PROSPERITY, W.Va – In just his third season at the helm with Greater Beckley Christian, head coach Dan Burd has his squad in the upper echelon of Class A after jumping out to an initial 7-0 start (GBC fell over the weekend to AAA Hurricane, 69-60). The Crusaders entered this season high on momentum after last year’s state tournament appearance.
“Last year there was a lot of hopes of making it to the state tournament,” Burd said. “This year it’s more of an expectation, we’re coming in with a lot more confidence than we had last year.”
GBC’s biggest win so far came against two-time defending state champs (AA and then A) Tug Valley, 67-53. The two teams faced off early last year a Tug win – a game that Burd said took his team a while to get over.
”Winning this game (this year) was really big early on in the season,” he said. “Our kids are a lot more focused and it’s helped us out a lot.”
GBC lost all-state guard and veteran leader Keith Mullins off of last year’s team (Mullins averaged 19 points per game) – a concern for Mullins initially heading into this season.
“I was worried on how we were going to replace Keith, but Isaiah Francis being apart of our program has helped in a lot of ways,” Burd said. “I think our confidence this year is a lot higher than last year and I think we’re deeper on the bench this year.”
Francis, a freshman, has stepped into the point guard role well, averaging almost 10 points per game, while dishing out six assists. The Crusaders overall have been putting up 81 points a game, led by Elisha Kidd (23 ppg) and Javonne Staunton-Bailey (18 ppg).
“I think everyone on our team can shoot and it’s stretching out some defenses,” he said. “We have three guards that can now get to the hole and shoot, so we’re creating some problems for some (teams).”
The road ahead for the Crusaders may be a little tougher, though, as games against the likes of Charleston Catholic, Magnolia, Logan, Westside and a rematch with Tug Valley loom in the distance.
“We wanted to be challenged this year, so it was all by design,” Burd said. “Our kids are looking forward to it, they want to play in big atmospheres and I know they will respond well.”
Coach Burd has his program where he wants it after just three seasons – and that may have come as somewhat of a surprise to even him.
“It may have happened a little quicker than I expected,” he said. “When I took over the program I told the kids we had to get over our losing mentality and to do that our players had to buy into that, and now we know we’re going to get everyone’s best shot.”