The Column: Ready for some hoops

This is the supposed lull for high school sports.

From the viewpoint of this sports editor, though, it sure doesn’t seem like it.

This week we start rolling out season recaps for our fall sports teams. Our hope is that we have them all complete and in the paper by December. It might get pushed back a few weeks because of time and space, but we’ll make sure to hit all of our coverage teams before we fully immerse ourselves in winter sports.

Which, frankly, we’re trying not to get overwhelmed with the first week of November.

While this week’s section consists mostly of state cross country coverage and season recaps for the Rantoul Township High School football, volleyball, golf and tennis teams, not to mention reaction from RTHS winter sports coaches about the school’s move to the Okaw Valley Conference and our weekly slate of football predictions, next week’s will shift almost exclusively to high school basketball.

It should. The girls basketball season starts in less than a week, with the boys season fast approaching on Monday, Nov. 19. Hard to fathom, really.

We invited 12 area players to our offices this past Sunday for a group photo and individual interviews, the full wealth of which you’ll see in next week’s paper. And the annual sojourn of figuring out how to attend six practices in the span of 3-4 days while also still reminding my wife who I am began in earnest on Tuesday.

Yet, it’s such a great time of the year, at least in my eyes. Covering high school basketball makes for long nights, long trips and plenty of writing to do. But it’s also the most enjoyable for me to cover, not just because I experienced winter nights playing in front of packed and passionate crowds.

The size of the rosters makes it a natural fit that you can get to know the players better. Plus, the length of the season ensures you’ll spend plenty of time together, whether it’s at practices, regular season games or holiday tournaments. And the six coaches of our coverage teams are all easy to work with, win or lose.

RTHS boys basketball head coach Brett Frerichs is about to enter his third season coaching the Eagles’ boys squad, and he probably knows everyone in town.

Same goes for Jeff McKaufsky, who is eager to prove that below .500 seasons are a thing of the past for the RTHS girls basketball team and that the school board will unanimously approve him for a fourth season in the spring of 2013 with an experienced, talented roster at his disposal instead of a 5-2 vote that occurred last spring.

Fisher fans can witness separate entertainment away from a boys basketball game with head coach Ron Ragle, who isn’t afraid to get up in his players’ faces if need be (last year’s seniors can easily attest to that) or show his displeasure in a call. It’s safe to assume Ragle would trade his orange shirt and basketball tie he wears at most games for a Fisher jersey and shorts if he was about 20 years younger.

Fisher girls basketball head coach Ken Ingold barely has any time away from coaching, with his basketball and softball duties blending right into each other. But the coach who probably has more fun coaching a grind-it-out 28-26 game than a 60-58 shootout probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Armstrong-Potomac boys basketball fans will get acclimated to a familiar face in Vermilion County basketball in first-year head coach Mike Twidwell. The Danville native might arrive at Trojans’ practices a bit late after school from his day job at Danville South View Middle School, but he won’t shy away from demanding his teams play an aggressive style.

On the girls side at A-P, the Trojans have experienced a myriad of regular season success and advanced to two Class 1A regional championship games in head coach Nick Hipsher’s first two seasons, only to lose those games.

Hipsher has his teams prepared to play every game, and with some talented starters back and capable bench players who could fill new roles, expect that trend of success to continue under his watch.

So while you adjust to the changing sports seasons, so do we. We’ll still break out our heavy coats, stocking hats and gloves to head to games like we did the last few weeks of the fall season, but we’ll gladly take them off, settle into a spot on the bleachers and watch while the action on the hardwood unfolds.

Just make sure you don’t forget the popcorn.

Matt Daniels is the sports editor with the Rantoul Press newspaper. Like the column, love the column or hate the column? Let him know at


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