What's real and what isn't can be a bit deceptive now-a-days at North Callaway High School because when you come in from what can easily be a 90 degree days outside, the hallways are nice and cool thanks to the air conditioning.
But, if you then enter the gym, one instantly re-enters a world where the temperature is anything but comfortable and the atmosphere is far from relaxed. That doesn't mean there's tension in the air. Far from it. The scene is definitely a positive one. High fives are flying all over the place. Kids are smiling. On Wednesday Thunderbird basketball was in full swing all the way from the bottom of the middle school to the top of the high school and this was just day three of a five day camp.
"We've had quite a few boys in the gym the past few nights, 30-plus. Having the junior high kids with the high school kids, they can kind of see what we do in our program," said North Callaway varsity boys basketball coach Matthias Miller. "(On nights one and two) a lot of what we worked on was skill development, what we call intro. drills, the drills we'll do the first days of practice when the season starts. Again, that allows the younger guys to see what we do, and some of this stuff we do everyday."
The reason Miller can handle three dozen teenage athletes is that the entire junior high and high school T-Birds boys basketball coaching staff came out to help him run this event. That includes JVcoach Zeth Leavy, Varsity Assistant Joey Mueller, and junior high coaches Tim Turlington and Adrian Long.
"For night three we're going to transition over into some defensive drills. We're going to get up and down the floor and little floor a little more," Miller said. The past couple nights we haven't gotten up and down the floor all that much, so we're doing some more full court stuff. Letting the guys get out and run and have some fun while also focusing on defensive fundamentals more specifically tonight."
As the week continues Miller and his staff hope to spend all of Friday scrimmaging. The idea is to break the final day of camp down into 15 games and work on team skills. That will last 90 minutes and allow all the participants to leave the experience with a final day of fun.
"I think it's good from a cultutral standpoint ( to bring every part of the program to one place). A seventh or eighth grader can come in and see a senior and home he does things. This is my third year in the program now, so a lot of these juniors and seniors have been with me for three years now," Miller said. "In years one and two its was maybe about taking baby steps, trying to build a foundation. Now we hit the ground running. It's great for the younger guys and incoming freshman to see that."
One reason Miller hopes and believes all of this rings true with his players is that even though this is his third year as the head coach of the North Callaway varsity boys basketball program, it's his ninth with the school district. The fact that he's here is because this is where he wants to be. Perhaps that's why he's so optimistic about the T-Bird's chances for success in 2018-19, but, at the same time, being completely realistic about what it's going to take to acheive the type of winning ways he's hoping for.
"June is a long way from November and December. In June we just want to work on getting better. I know that's kind of cliched, but we want to work everyday on improving," said Miller. "This upcoming season specifically, we're looking at having some seasoned veterans for a change. My first year here we were starting two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior most nights."
In 2017-18 North Callaway's starting lineup consisted of two seniors, two juniors and one sophomore. In 2018-19 the starting five will feature either four seniors and one junior or three seniors and two juniors. Basically, the T-Birds top eight to 10 players will be juniors or seniors, taking the team from developmental in nature to a win-now philosophy.
"In order for all of that to pay off it's going to take a level of commitment from the guys during the summer. I can plan shootouts and camps and all kinds of stuff, but the guys have to show up and be invested in our commitmnet," Miller said. "So far this summer, along with our workouts, it has to be a level of commitment from those guys. They have to be self-motivated, but it's a level I've been seeing so far."
Coming up for North Callaway is the Harrisburg Shootout on June 11, on June 15-16 the squad is at Eldon and the T-Birds will attend a Licking Shootout at Mexico on June 28-29.