Black leaves Oakwood for gig with Redskins

Black leaves Oakwood for gig with Redskins

SULLIVAN — Craig Black was happy serving as the Oakwood boys' basketball coach.

The four-year leader helmed the Comets to a Vermilion County Tournament title and the Vermilion Valley Conference crown last season, after all.

But there are times when an opportunity rolls around that's too good to pass up. And Black found that with the Sullivan boys' basketball program.

Black has resigned from his role at Oakwood to take over the Redskins, who saw former coach Chet Reeder accept the head job at Teutopolis last month.

"It kind of came out of nowhere," Black said. "I wasn't really looking too hard to apply anywhere else."

The chance to coach Sullivan, however, piqued Black's interest. His fiancee, Erika, works in the area, and both she and Black are Redskins graduates.

Black met all the requirements he felt Sullivan set forth for its next hoops leader — someone with sideline experience who is familiar with the community as well as young and energetic.

"I immediately accepted (the job offer). I was excited," Black said. "It's a great opportunity for us to come back here. Combined with the nice school district, a good program, it was pretty much a no-brainer for me."

Sullivan posted a 10-17 ledger during the 2017-18 campaign, the fifth for Reeder, a 2000 Sullivan graduate who compiled a 62-70 record in charge before landing the gig with the Wooden Shoes.

"(Reeder) did a great job with them," Black said. "Honestly, I don't know too much about the personnel. But I'm optimistic. We'll definitely be competitive in our league (the Central Illinois Conference)."

Black led Oakwood to a 19-10 run last year and finished his Comets' tenure with a 71-43 record.

He said the most difficult part about stepping away from Oakwood was explaining his decision to the upcoming senior class, with which he had grown closewith during the Comets' offseason workouts and tournaments.

"All of those guys went to every shootout this summer," Black said. "I enjoyed spending time with them and enjoyed coaching them. I told them that, too. It was tough, but they understood."

Sullivan experienced an eight-win improvement from the 2016-17 season to the 2017-18 campaign, close to the five-victory jump Oakwood produced in the same timespan. So Black is familiar with getting the most out of his boys.

He'll also be tasked with guiding the Redskins to their first piece of postseason hardware since 2003, when Sullivan last won a regional championship.

The Redskins graduated five seniors but return leading scorer Caden Ellis, who also paced the club in assist and steal averages in the previous season.

"I learned a lot (at Oakwood) about different types of people and personalities," Black said. "I'm looking to build relationships with the players and get them motivated. If we can do that, then we'll be OK."

State of flux

The area prep boys' basketball scene has been rife with coaching changes since the 2017-18 campaign concluded. The list of positions that have changed hands in recent months:

School, New coach, Former coach

Arcola, Greg Gisinger, Mike Shaffer

Armstrong-Potomac, Deon Mennenga, Sean O'Brien

ALAH, Brad McGill, Dale Schuring

Blue Ridge ,Brandon Martin, Joe Sawyer

La Salette, TBD, Alex Anderson

Mahomet-Seymour, Ryan Bosch, Chad Benedict

Oakwood, TBD, Craig Black

St. Joseph-Ogden, Kiel Duval, Brian Brooks

St. Thomas More, Alex Anderson, Matt Kelley

Schlarman, D'Lando Carter, John Spezia

Sullivan, Craig Black, Chet Reeder

Uni High, Rashod Seaton, Darin O'Connell