Clay Battelle, Local Sports, Sports

Imposing frontcourt duo Colby Barr and Preston Luzader has Cee-Bees expecting return trip to Charleston

BLACKSVILLE — Last year, the Clay-Battelle boys’ basketball team had dreams as big as its massive starting frontcourt. Dreams that led to a stellar 21-6 record and a WVSSAC state tournament semifinal appearance.

Although the Cee-Bees dropped a tough decision to eventual champs James Monroe, the experience has only whetted the returning players’ appetite to get back, and perhaps go further. 

And while many teams that make long, magical post-season runs in Charleston, especially at the Class A level, find the talent and experience well a bit dry the following season, veteran head coach Josh Kisner feels his team has a chance to dream just as big as last year, thanks to his returning all-state bigs, senior Colby Barr and junior Preston Luzader. 

“Any time you can start the year with a pair of long, talented, experienced frontcourt players, you’ve got a chance to be good,” he smiled. “And both Colby and Preston took it upon themselves to work extra hard on their games – extending their range, working on ball-handling, developing offensive skills facing the basket and attacking from the wing. 

“This will help us offensively,” he explained, “because we lost a load of experience and points from our graduated backcourt (point guard Carson Shriver and shooting guard Kohlton St. Clair). We’ve got a pair of sophomore guards, Cooper Payton and Braden Ponceroff, who are very athletic and can shoot as well, but they’ll need to grow up quickly for us to get where we want to go this year.” 

For senior Barr, the time and effort he pours into working on his game is always worth it, both for his team and for himself. 

“I love to battle for points in the paint, for sure,” he grinned, “but I also know that losing Kohlton and Carson means that we might need some help bringing the ball up and breaking the press. And Kohlton hit a ton of three-pointers (99 last seaosn), so we may need to get more outside shooting from different players. And even though I’m pretty tall for West Virginia Class A, I’ve always dreamed of playing at the next level, and that means developing more backcourt skills. It just takes time and patience and focused effort, a determined mindset, and I feel ready to take on those extra roles.” 

Luzader concurs 100%. 

“Ever since I’ve played AAU ball, my coaches have always reminded me that I won’t always be the biggest guy on the court,” he explained. “So I’ve always worked in high post offenses, and been a stretch forward, and Colby and I have played so much together, we know we can play a two-man game and look for each other wherever. Teams will not be able to match up against both of us in the half-court, so I think they’ll try to press us a lot, and that’s where we can help break the press and bring the ball up. That will be big for us this season.” 

Barr also knows that confident guard play will be key. 

“Those guys can get it done,” he insisted, “but it will take some time for them to get comfortable and calm and relaxed. They’re going to make mistakes – everybody does – so the key will be to forget it and move on, play hard on defense, and do better next trip. And we’re trying to get them to go ahead and shoot it. Sometimes a missed shot makes for an easy offensive rebound and stick-back, so don’t worry about anything but taking good shots within the offense. If they do that, and keep their heads up, they’ll be fine.” 

“We have the same goals every year,” Luzader said. “We want to get to States. And this year, we want to get to the title game, and we want to win it. We have guards that can play and shoot, we have bigs with experience. We have everything we need to go far, and we can’t wait to get after it.” 

The Cee-Bees start their season with two rivalry games, beginning on the road next Thursday, Dec. 7 at Trinity Christian in Morgantown at 7:30 p.m., then hosting Cameron the following Tuesday, Dec. 12, with tip-off scheduled for 6 p.m.