The IHSAA made a concession to the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association a few years ago when it began allowing coaches to conduct practices and schedule games in the summer.
Many schools, including Columbus East and Columbus North, take advantage of that by playing in June. Meanwhile, July traditionally has been a hands-off period for high school basketball coaches in Indiana while top players compete for their travel teams.
Thanks to a solid working relationship between local high school and travel team coaches, most area boys and girls players are able to enjoy the best of both worlds when it comes to competitive hoops in the summer.
“If they’re playing AAU, as long as they’re playing basketball, that’s what we want,” East boys coach Brent Chitty said.
North girls coach Pat McKee has experienced the high school/travel team relationship from both perspectives.
He was a travel team coach from 1989-2004 before taking over the Bull Dogs program in 2010.
“There are people who say ‘All AAU coaches are bad,’” McKee said. “Well, I used to be one of those guys, and I don’t think I was bad. I worked with high school coaches. We got kids seen by colleges at the right times.”
Four of McKee’s players in his four years at North have received Division I scholarships. Courtney Larson will be a senior at Miami (Ohio), Tayler Goodall and Kelsey Cunningham will be freshmen at Florida Gulf Coast and Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Ali Patberg will head to Notre Dame next year following her senior season.
McKee realizes those players didn’t earn their scholarships based solely on what they did in the high school season.
“If properly balanced, (high school and travel ball) both have a place in the development of the player,” McKee said. “Colleges don’t come to high school games just to come to high school games. They come to see a player they saw the previous summer.
“Ali didn’t get recruited to Notre Dame because of what she did at Columbus North,” he said. “Tayler and Kelsey didn’t get recruited because of what we did at North. They were seen playing for their travel teams, and coaches came to our games to follow up with them.”
Patberg’s father, Ron, is McKee’s top assistant and was Ali’s Indiana Elite travel team coach for several years. His travel team takes off the month of June and picks back up in July, when college coaches have two seven-day periods in which they can watch players.
“It helps that all of our kids have been together, so they know what we’re trying to accomplish,” Ron Patberg said.
Ali Patberg is actually playing for a different travel team this summer, the Nike-affiliated Gym Rats. Indiana Elite is Adidas-affiliated, and Patberg thought she should play for the Gym Rats in the Nike Nationals so she could face better competition.
Last weekend, the Patbergs were in Chicago, where Ali played in “The League,” which determined seedings for the Nike Nationals July 26 to 30 in Augusta, Georgia.
“I’ve already committed, but I’m also playing to win,” Ali Patberg said. “I’m competitive. We have time for high school in June. I probably spend more time with the
high school team because we don’t really practice with our AAU team.”
Patberg and North’s Josh Speidel were Indiana Junior All-Stars this year. They played two games against the Kentucky Junior All-Stars and two against the Indiana (Senior) All-Stars in June.
Speidel has scholarship offers from Ball State, Buffalo, Evansville, Illinois-Chicago, New Orleans, Northeastern, Northern Illinois, Ohio, Toledo and Vermont, but hasn’t made a decision. He credits his AAU coach, Mark Adams of Bloomington, and North coach Jason Speer with getting him maximum exposure.
At East, athletes in all sports do their strength and conditioning together in June and July before school starts in August.
Chitty has open gyms for his basketball players, and they played in a couple of tournaments in June.
“We try to do a lot with our guys and help them get better, but at the same time, we want to help them have a summer and be kids,” Chitty said. “We have a lot of multi-sport kids, and we want them to continue to be multi-sport kids.
“It’s a lot of demands on them, and then you turn around, and the summer is gone,” he said. “We try to keep it balanced so we’re not overdoing it for the kids.”
Megan Galle is one of those multi-sport athletes on the girls side. Galle, who will be a senior at East, has been a varsity basketball and tennis player since her freshman year and plans to play tennis in college.
“It was a little challenging because I wanted to play in (tennis) tournaments, and then we would have (basketball) games throughout the week,” Galle said. “So trying to prepare for the tournaments and doing my best in the games was a little hard to keep myself refreshed and energized and not run out of steam. But it was worth it.”
Speidel and Ali Patberg agree that the time and effort they put into their sport will pay off in the long run.
“I wouldn’t say I’m getting burned out,” Speidel said. “This is my last go-round with it, so I’m trying to enjoy it for my last year.”
“Sometimes, it’s a challenge,” Patberg said. “I was talking with my teammates what it would be like if we had a summer. It’s just go and go and go. It would be tough if you don’t love the sport. You commit to the sport, and to be the best, you kind of have to do it all the time. But I love it. It’s not a bad thing.”