NEW PALESTINE — After losing the players who contributed 76 percent of its scoring from New Palestine High School boys basketball team, not many coaches would be looking forward to the upcoming season.
However, Trent Whitaker, the new man leading the Dragons basketball squad, can’t wait for the upcoming season to get started.
Whitaker, 39, had a field day running his first-ever summer hoops camp recently.
More than 50 local youngsters attended the four-day camp at Doe Creek Middle School, where Whitaker was calling the shots. He was appointed as the team’s head coach following the retirement of longtime head coach Adam Barton this past spring.
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“It’s the start for me, and it’s fun so far,” Whitaker said. “It’s a change, but it’s something I’ve definitely been looking forward to.”
As an assistant basketball coach for many years, Whitaker said he always had his own ideas about how he would run a team if given an opportunity. While he praised the way Barton ran the program, Whitaker said it’s time for him to put his own twist on things.
“It all starts here with the younger kids,” Whitaker said. “We’re showing them a little bit of the offense and running through things.”
The biggest difference players and Dragons hoops supporters will notice is Whitaker’s passion for the game, he said.
“I think what you’ll see on the sidelines and at a camp like this is a little more emotion,” Whitaker said.
“Coach Barton was an even-keeled guy, but you’ll see me have a little more intensity.”
He wears his emotions on his sleeve, so Whitaker said people will never be unsure where he stands. While he said he never had a timeline for becoming the head coach at the high school level, it’s a job he always wanted.
“When Coach Barton decided it was time to step down, I knew it was my time to step up,” he said.
As a student counselor for the district’s middle school, Whitaker enjoys working with young teens.
“I’ve been around them for so long that I start acting like them sometimes,” he said with a laugh. “But, you’ve got to be patient with kids because they are going to make mistakes, and I need to be the one who encourages them.”
Basketball has been a part of the Whitaker family for the past 16 years, the coach said. Whitaker is a former high school player and loves the game, but he understands the importance of being the head coach.
“There is more to it than basketball,” he said. “It’s also about teaching kids how to act as young men.”
On the court, he wants his teams to be known for their defense.
“This summer we’ve done more on defense than we have in the last few years under Coach Barton, who had an offensive mind,” Whitaker said.
“It takes both to win, but the biggest thing is our kids are going to play hard and play the right way.”
The high school team has been hitting the hardwood since June 1, working three days a week from 6 to 8 a.m. They’ve also been playing doubleheaders at Shelbyville each Wednesday.
So far Whitaker likes what he sees.
“We’ve got some great kids coming back,” Whitaker said.
The team also will be playing at the Class 3A level this coming season, which Whitaker said will be an interesting challenge.
“We’re going to be playing Brebeuf, Chatard and some inner-city schools,” he said. “I can’t wait. It’s going to be awesome.”