ELIZABETHTOWN, NC (WWAY) — Alton Hill only lasted one season as the East Bladen boys basketball coach. Larry Williams coached East Bladen before that. In summary the school has seven consecutive losing seasons in boys basketball.
Ken Cross is out to change that. For Cross, losing is a foreign word.
“A friend of mine told me that I might be ready for East Bladen,” Cross said. “He then added, ‘But is East Bladen ready for Ken Cross?’ I kind of got a chuckle out of that.”
Cross has 602 career victories. Most of those wins occurred at West Bladen High School and the former Tar Heel High School in Bladen County. Tar Heel and Bladenboro consolidated to form West Bladen ten years ago. Over the last four years Cross only has 13 losses. That’s four fewer than East Bladen had all of last season. In fact West Bladen currently has a 15-game winning streak against East Bladen.
The difference this basketball season will be simple. Cross won’t be sporting West Bladen purple. His tenure at West Bladen became uncomfortable, but he admits it was not easy to leave. That lack of comfort was just one of the reasons he resigned back in May. Instead, he’ll be sporting East Bladen blue for the first time.
“I told the team, and I’m not patting myself on the back, boys, but this has to be changed,” Cross said. “In the last seven years it’s West Bladen 15, East Bladen 0, and that shouldn’t happen in a rivalry.”
Patty Evers is the East Bladen director of athletics. She’s also the girls basketball coach at East Bladen, where the Eagles have a rich tradition. In fact they’ve been to the state title game in girls basketball three years in a row.
“He believes in discipline, and his record speaks for itself,” Evers said of Cross. “I worked with him at Tar Heel for my first five years of coaching. In fact he walked in the door with a red and black (Tar Heel’s school colors) jacket the other day. That got me in the mood to wear mine.”
Conditioning is one of the priorities for Cross. He clearly wants his East Bladen players to be in basketball shape once the season tips off.
“We’re working real hard,” said East Bladen senior guard Randy Daniels. “Hopefully we’ll get better. Coach Cross is a real coach. He’s aggressive. He likes to do the right thing. He likes for us to play defense and get back on the ball.”
The East Bladen boys team will make its 2011-2012 debut under Cross November 29 at St. Pauls.
“The best thing about East Bladen is the new adventure,” Cross said. “Not that I really need a new adventure, but it’s really enjoyable, and we have a lot of kids with a lot of athletic ability, but they have to realize they have a lot to learn about this game, too.”