By Stephen Smoot
One of the defining attributes of a successful program comes from how motivated other teams get to play. In recent seasons, Pendleton County’s boys basketball team has showed up powerhouse regional programs in both single and double A. Last year, the Wildcats won 19 games on their way to an appearance in the West Virginia State Tournament.
As Coach Jeremy Bodkin explains, “we always get everyone’s best shot.”
This year’s schedule opens with two visits to Mineral County powers Keyser and Frankfort on Dec. 6 and 8, respectively. Bodkin said of the first two games, “We’re starting a little tough.” Tucker County, who won 24 games and lost to Greater Beckley Christian in the second round of the state tournament, returns four seniors and should remain strong as well.
“We’ve got six seniors this year,” Bodkin shared. Leadership and effort from these young men will be pivotal in the upcoming season. Clayton Kisamore, a tall and explosive athletic swingman, “just did a lot for us last year.” He added that “Jacob Beachler can run and shoot. People will know to double team” the senior center.
Bodkin says that Brayden Beachler, who plays both point and shooting guard, “gave us some good minutes last season, but unfortunately got hurt.” He added that Brayden Beachler can also shoot well and “is a good kid.” Another senior expected to add athleticism and skill is Connor Armentrout. Bodkin sees huge potential in Armentrout, saying “he can run and jump. He’s just an athlete. He can really wow you with some things.”
A senior who Bodkin expects “will surprise people,” is Dustin Vandevander. “He played JV last year as a junior,” Bodkin explained. “He didn’t have the experience, but he has the ‘want to’.” Center Evan Teter also earned the coach’s praise for “playing very hard” and knowing his role.
The younger players add their own skill sets and talent. Just as they did on the football field this fall, the Smith brothers, Dusty and Dillon, will bring their physical style to the hard court. “Dusty Smith is a point guard who had to step in last year when (Brayden) Beachler went down,” Bodkin described. He went on to say that “we threw him in the fire and he struggled, but got better.” Dusty’s brother, Dillon, “will be my defensive guy. He’s not a shooter, just a hard-nosed defensive guy.”
The Wildcats have other options at the shooting guard position as well. Josiah Kimble, as Bodkin says, “led the JV last year. He got a lot more experience in summer.”
Two freshmen could also make a strong impact in the coming season. “The biggest leap from summer until now is from Cashton Kisamore,” Bodkin says. Cashton Kisamore is the younger brother of senior Clayton Kisamore, but “we call him the younger brother, not the big brother. He’s bigger than Clayton. He’s going to be good.” Bodkin also has high expectations for freshman Chase Owens, saying, “He’s going to be good. He’s always around the ball.”
While the coach has “a couple of guys who are not quite ready for varsity yet, everyone’s working hard. Everyone really wants to win.”
Winning for the Wildcats means employing gritty defense and fast paced offenses in a style not unlike Gale Catlett’s Mountaineers and their physical Atlantic 10 opposition. “I like to run when the opportunity presents itself,” Bodkin explained. He added, “but I also like to be under control and take care of the ball. And we need to be tough nosed on defense.”
Coaches and players alike want to carry over one vital point of last year’s success, the Wildcats’ home dominance. The team won 11 of 12 last year at home. Bodkin said, “Our philosophy is to try and win all the home games and the road will take care of itself.” He also gives the Wildcat faithful credit for team success, saying “it’s our fans, our community. Our fan base travels. They’re everywhere.”