Although he got a late start, many fans feel like first-year head coach Brad Napier did a great job with the Mingo Central boys’ basketball program this past season.
Napier did not get hired until right before basketball season. He was a longtime assistant to Mark Hatcher at Logan, where he helped win a couple of state championships for the Wildcats.
Napier took over after Frankie Smith decided to leave and take the head coaching job at Sheldon Clark. Duane Estepp, from Lincoln County, coached the new consolidated school the first year of Mingo Central’s existence. He left right after the season was over last March.
The Miners finished with a 13-10 record this season.
“I was pleased with our progress,” Napier said. “We got better as the season progressed. We won five of our last six regular season games.”
Mingo Central lost a nail biter to Scott High School in the sectional tournament. They had split with the Skyhawks in the regular season. Scott went on to make an appearance in the Class AA state tourney.
“We finished third in the Cardinal Conference, which isn’t bad for the first year,” Napier said. “The league was competitive and very balanced this year.”
Napier did not get to work with his team during the summer, but that will change this year.
“I think our seniors built a strong foundation,” Napier said. “They never complained and would cheer for each other. It was all about the team for them – not individual stats or glory.”
“I think we have some good talent coming back,” he added. “I think Alex (Lee), Julius (Hatcher), and Trevor (Cline) will really have solid seasons for us next year as seniors.
Lee averaged about 12 points per game and six rebounds and was one of the teams’ best post players. Hatcher was the Miner’s most consistent 3-point shooter and fired in 48 treys. Cline was a strong inside power forward. He injured his leg late in the year and missed some of the last games.
Other returning players who saw action were Stevie Hammond, Dalton Hatfield and Mallie May. All three are guards and should get the chance to start or see plenty of action next season. Hammond got a late start because of a severe back injury he suffered in football season.
“We’ll be smaller next year, so we will have to play faster and press more,” Napier said. “We will definitely have to move the ball faster on offense.”
“We have some good athletes in the school,” Napier said. “We may have some new kids that will want to come out for the team.”
Napier is also impressed with some of the talent he knows will be coming up from middle school.
“We have some good talent coming up,” the Mingo Central coach said.
Napier is planning on holding the First Annual Consul Energy All-star game for seniors in early May. Napier hopes to get a good turnout from the fans and make this a yearly event.
The game will feature senior players from West Virginia playing against seniors from Kentucky. It will be held at the MCHS gym.