Who Needs A Gym When You Have An Outdoor Court?
This past week the volleyball team hosted a camp in JBA. We weren't going to be able to get in the gym in the morning like usual, so I decided to move our workouts outdoors. This was something new for our guys, and quite honestly, I don't think they were looking forward to it in the beginning. As it turned out, I think they really enjoyed the change, and I expect that we will probably start seeing more pick-up games outdoors in the future.
Generally speaking, kids don't play outside much anymore, and that's too bad. I think there is a lot to be learned from playing games on the outdoor courts. Back in the day (yeah, I know that makes me sound old) I used to drive into Frankfort and play at Dorner's Park. I knew that Dorner's had the best games, and I couldn't wait until I was old enough to play there. I can still remember my Dad dropping me off at the court for the first time. There were about 20 guys there already, and they were choosing teams. D-1 players like Rick Fields (ISU) and Tom Miller (Rice) were there. Gary Goode was an Indiana all star, and Tim Roth who starred at Bellarmine were high school players at the time, but they were on the court. Needless to say, I didn't get picked up that first game. In fact, I didn't get picked up most of the afternoon.
Games were tough at Dorner's. Sometimes as many as 40 guys showed up to play. Winners kept the court, and if you lost, you might have an hour wait before you got back in a game. I remember watching those guys go at it that first afternoon. I realized that there was a pecking order. The best players took the most shots, and if you weren't one of the best players and you took a bad shot, you would definitely hear about it from your teammates. The games were as fierce as any I had ever seen. Guys played defense as if their life depended on it. They made the extra pass, they set tough screens, they rebounded like there was no tomorrow, and there was absolutely no "cherry picking."
As the day went on, I took my ball out on the court to shoot around between games. I was hoping to knock down a couple of shots and catch somebody's eye, but still nobody picked me up! I was devastated, but undetoured. I was just a young county kid who was fresh out of the 8th grade. I hadn't had a chance to establish a reputation yet, so the chances that I was going to get in an early game were slim. I figured that I would hang around until the crowd thinned out a little and eventually I might sneak into a game. Then all of a sudden I hear deep voice from across the court, "Chezem! Are you going to play today, or did you just come to watch?" It was Ron Best. He was a big man and slightly intimidating to a 14 year old Dorner's rookie. He was a businessman in town, but he was a heck of player back in the day. I noticed throughout the afternoon that Ron kind of ran things at Dorners. He wasn't the best player out there, but he still had some gas left in the tank, and he definitely had earned his stripes at Dorners. I nervously said, "Yeah, I'll play." I jogged out onto the concrete and Ron gave me my instructions. "Cheese, here is how this works. I'm not running up and down the court all afternoon to watch you guards shoot it everytime. I get the ball inside at least every other time down the court. You got it?" I nodded.
Well the first game for me was pretty uneventful. No great plays by me, but no embarassing mistakes either. I was certainly going to make sure Ron got his touches, and I was darn sure that I wasn't going to take any bad shots, or turn it over! I do remember that we ended up winning that game, and I remember how cool it was to get to claim the court for the next game. I immediately understood that WINNING was EVERYTHING at Dorners.
Those pick up games at Dorner's made me tough. The older guys pushed me around, knocked me down, and blocked my shot. But I kept coming back for more! Although I only got to play in few games that first day, I was hooked. I made my Dad drive me into town every Sunday afternoon to play at Dorners. Playing against the best competition had a positive impact on my game. I improved by leaps and bounds, and by the time I got my driver's license I had moved up the ranks to where I was getting chosen to play in the first game. Not too long after that I rose to "Captain Status."
Today we live in an era of air conditioned gyms and AAU basketball. It seems like the only time players play is when a game or practice is organized for them. I think it is making kids soft. Don't get me wrong. I appreciate air conditioned gyms, and I think there are definitely some positives to playing travel basketball. I just think that kids are missing out on a great and unique opportunity to learn the game when they don't play on the outdoor courts. Hopefully we will start hearing the balls bouncing more frequenly at the outdoor court at LHS.
Wittmer Gives Back
Most of you that live in Loogootee have known Conner Wittmer a lot longer than I have. Basketball stars like Conner become household names at a young age in small towns like Loogootee. Although I met Conner for the first time just a little over a month ago, I had the opportunity to watch him play in high school on several occasions. Obviously the most memorable time was vs Rockville in the 2012 state championship. Upon meeting Conner for the first time I quickly realized that he loves the game of basketball, he loves Loogootee, and he loves working with kids.
It's funny how some things just seem to work out. My son and I had just moved to town, it was two days before summer basketball started, and I was still in need of a coach who could help me throughout the summer. I called Conner about his availability and gave him my best sales pitch. I was fully prepared to make a home visit and twist his arm if necessary, but lucky for me I didn't have to go to that extent. Conner is WAY too big for me to twist his arm! Conner called me back the next day and told me that he was in!
Since then, Coach Wittmer has been a huge asset for our program. He has been a "hands on coach" at all of our high school workouts, he has helped run our summer camps, and he took our 7th and 8th grade teams to a couple of shootouts. His experience as a high school and college player has been a valuable resource for our kids. He certainly has great knowledge of the game at young age. Conner has told me that when his playing days are over, he wants to get into to college coaching. After working with him this summer, I think that is a perfect fit for him. We have been lucky to have him this summer and someday he will be a huge asset to a college coaching staff.
We still have a couple of weeks left of our strength and conditioning program, as well as open gym. Conner is going to help us for the next two weeks, then he will start preparing to head back to school this fall. He just finshed up this past year at Olney Central and will be attending school and playing basketball at Missouri Baptist this year.
The varsity finished the day 3-1 at the Wabash Shootout this past weekend. After a lack luster effort in our first game vs Culver, I thought we played some pretty good basketball the rest of the day. We beat a solid Whitko team who had two talented guards, then we beat South Vermillion, and Muncie Burris to finish the day. The JV finished their day at 2-2. Coach Wade reports that they played well most of the day. Their 2 losses were by by narrow margins. In one of those losses they fell behind by as much as 17 points before forcing the game to go into double overtime.
It has been an extremely busy June for the Lions. We have traveled over 1000 miles round trip to play in 5 different tournaments. Besides that, our kids were in the weight room, on the practice floor, and helped out with our summer camps for our youth program. Our players' work ethic has been very good and our attendance has been exemplary. I am excited about the direction that our baskeball program is heading.
With that being said, we need to understand that one month of hard work does not turn around a basketball program. This is will be an ongoing process for us. While we have made a major move forward, we still have a long way to go before we can compete for championships. I love the attitude of our players, and I have been blown away by the support of our community. It's obvious that we all want to see this thing get turned around, and if we can sustain the effort we demonstrated in June, I think we can.
I want to take a second to talk about my high school staff. I have been fortunate over the years to have been blessed with great assistant coaches. After one month at Loogootee it is easy to see that I have another great group of coaches to work with. Mike Wininger (varsity assistant), Bruce Wade (JV), and Noah Callahan (9th grade) have been a big part of what we have been able to accomplish in June. These guys are hard working men of character who want to see Loogootee Basketball be great again. They have already proven to be positive role models who expect excellence from our players. I love the fact that they are Loogootee guys, and that they wear the pride that they have for their school and basketball program on their sleeve. They are the perfect mix of "new blood" and "old school Loogootee Basketball." I've been very impressed with their knowledge, passion, and coaching ability. I think that I've hit a home run in hiring these guys.
I will be taking some time off from my daily tweets and weekly blog posts. We are on moratorium for the next two weeks. I am going to spend some time on vacation and moving the rest of my stuff out of my house in Covington. We are fortunate to have accepted an offer on our house this past weekend, so hopefully everthing is full go on that front, and we can start looking for a permanent residence in Loogootee.
Wabash College Shootout
The varsity and JV will be participating in our last shootout of the summer this Saturday (June 27).
Here is the varsity schedule
10 am vs Culver HS (Fieldhouse Court 1)
12 pm vs Whitko HS (Fieldhouse Court 2)
2 pm vs South Vermillion (Fieldhouse Court 1)
4pm vs Muncie Burris HS (Fieldhouse Court 2)
Here is the JV schedule
10 am vs Bismark Henning IL (Fieldhouse Court 4)
12 pm vs Greencastle (Fieldhouse Court 1)
1 pm vs South Spencer (Fieldhouse Court 4)
4 pm vs South Vermillion (Fieldhouse Court 4)
Both Varsity and JV teams will play in an "Overtime Tournament" that begins at 5 pm.
Note: The bus leaves at 7:15 am
Thursday Night Results
I want to thank everyone who came out to watch us play last night. We had approximately 150 people in the stands and we raised over $800 in donations at the door! The support that our program has received thoughout the community the past 2 months has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated. I have always known that Loogootee has a great passion for basketball, but I am continually reminded how great that passion is.
I want to thank last night's officials. Paul Arvin, Pace Jenkins, and Tim Lukomski all worked the games on a voluntary basis. I thought they did an excellent job calling the games and I really appreciate their willingness to give up an evening to help out our program. Also a special shout out to Anita Wildman for providing pizza and drinks for the officials and coaches after the game. Her generosity and thoughfulness are also greatly appreciated.
As for the games..... I know I surely must sound like a broken record when I say that we looked like we had potential at times, but we aren't playing with the consistency that I think is necessary to be a great team. That sentiment seems to me a common theme for me this summer. Last night we were playing a large number of players. In fact, we played 29 different players in the two tames (17 on the JV and 12 on the varsity). Its tough to find playing time for 29 players in two games and it is also difficult for our players to get in a rythm when we are playing that many players. Hopefully that doesn't sound like an excuse for our inconsistent play, because I am not fond of making excuses.
Technically speaking, I think we are starting to grasp the basic concepts of our half court man to man offense. I think we are becoming more comfortable with our spacing and we are starting to figure our where our shots will come from. We have demonstrated the ability to score fairly consistenly in our primary fastbreak, but we need some work on our secondary break. If you were at the games last evening it was probably evident that we have spent very little time on zone offense and virtually no time on our press breaker. Those are some things we will address this afternoon before we head to Wabash College tomorrow for our last summer shootout.
Defensively, we are definitely getting better. We still gamble too much, and our defensive rotations aren't on point yet, but I do see some improvement. Last night we got hurt on a ballscreen play a couple of times in the second half, but we have not had time to discuss how we will defend a ballscreen. Our post defense postioning could also use some work. I am encouraged by our defensive intensity- especially our perimeter players. I think we really possess some key ingredients necessary in becoming a top flight defensive team.
All in all it has been a very good month for us. Our players' work ethic and attendance has been outstanding. We are making significant gains in the weight room and in our overall athleticism. Our skill development is on the right track and will continue to improve. I wrote about culture several weeks ago, and I can honestly say that I think we are well on our way toward creating a culture in our program that will be condusive to developing men of character and winning championships.
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