MADISON — When Shawn Ballard learned that there was an opening at Scott High School for a boys basketball coach, he jumped at the opportunity.
"It just seemed like the perfect fit for me and for the team at the right time," Ballard said. "We have an opportunity to do something really special next season. We know it and the community that follows the team knows it."
Ballard was a standout hoopster for the Skyhawks nearly a decade ago and experienced the state tournament as a junior. He went on to have a successful basketball career at the University of Charleston. Coming home to coach the team he once laced up the sneakers for was a natural fit for the dentist, who lives in Charleston and works for McCoy Dental in Logan.
"Its something you dream of and I think a lot of people think about it," he said. "I'll bring energy and I hope to build on the great things that (former) coach (Steve) McComas established."
McComas resigned from the position in April after three seasons as a head coach and 12 as an assistant for the black and gold.
McComas led the Cardinal Conference squad to 15 wins in 2018-19 before they fell to Logan in the Class AA Region 4 Section 2 sectional semifinals. The Skyhawks more than doubled their win total from the previous season, when they notched seven.
Ballard cites his college experience as a time when he realized he'd like to coach. He gives much of that credit to then UC coach Mark Downey.
"He taught me a lot about the game," he said. "It inspired me. Until then I had never thought about coaching and through him, I just felt this obligation to give back and stay involved with the game."
After his undergraduate studies at UC, Ballard completed dental school at West Virginia University.
Ballard served as an assistant coach with his father John last season at Scott where he was able to make an impact.
"Coach McComas was good to me and he gave me a great opportunity," he said. "He let me implement some things I had learned and he was very open to that. He's been at this a long time and I was also able to learn from him in the process. He has a great basketball mind."
Ballard inherits two of the state's best players in seniors Jagger Bell and Jon Hamilton. Both players averaged over 18 ppg in 2018-19 in the Class AA Cardinal Conference with Hamilton proving to be one of the best 3-point shooters across all classes and Bell establishing himself as a double-double machine and natural scorer, doing much of his work around the paint.
Both players are set to break 1,000 points for their careers in the season's first few games. The duo could end their careers as the top two scorers in school history.
"I don't think many teams in West Virginia have had this caliber of players come through at the same time," he said. "It really is a special thing and it is my job to get the most out of them and the rest of our roster."
The coach acknowledged the loss of scorers Cole Moore, Hunter Adkins and Nathan Kuhn to graduation but Ballard was quick to recognize the current talented supporting cast, including returning seniors Gavin Cooper and Caleb Dingess who will be catalysts in the team's dribble drive motion offense which looks to speed up the game, forcing miscues by their opponents.
"I look for big years from those guys and we have rising juniors and sophomores who have very good skills but haven't got that varsity experience yet," he said. "We have a group that play hard and if other teams focus too hard on Jon and Jagger, we have guys who can beat you. I'm excited about the chemistry I've seen so far this summer."
Ballard looks to bring toughness, energy and defensive intensity to the court next season. He said that the family atmosphere that Scott football coach Shane Griffith has brought can translate to the basketball court as well.
"We will be disciplined and we will be accountable," he said. "Regardless of your status on the team."
Via a story published by the CVN on May 8, one of the reasons cited by McComas for stepping down was that he felt that the recruiting of his players from other schools in the area was becoming a distraction. Ballard addressed the situation.
"When we talked, they all expressed that they wanted to stay and play where they always had," he said. "After talking about the things we're going to implement and do this year they understood that their best opportunity was right here in Madison and they are excited to be a part of the new chapter of Skyhawk basketball."
Assistant coaches will include John Ballard (returning), Chris Adkins (returning), Tyler Ramsey and JD Turley.
Reporter Phil Perry can be reached at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @philipdperry.