NEW PALESTINE — Dressed in a bright pink shirt with a large smile on his face, New Palestine girls basketball coach Brian Kerht walked from one end of the gym to the other.
He was overseeing his summer hoops camp at Sugar Creek Elementary School assessing the group of fifth-, sixth- and seventh-graders who might one day be a part of his high school program.
“There are really two things we try to get done at camp, and that’s fun and fundamentals,” Kerht said.
Kerht, his assistant coaches and members of the high school’s team taught the young players the basics of the game this month and gave them some tips to work on during the summer.
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“Most importantly I want them to walk away after having fun, because we want them to come back and to be excited about basketball,” Kerht said. “That’s how our program is going to continue to grow and get better.”
Speaking of improvements, Kerht couldn’t help but grin when asked about this year’s upcoming high school team.
“If we can stay healthy, I don’t think there will be too many teams that will want to play us,” Kerht said.
Part of the reason is his high school players are putting in hard work, meeting for practice and conditioning early in the morning and attending hoops camp.
Many of the high school players helped Kerht with his summer camp, including senior post player Kaitlyn Keele and junior point guard Raegan McMurray.
Both said they are looking forward to the upcoming season but enjoyed helping the younger players improve their skills.
“I like it because you get to see the little kids that are excited to play basketball,” Keele said.
“I try to help them with stuff that I am still working with so that when they are my age they will already know what they are doing,” McMurray added.
Still, they, like Kerht, couldn’t help but think about the upcoming season.
“I can’t describe how excited I feel about it,” McMurray said. “I can’t wait for it to get here.”
Keele said the way this year’s team is coming together makes her optimistic about what is ahead for them.
“I love my team,” she said. “We are really close, and that makes it so much more fun.”
She said they plan to go out and show just how well they are coming together as a team with cohesive play on the court.
Kerht said the hard work the team is putting in, including a 12-game camp at Vincennes University later this month, will be the indicator as to what kind of year it is going to be.
“What I am seeing in practice is the talent level is totally different than what we’ve had,” Kerht said. “The younger kids are much more talented, and the older kids are much more improved.”
Kerht said a lot of that is due to individual hard work, middle school team development and camps like the ones he, his coaches and players put on each year.
“I do enjoy camp,” Kerht said. “I am sure some coaches dread camp, but I’ve always kind of enjoyed it.”