WHEELERSBURG — New Wheelersburg boys basketball head coach Alex Prater is no stranger to the ‘Burg community.
As a 2007 graduate of Wheelersburg High School where he played for former Pirates coach Tom Barrick, Prater said he knew then that he’d want to one day entering the coaching ranks himself.
“I grew up in Wheelersburg, played her for Coach Barrick who obviously had a tremendous run and is in the Hall of Fame here. We played in a couple of Final Fours in ‘06 and ‘07,” Prater said. “Coach had a tremendous impact on my life. I knew in high school, being here and playing for him, coaching is something I wanted to do.”
Prior to being tabbed as the next head coach of the boys basketball program, following the departure of former coach Steven Ater to his alma mater Chesapeake, Prater served as an assistant under Ater for eight of his nine seasons. Prater has also served as an assistant football coach in recent years to the ‘Burg football program.
In addition to his new coaching role, Prater will continue serving in his role as the Director of Operations and Safety for the Wheelersburg School District.
“Really happy for Coach Ater — I think he’s going to do great things at Chesapeake. Enjoyed working with him, he’s been a great friend to me. We shared a lot over the years, his best advice was to be yourself. He knows how much Wheelersburg means to me, my family is here, my kid goes to school here. We’re really invested in the community,” Prater said. “He’s told me to build on those things and use them to strengthen the basketball program and the community.”
Being tabbed as the newest leader of the program in May, Prater emphasized the importance of the time he and his staff are able to spend with their players during the summer months.
Members of Prater’s staff will include Derek Lewis, a former Shawnee State men’s basketball player and Wheelersburg assistant, and Dirk Hollar, the former head boys basketball coach at Green and an assistant for the Wheelersburg girls basketball program, and Corey Cox, a teacher in the Wheelersburg school district.
“Summer is an extremely critical time for our program,” Prater said. “Our fall sports are really competitive and we love that for our kids and having that success. One of the side effects of that is that our preseason is short and the summer becomes more important. Having that familiarity with the kids, knowing what we have and what we want to implement has helped put our summer plans ahead.”
Prater says you won’t see much of a difference in how his Pirates play come this winter, as pace and high-quality shot selection were among the ideas he wants to continue with.
“We won’t be a whole lot different in how we play. Coach Ater and I worked very close with the type of play we utilized, we’re going to tweak things — and I think that would be the case no matter who was here,” Prater said. “We want to play fast, we believe in analytics and the more we can look at objective data and show the kids these are the shots we want to be getting and how we can play against opponents. We want to play with pace, get to the rim, and take good threes.”
Wheelersburg won the program’s 22nd district championship during the 2021-22 season. That run was a result of being tested during the regular season against Southern Ohio Conference Division II competition, Prater believes.
“Our league’s phenomenal. We were able to go on a run ourselves after some struggles during the regular season due to injuries and different things. We really feel like our league prepared us for the run we made and I’d expect the same this year,” he said.
To build on the success that’s been established by previous coaches and players, Prater wants to use that success as motivation to continue striving toward lofty goals.
“It’s really humbling,” he said. “Appreciating the sacrifice the ones before us have made, and being motivated by that to make sure we grow and continue that and leave it better than what we found it.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved