Tyler Consolidated’s 2021-2022 boys basketball season wasn’t without significant accomplishments, perhaps the most notable of which was a sectional championship that the Silver Knights attained by virtue of a one-point win against Clay-Battelle.
TCHS finished 15-10 and came within one game, or more specifically one half, of the program’s second state tournament berth since 2002. Ultimately, the Silver Knights fell short in their quest to end the campaign in Charleston when they were outscored by 19 points in the second half of a Class A Region I co-final in a 49-38 season-ending setback to Cameron.
“We were up eight at halftime last season in the regional against Cameron and kind of let it slip away,” Silver Knights’ head coach Steven Nutter said. “That left a bad taste in our mouth. Right now, Tyler is a November to March basketball school and we’re still trying to build the program to where we’re playing twelve months a year where it’s a priority and we’re able to grow the program a little bit.”
The Silver Knights had four seniors on last season’s roster, though two — Caleb Strode and Haygen Baker — were responsible for approximately half of the team’s scoring, according to Nutter.
Strode was a Class A first-team all-state selection each of his last two seasons at Tyler and wrapped up his successful prep career with a 21.3 scoring average last season.
“We’re probably not going to have anybody that averages 21 and 11 [rebounds] a game,” Nutter said.
There are unquestionably big shoes to fill, but the Silver Knights’ approach has left Nutter impressed. During the three-week summer period, TCHS has competed in a 12-game league at Williamstown, hosted its own 20-team shootout and played in Robert C. Byrd’s Shootout. The Silver Knights were also to play this week at the Elite Center in Parkersburg.
“We’re going to have to play 94 feet, create chaos and get it up and down the floor,” Nutter said. “We have a really good group of guards and a nice group of athletes and they’ll do whatever is asked. They condition hard in practice, run a lot in practice and do a lot of skill work and work on little things. They’re a good group of kids that’ll get after it and they’re hungry to win.”
At the forefront of that group is rising senior Connor Bailey, a point guard who will be a three-year starter and four-year varsity player. The southpaw is not only being counted on for more on court production, but the loss of a successful senior class leaves behind a leadership void that Nutter has seen Bailey assume more of.
“He’s played outstanding all summer and he’s been a leader to the young kids,” Nutter said. “He’s really tried to teach them and coach them as we’ve gone. He hasn’t been one of those main leaders, because he hasn’t had to be. Now, he’s had to step into that role and he’s embraced it.”
Bailey was one of six juniors on last season’s squad, as was Hayden Brown, an interior presence expected to fill some of the void Strode leaves behind while returning from injury.
Nutter’s team should benefit from its experience, though the head coach is also a believer in the program’s younger players rising through the ranks.
“We have some younger guys that have committed themselves to basketball and some really good middle school coaches that have been coaching the guys up and bringing them through the system,” he said.
Having inexperienced players work with more experienced players has been a focal point of Nutter’s during a three-week period the coach feels Tyler has largely gotten what it hoped to out of it.
“It’s nice really in the summer and this three-week period, we just try to get these guys together to mesh some of the younger kids with the older kids,” Nutter said. “We’re not doing anything in particular on defense. We’re really just trying to play some man, get them to learn how to play with each other and grow as a unit.”