RIPLEY – Last Friday night, new Ripley High head basketball coaches Evan Faulkner and John Kennedy both took to the podium and spoke to the assembled crowd about their visions for their respective programs.  With that, they were officially introduced to the Ripley community as the newest members of the Ripley High School athletic department.  
The event, which featured several prominent members of the Ripley community in attendance, was emceed by Ripley High School public address announcer Mike Ruben and Mayor Carolyn Rader.  Rader was the first to speak, and discussed her experience with Ripley basketball over the years, as well as the passion for the basketball programs in the community.

“Coach Faulkner and Coach Kennedy,” said Mayor of Ripley Carolyn Rader during her speech, “We are anxiously waiting for that gym to be filled with Viking fans supporting the best high school in the state of West Virginia.  Under the direction of these two great men, good luck and we’re very proud of you.”

Next, Ripley High School principal Will Hosaflook spoke to the audience.  Hosflook, an all-state athlete in wrestling and football during his time at Ripley High School in the mid-90s, noted that the current excitement level for the basketball program matched the excitement level during the 1996 season, which was the year of the program’s only state tournament appearance.

“The excitement in this room is absolutely unbelievable,” Hosaflook said, “I see the excitement now, and it is truly amazing for Ripley High School.  Acadmeically, we are one of the top schools in the state of West Virginia, and now it’s time for athletics to get back on top.”

Hosaflook then announced that, through a joint decision with Coach Kennedy and Coach Faulkner, the new student section at Ripley High School would henceforth be known as “The 6th Man” and the student body will receive free admission to every home basketball game if they purchase and wear a “6th Man” t-shirt to the game.
With that, the new head coach of the Ripley Lady Viking basketball program, John Kennedy, was introduced.  Kennedy, who was an assistant coach for three years, has deep basketball roots in the community, as his father coached at Ripley High and as a player, Kennedy led Ripley High to multiple sectional championships, a regional championship and a state tournament appearance.

“I’m honored to be here in front of each and every one of you,” said Kennedy, who then spoke directly to the students in the audience, which included his players.

“It’s all about you,” Kennedy said, regarding his expectations of his young program, “When Mr. Ruben was up here speaking about some of the things I’ve been apart of, he mentioned the state tournament and I got chill bumps.  It has to be a dream and a goal to get back there.  Sectional wins are fine, you have to set goals. Don’t be satisfied with just a successful season.  The ultimate goal is to make it back to the Charleston Civic Center. Get that ingrained right now.”
Kennedy then spoke about his expectations for his players.

“One thing I’m trying to instill in all of our players is a blue collar work ethic,” Kennedy said, “I promise you that when you come to watch us play, they’re going to give you max effort every time.  They are buying into this blue collar work ethic. From the bottom of my heart, thank you very much, I appreciate each and every one of you.”

Ruben then introduced new boys head coach Evan Faulkner.  Faulkner, who grew up in eastern Kentucky, was a standout athlete at Elliot County High School and played collegiately at Radford University in Virginia before transferring to the University of Charleston, where he finished his playing career in 2012 and spent the 2013 season as an assistant coach for the Golden Eagles before accepting the head coach position at Ripley High School.

“It’s been a privilege over the last several weeks getting to know everyone in the community,” began Faulkner, “I want to thank each and every one of you for being here.  The turnout is unbelievable.”
After introducing his family, which includes his identical twin brother Ethan, Faulkner then outlined his expectations for his program.

“Two things that we’re going to stress to our guys more than anything else is work ethic and toughness,” Faulkner said, “I feel like that’s what helped me be the player I was and the person I am today and that is a direct reflection of my parents.”

Faulkner continued on: “Our coaching staff has tried to change the culture here with Ripley basketball,” Faulkner said, “We’ve adopted the philosophy of pursuing excellence in everything that we do.  We’ve talked extensively about five individual characteristics that a person must possess: a consistent work ethic, toughness, commitment, selflessness, and respectfulness.  When you get a team to buy into this pursuit of excellence, you develop a unique bond and each player does his job to help the team win. When we get there, that’s when special things start to happen.”

Faulkner then introduced a new fundraiser for the program, the 100-100 Club.  It involves 100 people making a  $100 donation to the Ripley High School boosters club, which will go directly to the basketball programs.  At the beginning of next season, there will be either a tip-off banquet or a “midnight madness” event where these donors will be recognized.  The proceeds of last Friday night’s event, as well as the auction that was held at the conclusion of the dinner, also went directly to the basketball programs.