NORTH VERNON — Jennings County senior guard Adrian Kirchner was in a different kind of spotlight.
Panthers coach Joe Hartwell wanted Kirchner to be something more than just a good player. So before this season began, Hartwell had a talk with Kirchner.
He asked him to go above and beyond. He wanted him to be a leader.
Now with Jennings County headed into the Seymour Sectional at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Jeffersonville, Kirchner is expected to play a huge role.
The senior took his leadership assignment to heart before the season began.
He since has tried to not only elevate his play, but to be a vocal leader on the court and at practice.
“He challenged me to be the leader,” Kirchner said of Hartwell.
“I wanted to do it, but I had to work on being more positive. Whenever I take the floor, I try to have a perfect practice or a perfect game. When I make mistakes, sometimes I get
mad because I think I shouldn’t make them.”
Hartwell understood that Kirchner’s personal frustration was a key to his leadership style.
“We try to hold all of our players accountable for their mistakes,” Hartwell said. “Adrian takes it to a higher level. He refuses to lose any drill, and his toughness has really spread among our players.”
Kirchner displayed his toughness this past summer, working on shooting for about 40 days during summer vacation, taking thousands of shots. Hartwell wanted Kirchner to improve his outside shot and take more than 100,000 shots over the summer. Kirchner’s love for the game drove him to go past Hartwell’s suggestion.
“Each day, I took about 400 to 500 shots,” said Kirchner, who noted that the big workload helped him to improve his endurance. “I love and understand the game. I’ve learned that if I want to be the best, I’m going to have to work hard.”
The work paid off instantly for him. He has averaged 44 percent on his 3-pointers.
“During my shooting sessions, I’d make an average of 50 3s out of 70,” he said. “My 3-point percentage has increased by 30 percent, I think. It’s improved immensely.”
Kirchner, who averages 11 points a game, is quite comfortable with his shooting stroke because of his hours of extra practice.
“I’ve learned to stay with my form,” he said. “I have my hands spread across the ball and put the ball on my fingertips. Something new I’ve been doing this year is flipping my wrist down at the end of my shot, like I’m putting a lid on top of a jar.”
Kirchner’s improved accuracy
has increased his self-confidence. Hartwell wonders if there is a lid on his potential.
“I’m not sure many people realized how good Adrian could be,” Hartwell said. “That includes Adrian himself. You can’t be a good player if you don’t believe in yourself. He really has blossomed into a great player and leader, and his confidence is at an all-time high.”
Kirchner’s leadership and attitude have helped the Panthers maintain a winning attitude on the court.
“Coach Hartwell has challenged me to get energized before
games and practices,” Kirchner
said. “When I hit the floor excited before a game or a practice, my teammates get excited. We had problems talking on the court, but when I started talking more, we got better at communicating.”
Kirchner plans to focus on
his studies in college. He hopes to enroll at the University of Indianapolis, and he wants to become a plastic surgeon. He is already taking college courses in chemistry, English and Calculus, in addition to his high school courses. Despite the increased difficultly of college courses, he has an A average. The opportunity to serve others is part of what drives him to excel in the classroom.
“I’ve been given so much,” he said. “I want to help people in my career so I can give back, and I want to be the best at whatever I do.”