Belpre basketball welcomes Tyler Leasure

BELPRE — Former Belpre High School basketball player Tyler Leasure is the new head varsity coach for Golden Eagles boys basketball, as of May 15 when he was hired by the Belpre City Schools Board of Education.

Leasure, 25, takes over the reins from Chad Williams, another ex-Belpre cager who led the program for three years.

Born and raised in Belpre, Leasure graduated from high school in 2010. “I played basketball generally my whole life since Pee Wee league, so I have been around the game for almost 20 years,” he said.

Leasure coached at the junior high girls and boys level for Belpre, was a Golden Eagle varsity boys assistant last year and “worked around basketball for a good while now on different levels of boys and girls at the Elite Sports Center with Joe and Terry Crislip,” he related.

Leasure got his bachelor’s degree at Ohio University and works at Belpre High School as a teacher, “so I’m around the basketball players all day every day,” he added.

Right now too, Leasure is director of the Eagle Academy, which is essentially an online alternative high school. “It’s a credit recovery academy for our students who need that.” explained Leasure. “Sometimes, we get students who are in situations that they don’t do so well in the classroom or don’t do so hot with certain subjects. So what we’re able to do is offer them the opportunity to come in and work on those courses online with virtually one-on-one help. It’s a challenge, but is something I enjoy.”

In addition, he also teaches several social studies courses every day as well.

This is Leasure’s first varsity head coaching job, “but I do have the experience last year with the varsity assistant position,” he noted. And Leasure “has worked with multiple varsity head coaches at the Elite Center and learned a lot of stuff,” he said, singling out the Crislips for praise. “I can’t explain to you how much of a mentor Joe Crislip has been to me over the last three or four years.”

For Leasure, he’s “both thrilled and excited that my first head coaching position comes at my alma mater.

“I think this is a phenomenal opportunity for me to be a part of the basketball tradition here since not only does Belpre basketball really mean the world to me, but also this school and this community mean the world to me too.”

Turning his attention to his players on the court, something Leasure is “trying to instill in my guys right now is that you don’t have to be a scorer to be a great player,” which Leasure admits, “I certainly wasn’t. But I worked as hard as I could and tried to give everything I had to the game of basketball.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, “we bring back eight guys from last year’s team,” said Leasure. “But we’ll still be very young with only three seniors this year.

“And as of now, we have three juniors, a couple of sophomores and a bunch of freshmen who are coming in.’

Gone from last year’s team are 6-2 forward Deijon Bedgood and 5-9 point guard Mythius Houghton, “who are two hard players to replace,” said Leasure. “So right now, we’re trying to find a way to replace their production.”

In summer league play at Williamstown High School, “our guys are really working well together,” said Leasure. “We know we have a long way to go yet, but we’re really proud with the progress some of our guys are making.

“Our big thing right now is encouraging our players to be encouraging to each other. It’s really something nice to see when you’re coming in to take over a program in which the kids care about one another.”

“So overall, I’m really proud of the way our kids have come together way before the season’s even going to start.

Returnees who are expected to play key roles this next season for Leasure as seniors are Bailey Sprague, Nate Godfrey and Cole Knotts.

“We’re going to get an entirely-healthy Bailey Sprague back,” said Leasure. Sprague spent a lot of last year not playing basketball after an early-season football injury sidelined the 6-4 center, who finally got on the court in mid-January.

“Bailey just brings a great attitude,” said Leasure. “He’s an excellent leader — very vocal, very encouraging.

“He’s not just a talented player, but also brings a great leadership quality to the team.”

Plus, 6-2 forward Godfrey and 6-0 shooting guard Knotts are “guys we expect to produce and I know they will,” said Leasure.

Back this year as juniors are 5-9 point guard Ryan Simoniette, “an excellent defender,” said Leasure. “He’s our thermostat, the guy that’s going to kind of be in charge on the floor;” 6-2 forward Jessie Collins, “a big body and a big, strong guy,” said Leasure. “He will be a force to be reckoned with inside;” and 6-5 center Jerimiah Stitt, who “we’re looking to get hopefully more varsity experience this year,” said Leasure.

Back as sophomores are former freshmen in 5-8 point guard Logan Adams and 6-1 shooting guard Brandon Simoniette. “Logan is very quick, gets open shots, a good defender, while Brandon is getting better shots and scoring more too,” said Leasure.

“While we may be a young team, at the same time, we’re going to have experience,” noted Leasure, “which on the varsity level is maybe more important than anything else because they know how to play the game.”

So, Leasure is of the mindset that “I think we’re going to be able to compete this year with those TVC Hocking teams like Waterford and Trimble that have been the front-runners for a while.”

For Leasure, who was more of “a defensive player, so I really value defense, rebounding and the little things that don’t go in the newspaper box score that win us the game like diving for a loose ball, getting possession and going down for a basket. And that’s what we’ve got to do is the little gritty things because we’ll have to be quick and tough to win.”

Still, he said, “we’ve just got to be patient with our process here and with our kids and just put a good team on the floor for everybody to come and see — and for us to be proud of. And I think that’s going to be our ultimate goal, and then whatever happens from there is all going to be added bonus.”

For Leasure’s assistant coaches, “I’m still in the process of deciding that,” he said. But Leasure is sure about two of his staff. “Although I know this is going to sound like nepotism,” stated Leasure, “my (younger) brother Ryan (also a former Belpre player) who really understands the game is going to be involved as well as my father Tom because he’s a great motivator and a great guy to be there to keep everybody kind of calm in a time of necessity.”