RED JACKET Clay Campbell, a veteran basketball coach with a long, storied resume, is taking over the Lady Miner basketball program at Mingo Central High School.
Campbell started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater Pikeville College. He then became the boys coach at Phelps High School in the early 1980s, which was his high school alma mater.
Through the years he had stints at Belfry, Tug Valley, Matewan, Turkey Creek Grade School, back to Phelps, and most recently, coaching the girls team at Pike County Central (PCC).
Campbell has had the chance to coach his daughter Cassady the last three years at PCC.
I like the challenge, Campbell said while sitting in the gym at MCHS on Friday, the last day of the 3-week summer practice program. This is a good situation. I hope to lay a foundation and build a good program.
This is only the third season for the new consolidated school.
Coaching is about challenges. Its easy when you have got the talent, but it can be different when you are building a program, he said. Its about stressing academics, as-well-as teaching student athletes how to work hard on the court and in the class room.
I want to go down and help out with the middle school programs, Campbell said of the feeder schools. I want them to come to our games, sit behind the bench, and to start becoming a part of Mingo Central.
That way, when they go into the 9th grade, they can identify with the Lady Miners as a freshman, he added.
The longtime coach also wants to start a girls youth program. He said it is more comfortable for them to play against girls teams, rather than to have to play against the boys, especially at an early age.
Campbell is excited about the talent at the school. He has had about 16 girls working out during the 3-week summer period.
Mingo Central returns several good players, like junior Ashley Curry, a 6-1 center, who was one of the areas top players last year. I think she is a legit Division One prospect, Campbell said. If she dedicates herself and continues to work, she can get a scholarship.
Two other juniors that Campbell has been impressed with are Hannah Church and Kiearia Hammond. He says Church is a shooter and that 5-11 Hammond can be a solid power forward.
Paige Muncy, a 5-10 sophomore, is also a promising player that will be able to play a couple of different positions.
The Lady Miners lost their point guard, Chrissy Farmer, to graduation. (Farmer is heading to W.Va. State to play this season.)
However, he has a couple of players he is looking at to fill that void. They are sophomore Kaitlin Cantrell and freshman Tyshira Joplin. Both have skills that the new coach is excited about and they have impressed him.
Sisters Brandi and Stacie Cisco, both forwards, have also been working hard, according to Campbell. Most of the players he has inherited have at least two more years left.
Campbell expects other players to come out this fall and hopes that more freshmen players will want to try out for the team.
Chad Varney has been hired as Campbells assistant coach and will probably coach the freshmen team.
Campbell had a good program the last three seasons at nearby Pike Central and he hopes to continue that success at Mingo Central.
I want to build the program, Campbell said. I am looking forward to this next chapter in my coaching career.