Something about seeing your sacrifices and hard work manifest right before your eyes will make everything well worth it.
“”Coach Keller preached hard work and dedication all the time so all we did was work, work work. We figured out what they did. We figured out what we needed to do better and that’s what we did.”
The Lady Bears of Bolton clinched their first district title in 17 years. The year was 2003. Half of this group was just born and the last time in program history when Bolton grabbed a title.
“We spent a lot of time in this gym just working and grinding. Even for the girls, they didn’t necessarily see the vision at first, they just trusted me.”
“We have never had a day off. From the end of our freshman year season we went into conditioning and weight lifting and after that, summer league practices then we had practices in June and July. (We even had practices on the weekends.) First day of school, we were on the track flipping tires and running bleachers so we never really had a break. (We just got used to it because that was our normal routine.) So, now we’re looking forward to running bleachers and flipping tires now. (But it’ll all pay off in the end).
Thankfully for this group, they have plenty of outside resources coming in to help push them even further. Some including past players from those teams back in the day.
“With the alumni, I open up the door to all of the alumni. The former basketball players have come, I open up the door for them. I tell them they have an open invitation to come because a lot of times the young people they don’t have a connection with the history of what came before them unless they talk to the people that was directly involved.”
“Their mentality is what they’re trying to instill in us. So they give off this champion mindset and teaching us what they did back in the day on how to be champions. They play a key part in this. (She still come in and work with us everyday.) Talk to us and make sure our head on straight.”
Granted the championship vibes are behind the team as they push their focus on a deep playoff run, all of this serves as a full circle moment for Keller. Being a ’97 alum of the school, walking the same halls, playing on the same court and living around the same area he says it’s nothing short of keeping the faith. But, he also says his successes weren’t overnight and far from alone.
“Bobby Wilcox at Arthur F. Smith Middle Magnet, he was a championship football and basketball coach. That’s who I sat under. I learned what it took to be a champion by sitting under him. My high school basketball coach when I was at Bolton, Alex Perkins, he was a great athlete and had a couple tries in the NFL, so I learned how to push myself from him. I had people in my life along the way that have shown me how to be a champion.”
Like Coach Keller says, “competition doesn’t care about your problems” and the ladies fueled that into a historic run of a season. Last year, the ladies suffered a first round exit of the playoffs. But this time around, securing the 11th seed, they believe in taking their talents to Lake Charles and topping it off with a state title.
“Last year, we lost in the first round. We’re trying to make a deep run this year. We’re trying to go far.”
“Because we had a point to prove. So many people doubted us.. so many people didn’t believe in us. So, we just had to show them that this was our year.”