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Douglas basketball coach has plan to make the Tigers more competitive

by Chuck Smock

Keith Lewis’ first season as the Douglas varsity boys’ basketball coach ended with the Tigers one win short of making the zone tournament.

Lewis, who had served as a varsity assistant to Aubrey McCreary for two seasons, learned a lot during his first year in charge.

And one of his biggest realizations was that if the Tigers want to be competitive year in and year out, the players and coaches are going to have to refine their sense of “program.”

The first step in that process is happening this summer. Lewis and seven other coaches have put together five Carson Valley teams that will play in five Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) tournaments.

“We’re never going to win a championship with one good player,” Lewis said. “We need several good players and good depth on the bench. You have to have solid players up and down the bench. Hopefully, that’s what we’re going to create here.

“We’re trying to create a philosophy of one big unit, not three separate levels. Basically, it’s a feeder system where these kids are exposed to what we’re doing at the varsity level.”

The five teams are made up of players in 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and 12th grades. They already have played two tournaments in Sacramento.

“The goal is to provide opportunities against competition we don’t always see around here,” Lewis said. “We can get isolated here in the Valley. It gives them a taste of what they want to be and how far they have to go to get there.”

In addition to the tournaments, the coaches oversee open-gym practices on Mondays and Thursdays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Lewis said 30 to 40 of the 60 players in the program show up for each voluntary workout.

Lewis was quick to add that the AAU program wouldn’t work without a dedicated group of coaches.

Tim Cohee is coaching the 6th-grade team, with help from Mike Mellows.

John Summers, the Whittell junior varsity boys’ basketball coach, and Kevin Huff are leading the 7th-grade squad.

Carson Valley Middle School 8th-grade hoops coach Marty Swisher is coaching the 8th-grade AAU team.

Phil Emm, who worked as a DHS varsity assistant last season, is coaching the 9th-grade team.

Lewis is being assisted with the 12th-grade squad by Randy Green, the former DHS head basketball coach and athletics director who has agreed to return to the bench as Lewis’ varsity assistant next season.

And Lewis admits he has been surprised by the amount of interest in the AAU program.

“It’s really working out great, probably better than we imagined,” he said. “The main thing is I wanted to provide an opportunity for the kids to pay more. We want to show them what ‘team’ is and show them what I will expect at the varsity level.

“Hopefully, in a few years we’ll start seeing the benefits of what we’re doing now.”

The coach added, however, that he’s not trying to force kids into becoming year-round basketball players.

“One of our approaches is we’re not doing this to compete,” he said. “When they make obligations to play other sports, we want them to honor those commitments. We don’t want them missing practices for other sports to come to an open gym.

“We’re here to work around other sports and to provide additional opportunities, but not at the expense of other programs.”

Lewis said the open-gym sessions are open to all boys in the 6th through 12th grades -not just the players in the AAU program.

“We put this together pretty quickly this year,” said Lewis, who selected the teams after consulting with other area coaches. “Next year, we will hold tryouts. We realize it’s a big interest. We’re trying to learn from this first year and we realize we have to open the opportunity to as many people as possible.”

Results from the Sacramento tournaments are available through the Internet at http://www.jps.net/sacarc/sacarc.html and the local program has its own Website at http://www.carsonvalleyhoops.com.