The moment James Long has been waiting four months is about to happen.
WVU Tech will make its home debut Tuesday night against Wilberforce. Tip-off from the Beckley-Raleigh County Convention Center will be 7 p.m.
This will be the first game in Beckley for Long, who was named Tech's new head coach in July. He replaced Bob Williams, who resigned after 17 seasons with the Golden Bears.
Long has never coached on Dave Barksdale Court, but he is more than familiar with the venue.
"Really, really excited," the Charleston native said before practice Monday evening. "Not just from a standpoint of not traveling as much as have been, but just to be here in Beckley and to be in the Armory. I came here and watched a lot of games as a kid. I played here when I played for WVU and I played in the Scott Brown All-Star Game (in 2012). If you're from West Virginia, it means a lot to you and it's special to come and watch games here, and to be able to coach in the Armory is really special to me."
The team Long will put on the floor is a bit different from the one that last played in Beckley.
The last time the Golden Bears played at home, they defeated Indiana-Kokomo 85-83 for the River States Conference tournament championship in February. But Tech lost a lot of firepower from that team that finished 30-5, including All-Americans Elisha Boone and Brandon Shingles.
Tech goes into Tuesday's game with a 2-4 record after losses to St. Francis and Taylor in the St. Francis Classic over the weekend. The host Fighting Saints are ranked No. 19 in the NAIA Division II preseason poll, and Long said he feels Taylor is worthy of a top 25 ranking as well.
"No coach right now is going to be like, 'Hey, we're perfect,'" Long said. "I think we are finding our identity. We did lose a lot from last year, and it's an opportunity for other people to step up. We're finding our identity as a team. Ourselves as a coaching staff and these guys as players.
"We talk about execution a lot. I would say that we're starting to do better. I think if you watched St. Francis, we only executed, sadly, for about five minutes and then it got away from us. ... And then Taylor, we executed up through the first half. We had some lapses. It was 38-38 at halftime and we were not happy about it because we said we could have executed better. But it was better overall from the game before. I think we took a step in the right direction from an execution standpoint."
Long has shuffled his lineup through the early going. Only guards Tamon Scruggs and Junior Arrey and forward Kevin Thomas-Griffin have started all six games.
"We're testing ourselves right now," Long said. "I tell our guys all the time, there's no excuse for failure, but when you do run into failure, failure is feedback. You have to take what we have gotten from these last two games and what can we do better? They're doing a good job with it now and I'm excited for (Tuesday)."
Scruggs has gotten off to a strong start. He was named the season's first RSC Player of the Week and leads the team with 17.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Scruggs is also shooting 16-of-30 (53.3 percent) from 3-point range.
"I think we've got some work to do," said Scruggs, a junior from South Charleston. "I think we've got a good group of guys. I think once we figure out each other and build more chemistry and start doing things right, we'll be in good shape. I like the coaching staff. They have given us some good stuff."
Arrey has also had a solid six games, averaging 14.2 points and 4.5 boards. He leads the team with 3.3 assists and 2.5 steals.
Freshman Darrin Martin has stepped up at 10.3 ppg, and freshman guard/forward Andrew Work of Oak Hill is averaging 5.7 points and 2.8 rebounds in 16 minutes per game off the bench.
Wilberforce (2-8) has already played 10 games and enters on a four-game losing streak.
The Golden Bears will also play at home and Saturday against Campbellsville-Somerset, tipping off at 5 p.m. They will be joined that night by the Lady Golden Bears (5-3), who will host Washington Adventist at 7 p.m.
"We've been traveling from the start. We've got a lot of away games in the first semester," Scruggs said. "I'm glad that we've got our first home game (Tuesday)."
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