Columbia Star

Bouknight in good situation after rough ending at alma mater

Former Brookland-Cayce men’s basketball head coach Ricky Bouknight

Former Brookland-Cayce men’s basketball head coach Ricky Bouknight

Brookland- Cayce Bearcats boys’ basketball team enjoyed one of its best seasons in 2016-2017 by claiming a region championship and making it to the Lower State Championship game.

The Bearcats are coached by fifth year head coach and Brookland- Cayce alumnus Robert Wells. In 2012-2013, Wells replaced another former Bearcat, Ricky Bouknight, who first took over the Brookland-Cayce program in 2000-2001.

Bouknight’s basketball experience as a Bearcat began as a player from 1974 to 1977. At that time, Brookland-Cayce was in 4A competing in a region with schools like Aiken, North Augusta, and Airport.

For Bouknight, the opportunity to play for the Bearcats and coach Don Simmons was a big deal.

His time as a player sparked his interest in becoming a head coach.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina in 1981, Bouknight started his coaching career as a volunteer assistant at Brookland-Cayce for three seasons.

In the coming years, he took assistant coaching jobs with Jim Parker at Columbia High School, Gary Fulmer at Lower Richland High School, and Tim Whipple at Irmo High School.

In 1997, Bouknight got his first head coaching job at Ridge View High School.

Then in 2001, an opportunity came available for Bouknight to return to Brookland-Cayce to become the head coach of the boys’ basketball team.

Having grown up in the program, Bouknight knew it had proud traditions including wearing coats and ties before each game.

“When I got the job I wanted to make sure we kept those traditions,” Bouknight said. “We wore a coat and tie to all the games. We had so many people tell us how nice we looked. I felt it was important to keep that.”

Bouknight’s addition just added to the family atmosphere developing at Brookland-Cayce High School. He joined athletic director/football coach Brad Coleman and boys’ soccer coach Kevin Heise who also graduated from Brookland-Cayce.

“It was incredible,” Bouknight said. “It was some of the best years of my life because everybody was a family. I didn’t miss a football game. I didn’t miss many baseball games. It was the most incredible feeling you can have.”

On the court, Bouknight had to be careful about implementing his system into the program.

“I couldn’t turn B.C. into Irmo,” Bouknight said. “But I could use some of the same techniques and some of the same things Tim (Whipple) taught me and Gary (Fulmer) taught me at Lower Richland based on the kinds of player I had. I had to adjust to the players instead of the players adjusting to the system.”

In his first season, Bouknight guided the Bearcats to the No. 9 seed in the 3A playoffs. They fell to No. 7 Eau Claire 61-54.

Brookland- Cayce made it to the second round the following year before falling to North Charleston 49-40.

During the next four seasons, Bouknight’s Bearcats never made it past the first round. Then during the 2007-2008 season it all came together.

Behind the experience of point guard Jeff Estep and post man T.J. Boykin, Brookland-Cayce finished the season 22-4 and won the region title. The Bearcats also claimed the Heathwood Hall Christmas Tournament championship by beating the Irmo Yellow Jackets.

By winning the region, the Bearcats were awarded a No. 1 seed. They sailed through the first two rounds, beating Lake Marion 71-54 in the first round and Darlington 74-65, before advancing to the quarterfinals.

In the third round matchup, Brookland-Cayce had to travel to Myrtle Beach because the hosts were already predetermined. An Everett Golston -led Seahawks’ team defeated the Bearcats 67-51 ending the magical run.

The quarterfinal run would be the farthest Bouknight would get Brookland-Cayce. Over the next three seasons, Brookland Cayce never got past the first round.

Then in 2011, the winds of change blew into Brookland-Cayce. It began in November 2010, when athletic director/football coach Abby Bray resigned.

In February 2011, Rusty Charpia was named the athletic director/football coach.

Bouknight, who had served as assistant athletic director under Coleman and Bray, was retained as both assistant athletic director and boys’ basketball coach for the 2011- 2012 season.

The season did not go well for Bouknight or the Bearcats. For only the second time during Bouknight’s tenure, Brookland- Cayce failed to make the playoffs.

Despite that, Bouknight said he was not aware Charpia wanted to make a change at any point in the season.

The Bearcats’ 2011- 2012 season ended February 9 with a loss to A.C. Flora. It wasn’t until June, weeks before the start of a new academic year, that Bouknight was informed he was not going to be retained as the boys’ head coach.

The late move offered Bouknight virtually no options as far as garnering another head coaching job.

However, a new opportunity came in the way of an old friend. Irmo’s Tim Whipple reached out to Bouknight and extended him an offer to be an assistant coach.

During his five seasons as assistant coach at Irmo, Bouknight has been a part of two teams that have competed for state championships, two others that have made it to the lower and upper state finals, and one that lost in the third round of the playoffs.

Bouknight said he feels he has the ultimate job as an assistant coach for Whipple. He said it would have to be a very good job for him to return as head coach.

Despite still working at Brookland-Cayce High School, Bouknight said he does not pay attention to the Bearcats’ boys’ basketball program.

Even though he didn’t have as much success as perhaps he would have liked, it was the relationships with the players, some of whom he still stays in contact with, that meant the most.

“My philosophy whereever I go is we are going to try to build the best program we can with the best players we have,” Bouknight said. “I can’t promise wins, I can’t tell you how many times we’re going to win region, but we’re going to have good players. We’re going to have good people in the program. There’s more to it than wins and losses.”

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