Girls basketball: Harmans, Thomas help out Bunnies

FISHER — Some constants have developed this season for the Fisher girls basketball team.

Caitlin Cole will grab her share of offensive rebounds.

Olivia Heffernan will accumulate more assists or steals than points.

Sydney Blackwell will hoist a large majority of 3-point shots.

Hannah Varner will fill up the stat column in a multitude of ways.

Charting all that is Gregory Harman.

Video-taping all that is his father, Dennis Harman.

Keeping the scorebook at times and assisting the Harmans is Shaun Thomas.

The three men are as valuable to the Bunnies program as the players themselves.

They’ve held their roles with the program for longer than the current players have been alive.

“I’ve never had to go seek out anybody since I’ve been head coach here,” said Ken Ingold, who is about to wrap up his fifth season leading the Bunnies. “I just know they’re going to do it, and I depend on them to do it. I know at some schools, especially small schools, some people have trouble even finding someone to do the scorebook for them at games. I think it’s just a wonderful service that they do.”

Part of the team
Fisher fans sit opposite the Bunnies’ bench at home games.

Not Dennis Harman. He’s on the visitor’s side. He has a logical reason why.

“When you tape, you can’t tape when they have a scorer’s bench that’s lit up,” he said. “The camcorder kind of fades in and out due to the light.”

Although father and son couldn’t necessarily agree on an exact year they both started helping the program, the Harmans are well into their second decade of service.

Gregory graduated from Fisher in 1992 and started helping in 1993, he said, while Dennis estimates he started filming a few years later.

“It actually started with me coming to all of their games the first two years after I graduated (from Fisher),” Gregory said. “Coach Jennifer Nigg knew I was coming to all of the games while attending college, and she asked me if I would like to get into the games for free in exchange for helping out the team.”

At first, Gregory did the filming for the girls basketball team, which then transcended into helping out the Fisher volleyball program as well.

But his childhood passion of sports stats led him to find a spot behind the Fisher bench. Needing someone to fill the role of camerman, in stepped Dennis.

“He couldn’t really do stats and record, too,” Dennis said. “I was the one with the camcorder, and I did some recording in the family, so he asked me to do it.”
Since then, they’ve rarely missed a Fisher girls basketball game.

They ride to away games with the team.

They’re at every home game, both junior varsity and varsity games, with Dennis filming and Gregory taking care of the statistics.

“We’re almost part of the coaching staff,” Dennis said. “That’s what Ken always call me is the coach who’s never lost a game at Fisher.”

Gregory is appreciative the coaches welcome him with open arms.

“The coaches do a great job of making me feel like part of the team,” he said. “We often discuss previous and upcoming games as well as strategy. The coaches ... make the basketball season a fun time no matter whether the team is winning or losing.”

Volunteering their time
A free bus ride to away games and a pass to get into games without having to pay admission is the only perk for the trio.

None are paid any stipend or salary.

It’s all volunteer work.

“I really enjoy helping out and the interaction with the coaches and players,” Gregory said. “I also feel that this is a little bit of community service that pays back the school that gave me an excellent education. A big part of where I am and who I am is because of the Fisher school system.”

Gregory’s day job is at the University of Illinois where he works in the graduate student admissions office.

Dennis retired from the university in 2001 after a career as an accounting clerk and other roles at the school.

“You live in Fisher, there’s not a whole lot to do in Fisher,” Dennis said with a laugh. “If Gregory wasn’t doing it, I probably would have quit a long time ago, and I’ve only got Gregory. He’s my only son, so a lot of these kids are like my family. There’s kids that can go away for years, then come back and see us, and they’re just like family.”

Gregory and Dennis haven’t helped with the Bunnies volleyball program for more than a decade, but that hasn’t stopped them from contributing to the girls basketball program.

Players that come in as freshmen likely know that by the time they graduate four years later, the Harmans will most likely have seen every game they played in their high school career.

“I feel that girls sports really often are overlooked, and they need the support,” Gregory said. “I have been helping out for a long time now, and it is not uncommon to see a girls team with an excellent record that receives very little support and during the same year, you will have a boys (basketball) team that is really struggling, and the gym is full for nearly every one of their games. The girls work just as hard and really deserve the support, too. The Fisher girls know that I will always be there to support them.”

The stat guy
If Cole and Heffernan want to know how many points, rebounds, assists, steals or blocked shots they might have accumulated in a game, they know to ask Gregory.

“He’s always encouraging, always telling us good game and always positive towards us,” Heffernan said. “If we set a new personal record, he always lets us know personally. One game I had 11 rebounds, and I literally had no idea until he told me.”

It’s not just individual game totals Gregory keeps track of.

He has career stats for all of the program’s players this season — hence why he could easily spit out the information that Cole had 701 career points, 577 rebounds and 213 blocked shots after Fisher beat Lexington 45-42 on Friday night to win the McLean County/Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament consolation championship.

“What I’m impressed with is Gregory doesn’t do anything electronically (during the games), but his mind is absolutely brilliant,” Ingold said. “He’ll have everything done and totaled for us just a few minutes after the game is over.”

How Gregory manages to jot down all the action on the court and then relay it almost immediately to the coaches is an aspect that baffles Fisher assistant coach and junior varsity coach Jon Kelly. But in a good way.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Kelly said with a laugh. “He’s got six different pencils and two different calculators going  it seems like, but it all comes together so that we can understand it. He’s impressive. It takes a load off of us, and it definitely helps us too as far as the game’s going on because we can ask, ‘Hey, how many offensive rebounds does that team have?’ He’s got it down to a science.”

Keeping it organized
So how does Gregory manage it all while watching the game? Easy.

Well, probably to him now that he has it down to a precise system. We’ll try to decipher it.

He has one clipboard. Two pieces of paper that are used to track the statistics.

One sheet is the shot chart, where he indicates where players have shot the ball while the other is for rebounds (both offensive and defensive), steals, blocks, turnovers and assists.

“I use different color pens to keep track of stats for each quarter of the game,” Gregory said. “That makes things much neater if the coaches need to figure out after the game when key events happened.”

He also keeps several additional stat sheets that he doesn’t update every play, but contains information for score by quarter and team’s season records.

“Along with that is a sheet for keeping track of Fisher’s players’ scores and a team stat sheet that I fill out for the coaches for reporting scores to the (media),” Gregory said. “After the game I compute all the percentages for field goal attempts, 3-point attempts and free throw attempts. I also total up each players’ assists, rebounds, steals and blocked shots.”

Still following along? We’re not done yet.

Once Gregory finishes compiling his totals, he helps Ingold, Kelly and assistant coach Mark Varner gather up team leader information that is then sent out to various media outlets.

The adding up and summarizing the various totals usually takes him 10-20 minutes to accomplish. But even when he gets home late at night, he isn’t finished.

Gregory then takes all the information and enters it into a spreadsheet to update the season totals for both the junior varsity and varsity squads, which takes anywhere from a half hour to an hour to do.

Gregory missed one game one season because he was sick.

The coaching staff wanted Dennis to keep the stats that game. Let’s just say it didn’t go as smoothly or as in-depth as it does when Gregory has the task.

“I haven’t got any idea how he does it,” Dennis said. “I said after that game, ‘There’s no way in the world I could do that.’ Ken’s said at least one coach has wanted to hire him away from Fisher to their school, and other coaches have had similar comments, so they know about him.”

Continuing the work
The postgame work for Dennis isn’t quite as laborious as it used to be.

The program uses the Hudl video system, which the Fisher Booster Club purchased recently for the school. It lets Dennis give the camera to Kelly, who downloads the film and uploads it to the system, which is then emailed out the morning after games.

“It helps because they break it down into five-minute sections,” Cole said. “If Ken has something to say about it, he’ll tell us where to go or he’ll bring up something when we have film.”

In the past, Dennis had to bring the tapes home, transfer it to his computer and burn  a disc for the coaches.

Personal glory or trying to advance their careers aren’t why Gregory, Dennis or Thomas are constants with the Fisher girls basketball program.

“I wouldn’t know half the people I do in Fisher if I didn’t go to the school’s sporting events,” Dennis said. “That’s the bad thing about it sometimes is because the parents may only have one or two kids. You may get to know them for a few years, and then you just don’t see them again.”

Whatever direction the program goes in the future, chances are that Gregory, Dennis and Thomas will have a clear role in recording it for posterity.

“It is really rewarding to see (players) light up after finding out that they had an even better game than they thought they did,” Gregory said. “The girls coming up to you years after they graduated and telling you that they really appreciate the support we showed them is pretty priceless.”
mdaniels@rantoulpress.com

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