play for another championship. These girls that we have coming back were a big part of our run the last two years. Our expectations haven’t lowered any. Losing coach Maxwell and that very talented senior class are tough shoes to fill, but we are ready for the challenges of winning this year. We are going to be tough to beat.”
Kittle started his new challenge on Monday as the Lady Bucs held their first practice. He welcomed 19 players to the first day of practice.
Kittle sees an easy transition with the team as he steps in to take over the program.
“I have been with coach Maxwell the last three years,” Kittle stated. “And with this group of girls that are seniors, I have been working with them in the off-season since they were fourth and fifth-graders. It will be an easy transition for them.”
Kittle is certainly no stranger to the Buckhannon-Upshur basketball programs with almost a decade of experience.
Prior to his last three years as an assistant at Buckhannon-Upshur, he was the head coach of the Buckhannon-Upshur Middle School girls team for one season and prior to that he was an assistant for three years of the middle school boys teams.
Kittle is 1988 graduate of Buckhannon-Upshur High School where he was an all-conference performer in football, basketball and baseball.
He graduated from Marshall in 1993 with a degree in marketing.
He will be assisted this season on the sidelines by Brian Webb and Chad Wilfong.
Kittle will have to replace the all-time winningest senior class in the history of B-U with 83 wins. Gone from the team are Hanna McClung, the state player of the year, McKinley Gaudet, Lauren Bennett and Ashton Maxwell.
The first-year coach will turn to his senior class this year to help guide the Lady Bucs back to Charleston with players like Allie Robinson, Leigh Ann Bennett and Audrey Gaudet and junior Brooklyn Maxwell.
“As I said, you can’t replace that senior class, but this current class is only 16 wins behind them,” Kittle stated. “I just feel like we have a number of scorers. We are going to be a little smaller than we have been in the past but we still have a lot of team speed. We have five or six girls that can score on any night. We just have to embrace the team concept more this year and share the ball. If we can, I think we will be very successful. As I said, we are a small team and last year we got hurt on the boards some. We just have to be able to rebound and get a little better at our half course sets.”
Kittle sees this year’s team as playing with a chip on their shoulder.
“The supposed word around the state is we are going to take a step back,” Kittle stated. “Everyone knows we lost two first-team all-state guards last year (McClung and Bennett). The team has sort of taken that as a challenge. These girls have been winners since they played at the middle school. They have never experienced a losing season and they sort of put a chip on the shoulder that they are still a very talented team. They want to prove a point that
hey are still an elite team.”
The Lady Bucs will face another daunting schedule this season.
Along with their Big 10 Conference games, they step outside of conference play with contests against sectional foes Morgantown and University and another appearance in the Glenville State IOGA Tournament where they will meet Parkersburg in a rematch of the Class AAA title game last season.
“Our schedule is going to be tough once again,” Kittle said. “It will certainly get us prepared for Charleston and the state tournament.”
The Lady Bucs will open their season Thursday, Nov. 29 when they host Preston High School.
The 2018 Lady Buc Roster:
Leigh Ann Bennett