Photo: New Westbrook Christian boys basketball coach Neal Wester addresses his players during a recent meet and greet at the school. (Courtesy of Grant Campbell)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
Neal Wester is bringing his 31-year career of coaching experience to 100 Westminster Drive.
The longtime high school boys basketball coach last week accepted that position with Westbrook Christian, bringing to the Rainbow City campus yet another coach with an extended and impressive resume forged in the public school sector.
The move reunites Wester with Westbrook athletic director and head football coach Steve Smith, who played football with Wester at Cherokee County High School in the mid-1980s.
“Coach Wester and I are good friends from way back,” said Smith, who won five state football championships at Piedmont before coming to Westbrook earlier this year. “We grew up and played ball together, and I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him as a coach and more so as a man.
“His track record in basketball speaks for itself, and I don’t think there’s many out there that can be considered better than him. We feel fortunate at Westbrook that we’re getting one of the best in the business.”
Wester, who spent the past three years as an assistant boys basketball coach at Chattooga High School in Summerville, Ga., is no stranger to the area, as he was boys basketball coach at both Etowah and Ashville high schools.
“I’m excited beyond measure,” said Wester. “I truly believe that when God works in things, they happen. God had His hand in this to lead me here, and I’m truly fired up about the opportunity. We have the same great staff as last year from middle school and junior varsity, and that’s such a blessing.”
The 2022-23 Warriors went 20-7 and were ranked as high as No. 6 in the 3A regular season polls.
“I’ve been told that we’ve got a good nucleus of players and some good guys moving up,” said Wester. “I think we’re in a spot where we’re ready to win and win right now.”
During a recent meet-and-greet with his players, Wester stressed that attention to detail will be the focus.
“We want to be the toughest, the smartest and the most skilled team on the court. We talked about doing things as opposed to talking about them. We’re going to play with passion and play for each other, and we’re going to hold people accountable to that. But first and foremost, we want to develop young men of integrity and character.”
Wester began his coaching career as assistant at Coosa High School in Rome, Ga., from 1990-91, then got his first head coaching position at Cherokee County from 1991 to 1997. He then was head coach at Etowah from 1997 to 2000. After a year of teaching at Snead State, Wester had a three-year stint at Ashville from 2001-03. He then moved up U.S. Hwy. 231 to coach at Oneonta for 10 seasons before returning for a second stint in Centre from 2013 to 2019. He returned to Coosa High for one season before spending the past three years at Chattooga.
In 31 seasons as a head coach in Alabama, West compiled a 424-231 record. He led Oneonta to three straight Class 4A Northeast Regional appearances, including a berth in the Final Four in 2012.
“I’m so appreciative to Mr. Croyle and Mrs. Neal and Coach Smith for giving me this opportunity, and I feel blessed to be in this situation,” he said. “I’m right in line with the school’s mission of developing warriors for Christ.”