By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
When Greater Beckley Christian head coach Dan Burd took over the Crusaders program a year ago, he made a promise that he would make a change in the culture for the team.
After an impressive 79-52 victory over the visiting Man Hillbillies, it’s safe to say that culture is winning.
Greater Beckley is off to one of its best starts in the school’s history with a 6-1 record. It’s also the only team in Raleigh County ranked in the boys basketball polls, tied for 10th in Class A with Tygarts Valley in the Associated Press rankings.
“We want to win and become a dominant team in Class A basketball,” said Burd. “Our kids are starting to experience that. We’re by no means a dominant team, but I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
Helping to move in the right direction has been the play of senior guard Keith Mullins, who finished off the Hillbillies with 24 points, including five baskets from beyond the arc.
“I think we played great team ball,” Mullins said. “My teammates Javonne (Staunton-Bailey) and Elisha (Kidd) passed me the ball and got me open. We could have played better, but we got the win.”
Staunton-Bailey, a transfer from Oak Hill, dished out 10 assists to go with his 16 points. Kidd added six assists and 17 points.
“We depend on our three guards a lot. They all average double figures and consistently score in double figures for us,” Burd said.
Greater Beckley’s high pressure defense, to go along with a high tempo transition offense, has helped the Crusaders score an average of 71 points per game and hold their opponents to 45 points per game.
“I attribute that to my assistant coaches. One thing they keep preaching is great defense and don’t foul,” Burd said.
One such assistant is a name familiar to fans of basketball, not just in Beckley, but around West Virginia, in the legendary Dave Barksdale. The five-time state championship-winning coach joined the Greater Beckley staff this fall as an assistant after Mountain State University ended its basketball program following a loss in accreditation.
“Defensively he’s a genius,” Burd said with a smile. “Actually, he’s a genius in every level. He brings the intensity level up. It’s been awesome, man.”
“I’ve said it before, I don’t think anyone appreciates the game of basketball the way he does, and he really brings that appreciation to our kids. We wanted to go to the next level and become winners,” Burd said.
Much of the appreciation that Barksdale is passing down to the young Crusaders team is defense. In a day of high offensive numbers and a me-first attitude in the professional and college levels, playing stellar defense and team basketball seems to be a lost art. For the Greater Beckley Crusaders, it’s anything but.
“Defense is our main goal,” Staunton-Bailey said. “That’s what we gotta do to win. Defense is going to get us there.”
Staunton-Bailey takes his defense seriously, and it showed in the first quarter. The guard’s high pressure defense helped force several Hillbilly turnovers and helped his team jump out to a 21-9 run that would set the pace for the remainder of the game. The Crusaders held Man’s leading scorer, John Thomas Keffer, to just four points in the game. Staunton-Bailey attributes that to Barksdale’s influence.
“It’s amazing,” Staunton-Bailey said of Barksdale’s influence. “He makes us play harder. We’re going to keep working hard every day. Hard work every day in practice.”
“The coaching staff makes me work hard in practice; it’s a great feeling,” Elisha Kidd said.
Burd knows that his team will have to keep up the hard work in order to continue the success his team is having.
“I think we’re doing pretty good so far,” Burd said. “We’re where we’re supposed to be and where we want to be.”
That stretch includes welcoming in a team that cost the Crusaders their only loss of the season, defending Class AA state champion Tug Valley.
The defending champs are in their first season in Class A ball. That game will be played on Feb. 9 at the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center.
— E-mail: jrollins
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"In The Paint" link.
John Thomas Keffer 1 1-2 4, Chris Justice 4 0-0 11, Clay Brumfield 3 1-2 10, Jake Adkins 4 2-2 10, Caycee Mullins 1 0-0 2, Mikle Scott Row 6 0-2 12, Gage Harvey 0 0-0 0, Neal Mullins 0 0-0 0, Robert Caudill 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 4-8 52.
Greater Beckley Christian (6-1)
Javonne Staunton-Bailey 6 4-6 16, Elisha Kidd 6 2-2 17, Jimmy Moreland 1 0-0 2, Jimmy Moreland 1 0-0 2, Douglad Ernest 0 0-0 0, Adam Cook 0 0-0 0, Paul David Payne 1 0-0 3, Brent Daniels 3 3-4 9, Keith Mullins 8 3-4 24, Anthony Helton 3 0-2 6, Ethan Lehman 0 0-0 0, Jon Paul Kessinger 1 0-0 2. Totals: 29 12-18 79.
M 9 16 8 19 — 52
GB 21 17 23 18 — 79
3-point goals — M: 8 (Keffer, Justice 3, Brumfield 3, K. Adkins 1); GB: 9 (Kidd 3, Mullins 5, Payne). Fouled out — None.