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A new sheriff in charge… Chambers selected to guide Highlander basketball program

BY IVAN SANDERS
STAR SPORTS EDITOR
ROAN MOUNTAIN – When the Cloudland Highlander boys basketball team takes the basketball court this season, there will be one notable change to the head man wondering the bench.
Most will already know the head coach which makes the change even that more transparent as Tyler ‘Opie’ Chambers has been named the new boys head basketball coach at the school on the departure of Gary Harrison who left to go to Elizabethton as an assistant.
Chambers is a Highlander through and through so the decision to hand the keys to the ‘Lander mobile was a no-brainer for Principal Richard Church and Athletic Director Scott Potter.
The Cloudland Alumni grew up in Roan Mountain where he attended and graduated from Cloudland High School and was a member of the successful boy’s team during that time.
He spent some time at the middle school where he led the program to the state final four with many of those players graduating in 2020.
Now, the very humble and pleasant young coach will be trying to start almost from scratch having eight seniors just graduate and developing those moving up from junior varsity that Chambers had a hand in coaching.
Being an alumnus of Cloudland makes the job even that more special to Chambers.
“It’s really special to me,” Chambers said. “I was recently cleaning my building out about a month ago and I found my Kindergarten jersey – it was a yellow jersey with Cloudland in blue letters on the front. You reflect on those times it’s just mesmerizing that I am the head coach now. I can’t wait to get started.
“With the COVID-19 it’s hard to get everyone in but it means a lot to me being the head coach and having the job. I have had a lot of great coaches – Ned Smith, Brandon Carpenter, Scott Potter, and I have worked with Gary Harrison, Matt Birchfield, and Mike Lunsford.
“Each time I can get something to steal from them I will. Their motivation techniques, their coaching style that works – I am just a learner and that’s what I want to be every day.”
Chambers, who has lovingly been known as Opie for most of his time at Cloudland, doesn’t take any offense to the nickname which he was tagged with in fourth grade.
“I got it in fourth grade from Mr. Danny Street,” Chambers said with a big grin. “n kindergarten, I looked like Opie off the Andy Griffith Show so when they got a yearbook from my Kindergarten year and showed it to Mr. Street, he gave me the name Opie and it stuck and has ever since then.”
While the television Opie may have been a little mischievous from time to time getting in trouble, the Cloudland version of Opie has been focused while growing his knowledge of the game of basketball.
Fans will see much of the same style of basketball that they are accustomed to when entering the gymnasium for a ‘Lander game.
“I am a very fast-paced guy, Toughness and grit is the main thing because those type of plays is what wins you ball games. That’s what we are known for. I am not a slowdown, bring it down type of coach unless we really have to,” Chambers shared.
There will be a lot of challenges in his first season especially with what the pandemic has brought to the world of prep athletics.
“COVID-19 is going to be one of the biggest challenges because we didn’t get to have a summer camp.,” said Chambers. “These kids have not played together. With the limitations and everything else, we are going to have to raise money- that’s the main thing.
“Where we closed down in March we haven’t even had a chance to get our jerseys back yet.”
Mr. Church stated that the decision was hard to hire Chambers saying, “this was the perfect fit at the perfect time and I look forward to seeing what Tyler can do with his alma mater.”
Chambers, in the meantime, isn’t worried about his administrators and their support.
“Mr. Church is amazing and does an amazing job in crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s along with our Athletic Director Scott Potter. I know that they will have my back,” he said.