By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Richard Jarrell has pride. More specifically, Richard Jarrell has Beckley pride.
That’s why the owner-operator of the Chick-fil-A of Beckley Galleria is hosting a sendoff celebration for the Class AAA No. 2 Woodrow Wilson Flying Eagles basketball team tonight from 5:30 to 7 p.m.
Beckley will take on No. 7 Hurricane in the opening round of the 100th boys basketball tournament at 11:15 a.m. Wednesday in Charleston.
“We just wanted to try to have something for the boys before they left town to show some support from the community,” Jarrell explained. “It gives the community a chance to come out, say hello and meet the team.”
The Flying Eagles will arrive at the restaurant following practice this evening for a meal. The Woodrow athletic department will also have official state tournament T-shirts for sale.
“It’s not going to be formal. It gives everyone a chance to interact with them,” Jarrell said. “We don’t have much of a chance to do that during the season.”
In addition to the meet-and-greet with the team, 15 percent of sales between the hours of 5:30 and 7 p.m. will go directly to the team to help cover its expenses while in Charleston.
Jarrell, an admitted “basketball junkie,” feels the home support for Beckley basketball has been low this season. He’s seeking to change that.
“I have a saying in business: You’re either a thermostat or a thermometer,” Jarrell said. “You can either tell the temperature or you can be the one to change the temperature.
“Beckley’s known as the ‘City of Champions.’ When you talk about the state tournament, everyone expects Beckley to be there,” he continued. “Coach (Dave) Barksdale said years ago, ‘It’s about pride. It’s about Beckley pride.’ That’s what we’re trying to do.
“It pains me that I see a team as good as we are and people not coming and filling the (Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center). We got off to a slow start. Then came 17 wins in a row. That’s a special team.”
The Flying Eagles very well may be a special team. After starting the year 4-4, they got on a winning streak, riding the hot scoring of player of the year candidate Donte Nabors and coach Ron Kidd’s “refuse to lose” mantra.
Regardless of the team’s success, Jarrell feels that with all the trials and temptations kids are facing today, instilling a sense of pride in their school and community will help encourage them to overcome their obstacles.
“We as adults in the community … we have to promote that,” Jarrell said. “A lot of people are passionate about Beckley basketball. We’re trying to do what all we can do to encourage and support the team. If we do it as a community, it rubs off on the kids and gives them something to get excited about, to have pride in their school.”
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Jarrell’s support for Beckley basketball goes beyond just his alma mater, but also Greater Beckley Christian, which will be making its second state tournament appearance in school history.
He took to Facebook Friday evening to challenge the community to wear either red or maroon on Wednesday in support of the two schools.
He also encouraged local businesses to support the two teams by placing an encouraging message to the squads on their marquee during the duration of the tournament.
Jarrell added that a meet-and-greet for GBC is being discussed for Tuesday at Chick-fil-A’s Crossroads Mall location.
— E-mail: jrollins@
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