The summer is generally a time meant for repetition and training, as well as team bonding and the necessary boredom that comes with drill-work for most area sports teams.
Because squads all across the planet are actually enduring that same scenario this can occasionally lead to a rather different kind of training experience for local teams littered across various landscapes like it did for the Mexico boy basketball last year when it hosted a 16U-17-U boys Spanish basketball team.
For Montgomery County what's coming their way is very similar. They only difference is that they'll be scrimmaging teams from Belgium, and not only will the Wildcats varsity boys be taking the court, but once that contest is complete the girls will follow.
"We are scrimmaging them on July 8th at 10:00 AM in Montgomery. It was arranged during districts of this past season when I was approached by Dennis Kruse, who is the coordinator for the Belgium team," said Wildcats coach Scott Kroeger. "They travel to the U.S. every summer and do a tour of games against a bunch of different teams. I am not sure who else they are playing but I know that they normally play Hermann and they were looking to switch it up this summer."
Last season Montgomery County finished the regular season with a record of 10-14 overall. The team then went into Class 3, District 8, as the fifth seed and the host and faced fourth seeded Lutheran St. Charles, 6-17 overall, and was defeated 56-46 on Feb. 18.
"First and foremost, I think it is an incredible opportunity for our players to learn a little bit about culture and open their eyes to how much in common we can share with others from around the world," Kroeger said. "We have players who have never even left the state of Missouri so it will be a fantastic experience for them. It'll give them a chance to open up their worlds to people that are from somewhere that is so far away and learn how to be hospitable to people that are in a mysterious and foreign land."
During the 2018-19 season Montgomery County only had two seniors, 6-foot-1 guard Colin Parish and 6-foot-0 guard Jackson Larkin. Not that those players won't be missed, but with 6-foot-7 forward Carson Parker and 6-foot-5 forward Max Worsham likely back for their final year of prep competition, that slides the focus for Kroeger from what he lost to what he still has. Now the idea is to figure out how to utilize all that size while still taking advantage of any open-court opportunities that may arise.
"An important lesson for my players to learn is how to treat people with respect and just be a good person for no other reason than to spread positivity and maybe make some friends along the way," said Kroeger. "The world is missing that most days and from many people. The competition that it provides will definitely be a welcome challenge and give us a chance to improve as a team."
One factor that's becoming more evident with each passing season with Kroeger, his program and what he's trying to accomplish is that he has two goals in mind. One is to make his players the best they can be on the court and the other is to make them the best they can be off the court. Now he's just needs to turn those processes into one seamless transition and he'll be well on his way to having a Hall-Of-Fame career. If it was only that simple.
"I don't really know much about them because their team changes every year due to the nature of the programs and leagues that they have over there. I trained this program in St. Charles two years ago and they had a solid team with a couple of players that had legitimate skill level to be college players," Kroeger said. "I believe that Mr. Kruse told me that they will have host families at some points throughout their trip but I also believe that they will be staying in hotels at some points."
As time goes on one thing that's become clear to Kroeger is how much of a community event these scrimmages are becoming. Because of that the Wildcats are going to really be able to show people how deadly their senior-laden roster is going to be this year. Several other upper-classmen to look out for in 2019-20 include guards Ben Miller, Dylan Smith and Carter James, as well as 6-foot-6 junior-to-be Collin Parker.
"They are traveling around to different states so just having host families is not going to accommodate their needs. I am very thankful for this opportunity and I know our community is excited as well as the players," said Kroeger. "A special thanks should be made to Mr. Kruse because of his efforts over the years to get this experience for those kids from Belgium as well as all of the kids from around here that have had the opportunity."