‘The Good King’ – Kace Kitchel Interview

JC: Kace Kitchel, what’s up my man!! In north central Indiana, the last name ‘Kitchel’ is synonymous with the game of basketball. Your dad Jon, who went to Purdue.. Your uncle Ted, played for IU.. You’ve now created your own identity within the game.

JC: How proud are you of that rich family history? How proud are you of the success you’ve had to add to that history?

KK: “I’m very proud of all the things my family has accomplished over years and those accomplishments push me that much more to add to our success.”

JC: I was able to come and see you play late last month, Kokomo at Cass, despite being a little sick. You put up right at about your average with 13 points, and grabbed 11 rebounds. Your really such a gentle spirit, but on that basketball court I see a fire in you.

JC: What do you feel when your out there on the court, what does basketball do to you?

KK: “When I’m on the court it changes my personality entirely. I’m usually a pretty quiet guy, but when I get on that court  I feel an extreme passion for the game.”

JC: Kace you’re 6’9″. 215 lbs.. At the next level depending on the makeup of your team you’ll be a 3, stretch 4.. In our time together, you have proved to me anyway, that you have such a soft touch on your mid range jump shot. And, have the ability to finish inside very well. I’ve been in basketball a while and it seems that to be better at one, there is a lack in the other.

JC: To be able to work inside the paint, and then to be able to pop out. How hard is that for your opponent to guard?

KK: “I always knew I’d be taller than most people and that that would give me an advantage, but I didn’t want to be a one dimensional player that was known only for his size. So developing my shot to go along with my size makes defenders have to defend me harder than they would if all I had was size.”

JC: To me, there is nothing like Indiana basketball. To say that I got the opportunity to play in this state, against the best talent at that time means the world to me. Greg Oden, Mike Conley, Eric Gordon, Josh McRoberts etc..

JC: Who would you say you’ve been blessed to play against? Did being out on the court with them raise your level of play?

KK: “My aau team this summer really helped my game. They liked to play at a very fast pace and it forced me to speed my game up or else I’d get left behind. That really helped me prepare for the next level  because I know that the pace will be much faster than it is in high school.”

JC: With this being your senior season and all, when you think back on all the times you’ve had here at Lewis Cass.. the games, the crowds, the atmospheres, relationships with coaches and teammates. Trust me I know the feeling of wanting to extend this thing as far as possible.

JC: Number one, what kind of heart and desire are you taking into the post season to make a push for the sectional title and to go beyond? And then at whatever point the season comes to a close for you, how hard do you think that moment will be for you?

KK: “Once the post season begins heart is more important than talent. If you have a desire to go far in the tournament, then you’ll have a huge advantage over a team that has talent but no heart. Being my senior year and all, it’s going to be rough once the season comes to an end. This is the last sport that I’ll ever play with my buddies here at Cass, but we have made some pretty great memories along the way!”

JC: It’s been such a pleasure getting to know you, and working with you. Thank you again man.

Klair Merrell Interview: ‘NW Lady Tigers State Bound’

Photo credit: Mike Wise Photography

JC: Klair!!! Oh my goodness, what an amazing season you young ladies at Northwestern are having. State, wow!!! I can only imagine how excited you must be feeling.

JC: Klair, first and foremost thank you for taking the time to talk with me, I really do appreciate it… I remember when we did our training back in May of last year, there was an excitement and a buzz in the air about how good the Northwestern girls basketball team was going to be. And it was the truth!! Everything you ladies were expected to be has become a reality, congratulations!

JC: Can you tell me, what has been your role and contribution to this team?

KM: “Thank you for taking the time to interview me. My main role on the team this year has been defense. Our team really works well together and does a great job at shutting down our opponents.”

Photo credit: Mike Wise Photography

JC: High school hoops is not easy, at any level. As for the mental aspect of the game, there is certainly a learning curve. As a sophomore, how do you feel about the fact that your able to contribute to a team of this calibur so early in your career?

KM: “I feel very blessed to be a part of this team. We have all put in a lot time and hard work in the off season to make it to this point. My dad always says that anyone can try but those that try harder win and our coaches really push us to do that.”

JC: When we were training, I believe it was volleyball practices you’d just be finishing up with — and it was an all day thing. I thought, man, she is a dedicated young lady to jump right into a shooting workout. Before school even started your focus was basketball. Do you have a passion for basketball? Is it your dedication to the game that gives you an edge?

KM: “Yes, I have a passion for basketball. I love how it has taught us to work as a team to achieve a common goal. We are all very dedicated to the game.”

Photo credit: Mike Wise Photgraphy

JC: Klair, I think… Forgive me I don’t think, I know, as a student of mine you have as natural a feel for shooting the basketball as anyone I’ve ever worked with. At times it seemed effortless for you. Have you found that any of the things we’ve worked on together transferred to your game time shooting? What lesson from our time together stands out the most in your mind?

KM: “My lessons with you helped me to realize that no matter how much experience you have there is always room to improve your shot and make it better.”

Photo credit: Mike Wise Photography

JC: It is such a cool thing to see you succeeding as a Northwestern Lady Tiger. If it was ever a dream for you at all to play high school basketball and make it to the state finals, that dream has come to fruition for you. Express to me what you are feeling at this very moment?

KM: “At this very moment I’m feeling very excited and blessed that God gave me this opportunity to play with such a great team. I can’t wait for next weekend! Thank you so much!”

Photo credit: Mike Wise Photography

JC: No, thank you!!! My goal was to gain perspective on your journey playing hoops this year, and to hear your thoughts and feelings. And I believe that was accomplished… Once again, congrats to you and your teammates on a wonderful season, and I can’t wait to see you competing for the state championship next weekend!! Go Lady Tigers!!!

***Special thank you to Mike Wise Photography for being gracious enough to allow me to use his photos. Excellent work my friend!!!

Trajan Deckard Interview

In late January I got to sit down with Trajan Deckard, star shooting guard of Kokomo Wildkats basketball. I wanted to pick his brain, and get a little insight into why he’s been so successful this basketball season. From his scoring, team leadership and maturity, Trajan has taken his game to a new level. He also has a message for young and upcoming future Wildkats.

JC: Trajan man, you are scoring the ball so well right now. I’m proud of you and the success I see you are having individually. I’ve seen so much maturity in your game. To what do you credit most of your success as a far as your ability to score the basketball? And how much does your team play a roll in that?

TD: “I credit the time and dedication I put in the gym over the off-season. My teammates are playing a big roll in my scoring because they are looking for me, feeding me the ball when I’m getting open. I’ve become more confident in my shooting and can now show what I’m capable of.”

JC: Your ability to get to the basket and finish is incredible, but also your jump shooting has proven to be a major threat. You remind me of a young Dominic James, having that dual threat. What would you say.. Is it that getting to the basket helps your outside game more, or is it your outside shooting increases your ability to get to the basket easier?

TD: “My outside shooting helps me get to the basket easier. As teams scout they say “shooter”, but when I can dominate the arch and then the next few possessions pump fake, I can make one move to the rim with a finish.”

JC: Personally, I’ve truly enjoyed the times we’ve spent together training. Being able to offer you and others what I know about shooting the basketball has been a dream come true for me, and to see a student that I’ve worked with be so successful is wonderful. What have you taken from our time together and how do you apply it on the court?

TD: “Yes, the time we’ve spent getting better was tremendous. The key to my jump shot you told me was keeping my elbow in and aligned with the basketball. That’s helped me a lot and what has boosted my free throw percentage.”

JC: Now in your senior year, performing the way you have, you are definitely putting yourself on the radar. How do you remain humble and focused? How do you maintain the concept of team first while having so much individual success?

TD: “Being a senior I understand that I have to be a great leader and keep the young guys focused. Playing the way I am I know that I have to be patient and play at a higher level with more intensity than any other player on the court. I know that I am the key to my team and have to keep everyone on the same page.”

JC: I had to leave early from the Logansport game with my son, he was just so ready to get out of there lol. But, I listened to the rest of the game on the radio and man you showed out with 22 pts in the second half. I thought, wow!!!

JC: With averaging right around 18.7ppg this season, you’ve posted these numbers in great fashion. Season highs being: 32, 25, 24, 23. Not only are you active in the points category, but I’ve been impressed with your rebounding, with 3 to 4 rebounds a game. The other night against Logan, you didnt force anything, you let the game come to you and you did what you had to do to help your team win. That to me spells out, unselfish.. What’s truly the most important thing you, the team winning or personal accolades?

TD: “First half of the Logansport game I didn’t shoot much I looked more for my teammates getting shots because they pressured me well. When I had the ball in my hands I felt as if it was a smart move for me to do that, because second half they focused more on Anthony which gave me the chance to get open and attack the basket. Logansport normally has a good team so I knew that being patient and controlling the ball would keep us alive even when it hurt us as a team that I wasn’t getting shots up. Team winning always comes first to me. Being on top is always a great feeling even if I didn’t have the greatest game I could’ve played. I hold my head high because that means the young guys and other seniors stepped up and were prepared to battle. Being the teams leading scorer is good but you also have to know that being a team player there’s some games when it’s not about being the leading scorer. You’ll have to help your team get the victory by getting others open and playing hard on both ends of the court.”

JC: Trajan, its been such a pleasure man. I’m proud of you.. I’m watching you.. I’m a fan.. And my prayers are with you as you continue to grow and mature as a person and a basketball player. I’m so looking forward to seeing what the future holds for you my man. Thank you for this opportunity!!

TD: “I appreciate the kindness and willingness for you coming to me for this interview. This a special moment that will live forever and I’m blessed to have the opportunity to give back information on my season. Hopefully the up and coming Wildkats in the future will read this and learn that it’s a tough game and takes hard work and dedication to play at the next level. Thank you for your time!! Take care.”