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The Floyd County girls basketball team hums along like a well-oiled machine as head coach Alan Cantrell gives his assistant more game management responsibilities.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
Floyd County girl's basketball assistant coach (center) Travis Cantrell, coaches the team in the state quarterfinals last Friday. His father, head coach Alan Cantrell, sits on the sidelines.
REBECCA BARNETT | The Roanoke Times
The Floyd County girls listen as assistant coach Travis Cantrell (center) speaks during a timeout. Head coach Alan Cantrell (right) has given more responsibility for the team to his son.
Friday, March 8, 2013
FLOYD — The differences are so few as to be almost imperceptible.
The defense is the same for Floyd County’s girls, the press runs just as it always has, practice is still ferociously intense, there is no change in approach to basketball. Everything is the same, according to the program’s most experienced players.
“It’s the same as always,” senior Maria Kuchenbuch said. “We come in here expecting to work hard and we do. That hasn’t changed a bit.”
As far as the won-loss results on the floor are concerned, little is different. The Buffaloes keep winning. They take a 26-2 record and a 16-game winning streak into today’s Group A Division 2 semifinal against George Mason at the Siegel Center in Richmond.
Veteran coach Alan Cantrell and his assistant, son Travis, make the same claim as the to seniors do. Buffaloes ball proceeds according to the same plan.
“I’m going to give them everything I have,” Alan Cantrell said. “I expect them to do the same.”
Things are different, though. Maybe it’s best to call it a change of style rather than substance. Six games into the season, Alan Cantrell opted to turn over the stand-up part of game coaching to Travis. The younger Cantrell is calling the timeouts, leading team conferences, discussing issues with officials.
A variety of reasons led to the change.
“We’d done some of that in the past here and there,” Alan Cantrell said. “I feel real comfortable doing it, the girls respond to him, he has very good instinct for the game. It doesn’t matter one standing, one sitting. We’re of the same mind.”
Attending a practice, you’d never know anything was different. Alan Cantrell is still the fiery teacher he always has been, seeing 10 players at the same time, correcting, encouraging, never missing the slightest detail. Travis does his share of teaching, but by nature he’s less demonstrative. That doesn’t mean he’s silent. If he sees something that needs to be addressed with the players, he says so at once.
Both coaching voices are heard during the game.
“It’s really about the same,” said Haley Bolt, the Buffaloes’ other four-year varsity player. “They both talk to us on and off the court, even when coach is sitting down, it’s still about the same to me.”
Almost like talking to the same person?
“Pretty much,” Bolt said.
The Cantrells had been discussing the change before it happened. Travis appears to have allowed the head coach to take the lead in that particular decision-making process. The day of the second Salem game Dec. 12, Alan Cantrell made his choice.
“You take it today.”
It’s been a period of intense mixed emotions for the Cantrell family. Since last summer, two of Alan Cantrell’s three brothers, Mark and Greg, have died. Understandably, that’s taken a toll on surviving family members.
“Certain things don’t look the same like they used to,” Alan Cantrell said.
He admits it’s taken something out of him.
“That’s part of the reason I wanted to make this change,” he said. “Some days in practices and open gyms, you don’t have the same energy. That’s one of the main reasons I feel so good about the things we’re doing. His energy level is so much better than mine.”
There has been happy news for the family as well. There’s a new baby in the Travis Cantrell household. Fortunately, Sydney Rose Cantrell has grown up fast in one respect. She’s mostly sleeping through the night now.
“She’s doing real well at that,” Travis said. “She’s a good little girl.”
To the Cantrells, Sydney Rose is a new addition to the family. For everybody else in the county, she figures to be another basketball prospect. Soon enough, she’ll be there with her older brothers, hanging around the gym like they were earlier this week, soaking up the basketball.
“That’s the way [daughter] Melissa and Travis started,” the grandfather said. “Just like this right here.”
One more situation figures to stay the same with Floyd County coaching. Alan Cantrell has no retirement plans. He’d like to come back, he said.
“Of course, I’m going to have to talk to my athletic director about that.”
The athletic director is Travis Cantrell.
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