Touchberry named DWD hoops coach

CENTRAL — Conducting his first coaching search, newly appointed Daniel High athletic director Tommy Plumblee knew the qualities he was looking for in a candidate to fill the Lions’ vacant boys’ basketball head coaching position.

Plumblee believes he has found his man in Ben Touchberry, who was announced Tuesday morning as the next head coach for the Lions’ four-time reigning Western AAA champion squad.

Touchberry is a former South Carolina Mr. Basketball, winning the crown in 2000 as a senior at Blacksburg High, where he played for his father, longtime Wildcat coach Jim Touchberry. A two-time All-State and three-time all-region selection, including two region player of the year honors, Touchberry finished his career as the Wildcats’ second-leading all-time scorer before playing at Presbyterian College and Limestone College.
Plumblee said Touchberry’s experience on the court played a part in his hiring, but it was the other things about him that pushed him to the top of the list.

“He has a lot of intangibles, and the character and integrity are definitely there,” Plumblee said. “Just to have a basketball coach on campus who has the qualities and pedigree he has, it’s huge.”

As a coach, Touchberry led the Limestone women’s team for half a year out of college before moving on to an assistant coaching job at Chesnee High. He has been the head coach at McCormick High for the past three seasons, leading the Chiefs to playoff berths all three years. In the last two seasons, McCormick went 41-10, earning Touchberry region coach of the year honors.

“He’s one of the up-and-coming coaches in the state, and for us to have him is going to be good for our school and good for our kids,” Plumblee said of Touchberry. “I’m looking forward to getting the chance to work with him as we kind of turn the page and move on with our program.”

Touchberry couldn’t hold back his excitement at the opportunity to step behind the wheel of a successful program like the one at Daniel.

“I’ll miss my kids at McCormick, but this is just a great career move and a great place to live,” Touchberry said. “There’s a great community here with great people, and from what I understand, great athletes with great attitudes.”

One of those great athletes is rising senior Shaq Lawson, who earned co-Western AAA Player of the Year honors last season after leading the Lions to 10 straight wins to close the regular season, averaging 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game.

“The athletes are here, and I think they’re going to continue to be here,” Touchberry said. “it’s just a matter of them continuing to be disciplined, keeping their head on their shoulders and doing the right thing. I think they’ll do that, and I think they’ll respond well.”

The coaching search was the second in two years for the Daniel administration, as former Clemson star Tony Christie was suspended before coaching his first game for the Lions last season. Christie pleaded no contest in February to an assault charge on a Daniel student.

After Christie’s suspension, Daniel alum Billy Gibson led the Lions to their fourth consecutive region title as interim coach, being named Western AAA Coach of the Year along the way. Touchberry indicated Tuesday that he’d like for Gibson to stay on staff as an assistant.
“I thought what Billy Gibson did as the head coach last year, he did a phenomenal job stepping in there and really taking on that role, and I’m really looking forward to working with him as well,” Touchberry said. “Hopefully we can work it out where he stays a part of the staff, because I’d really like to have him around because he’s good for the kids and good for the program.”

Touchberry said he is ready to get to work and begin making a difference in the lives of the Daniel players.

“I’m excited about being at Daniel High School and trying to teach these young men not only about basketball, but the values in life and how to do the right thing off the court as well,” he said.
Plumblee agrees with his new coach.

“Basketball will only take you so far, and it’s those other life skills you learn that will turn them into good citizens, good fathers and good Daniel alumni,” he said.
Editor’s note: Eric Sprott of The Journal (Seneca) contributed to this article.