Lady Buccaneers recall their early days at SYC, advocate for new gym

BUCKHANNON — The two-time AAA state runners-up Lady Bucs Basketball team stopped by the Buckhannon Rotary Club’s meeting last week to launch a community conversation about renovating the Stockert Youth and Community Center.

The club ventured out from its regular meeting spot at Chapel Hill United Methodist Church to the SYCC gym  to meet the team and its coaches. Mayor David McCauley had invited the club to show members what’s possible when resources and facilities are available to local youth. The Lady Bucs, who made school history as one of the winningest teams ever — lost a heart-breaking game to Parkersburg in the state tournament final.

SYCC director Debora Brockleman and McCauley have highlighted the fact that nearly all the girls on the team got their start in second or third grade playing basketball together at SYCC. But for Buckhannon-Upshur teams to keep making history, the SYCC board and the city need funds to build a new multi-purpose auditorium/gymnasium, which will possibly even incorporate an indoor walking track for senior residents, McCauley said Tuesday.

“This gym that has been here since the late 1940s, early 1950s, but the building itself with those 2- and 3-foot rock walls is more than a century old, so we need a new place for our kids,” the mayor said. “We need a new place for so many in our community, and we launched this capital campaign. We’ve been dormant for way too long.”

Since January, the campaign has racked up $36,000 in donations.

“We’re still $200,000 away from where we need to be to actually build the new building, so whatever you guys can do to help us get the word out to elevate the hype, the promotion, the marketing of what we’re trying to do,” McCauley said to the team and the Rotary Club. “The Stockert Board resolved just yesterday at its monthly board meeting to conduct a community forum.”

That community forum is slated for Monday, July 23 in the SYCC’s gymnasium, McCauley and Brockleman said.

Motioning to the team — led by seniors Hanna McClung, Lauren Bennett, McKinley Gaudet and Ashton Maxwell — McCauley said the players are the town’s “best storytellers about what happens at Stockert Youth Center.”

Brockleman, who has been director of SYCC for nearly
17 years, said the Lady Bucs’ commitment to off-season play at SYCC made it possible for them to achieve excellence.

“All of them but two started out here playing basketball,” Brockleman said. “Some of them started in third grade, some of them started in second grade. They participated in the summer program. They all played off-season, and that’s how these girls got so good is the off-season. I mean, you can’t just think about basketball just two months of the year; you have to think about it the whole year-round.”

Lady Bucs head coach Jeremy Maxwell said prior to the cohort of seniors moving up to B-UHS four years ago, the Lady Bucs’ wins were few and far between.

“I think prior to this group of girls, they won very few games in a 10-year span, and since they’ve been in school, since their freshman year, they’ve won 82 games,” Maxwell said. Not only is the program one of the winningest in school history, senior Hanna McClung — who was recently named West Virginia’s Gatorade Player of the Year — is now the all-time leading scorer in school history out of both in boys’ and girls’ programs. McClung recently donated the $1,000 grant she won as the Gatorade Player of the year to the SYCC’s capital campaign.

“It’s amazing what they’ve accomplished, and Debora’s exactly right,” Maxwell said. “It happened not during the season. I’d like to take credit for all of them, but it’s a lot of work, not just from us coaches, but it takes a community to do this. It’s unbelievable the amount of support and the sea of blue that was down there [in Charleston]. We just overwhelmed that place, and I don’t think there’s any doubt in the community’s mind who the champions are. We acted like champions and they represented this community with pride, and a lot of it has to do with the way you guys have supported us throughout the year.”

“They’ve inspired a whole generation of young ladies,” Maxwell added.

“I know Hanna and LB (Lauren Bennett) are signing autographs. Nobody’s asking for my autograph,” he joked.

Brockleman said the purpose of the July 23 community forum is to discuss possibilities for the layout of the new multipurpose auditorium/gymnasium and how to generate financial support for it.

“We have all kinds of great ideas,” Brockleman said. “It’s going to pay for itself. It’s not going to be a tax burden on anybody.”

Earlier in the meeting, McCauley hinted that the SYCC board wants to create a space that caters not only to kids, but also to senior citizens and adults.

“We recently renamed it the Stockert Youth and Community Center and that was a very purposeful moment in that exercise,” the mayor said. “This new auditorium/gymnasium that will be constructed won’t only be just about basketball. There are going to be a lot of other activities and a lot of other groups that will be using this facility.”

“We want to ultimately create a walkspace for the seniors of our community, especially on inclement weather days, so they can come down and have a place to walk inside,” McCauley continued. “We’ve talked with the folks that do the men’s and women’s adult basketball leagues about having space here… volleyball tournaments, all kinds of other things. Create Buckhannon wants to be able to expand Festival Fridays to being perhaps a year-round kind of event, and you can’t have those at Jawbone Park in December and January, so if we have a facility that holds 500-1,000 people, guess what? We could have bands and those kinds of things we do at Jawbone Park.”

McCauley said the structure could even be a rain location for the annual W.Va. Classic Wheels Car Show, which cruises into downtown Buckhannon every summer.

“Help us promote [the campaign],” McCauley urged. “This is what this is all about. It will be a terrific addition to our downtown streetscape, but more importantly, serve all the people of our community.”

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