Belle Vernon hires former Shaler, Gateway coach to lead girls basketball program

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Wednesday, May 22, 2024 | 2:01 AM


Confident, motivated and excited.

Those are just a few words that could describe new Belle Vernon girls basketball coach Cornelious Nesbit.

Nesbit was hired Monday by the Belle Vernon Area School Board to take over for Kaitlyn Slagus after her resignation following this past season.

Nesbit just wrapped up his ninth season as the girls coach at Shaler.

“Sometimes you’re in a place for so long, sometimes you and that program both need a change,” Nesbit said. “The thing that really attracted me to the Belle Vernon job was the youth. I know there is young talent here. When I looked at the roster, they’re a very young team. It kind of reminded me when I took over at Gateway.

“It was a very similar situation. There’s young talent in the middle school, and I know there’s some young talent here in the travel program getting ready to hit middle school.”

Nesbit was the head coach at Gateway from 2008-2015 before he took the Shaler job. He took the Gators to the WPIAL semifinals in 2008 and 2012 and coached them to section titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He has 189 wins between the two schools.

Nesbit also coaches in the Western Pa. Bruins organization, as the head coach of the UA Rise Teams.

“I think my strength is my ability to develop players. Players that wanted to go on and play college basketball, we will work hard to develop them. Any kid that wanted to have a great four-year run and play to the best of their ability … the ability to blend all the different ‘whys’ and get everyone to push and pull in the right direction is the key,” Nesbit said. “I’m a competitor, and I love when kids want to do the right things to win. It’s not the only thing, but those kids that want to put in the work, that’s what I want this program to be filled with.

“We’ll define our success on and off the court from year to year.”

Another attractive quality of the Belle Vernon job was the athletic program and its success across the board. Obviously there’s a two-time defending PIAA and WPIAL champion football team, but it goes beyond that.

“I want to be in a program that the program is looking for success throughout. Softball is successful, boys basketball, soccer … this girls team was in the playoffs,” Nesbit added. “Success and healthy competition is important, but the school support and all the programs supporting each other is even more important.”

On the court, Nesbit will adapt his style of play to the players he has on the roster and the floor. Defense is a specialty as his Shaler team ranked No. 1 in Class 5A last season, allowing only 37 points per game.

“I want us to be a team that runs multiple defenses,” he said. “We have to look what we have and what the girls are good at. Even at Gateway, we saw we could be successful with a look similar to Syracuse, playing a 2-3 matchup zone. It’s all about the personnel.

“I want teams to have to spend a lot of time figuring out what we’re going to come out in.”

On the offensive side of the ball, it will vary. Nesbit said he will focus a lot on skill development and speed and agility.

“To be a good offensive team, players have to put the time in the gym. They have to want to continue getting better and take those opportunities. There’s going to be a lot of skill work,” he said. “On offense, it boils down to who has the confidence and ability to get their team a basket.”

Nesbit, who has four children, said he’s looking forward to meeting with the team, parents and anyone in the community next week after he attends his daughter’s high school graduation in Charlotte, N.C.

The McKeesport native said he has a staff in mind and is hoping to iron those details out when he returns.

“I just want everyone to hear what I’m looking forward to with the program,” Nesbit said. “One thing I do a lot is work with the youth. We’ll have our youth and travel players at practices, in the locker room, at the games. … We’re a program from top to bottom.”

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