BY CHAD DARE
COVINGTON, Ind. —
Ken Gentrup has spent the past four seasons watching his granddaughter from the bleachers.
The former North Vermillion girls basketball coach is getting the chance to coach her this weekend in the Battle for the Border All-Star Classic.
Gentrup and former North Vermillion athlete Darby Martin will lead the Indiana girls against their Illinois counterparts tonight in Covington and Saturday at the Palmer Arena in Danville.
“This is the one opportunity that I’ve got to coach my granddaughter,’’ Gentrup said. “I’ve seen this young lady grow up, and she has given me a lot of pride.’’
Martin and her senior group at North Vermillion almost convinced Gentrup, who led the Falcons to a state championship in 2002 and a state runner-up finish in 2003, to keep coaching.
“I thought about staying back in 2006 because of her and the group of players that I knew were coming up,’’ he said. “Since I’ve retired, I’ve thought about coming back several times.
“I’ve actually applied and interviewed at a few places here recently.’’
But, Gentrup admits it would have been hard to miss watching his granddaughter.
When asked to coach the Indiana all-stars, Gentrup thought it was also a good opportunity to bring back one of his former players.
Ashley Hughes, a member of the 2002 state championship team at North Vermillion, will serve as both an assistant coach and the honorary coach.
“I immediately thought about Ashley,’’ said Gentrup, calling her the best point guard he ever coached. “Any girl that has played for me is special, but those players from the state title team hold a special place for me.’’
Hughes, who was a four-year captain and a four-year all-academic point guard at St. Joseph’s College, said she was looking forward to being a part of Indiana basketball again.
“It’s a fun opportunity for me to come back and coach a good group of girls, and help them have a good time in their final high school game,’’ she said. “These games are about the girls that are playing. As a coach, I just want to help them play the best they can.’’
Playing in an all-star game is something that Hughes never got a chance to do in her career.
“My last game in high school was a state championship game and I remember is quite well,’’ she said, admitting she would have liked to had an opportunity to play one more game in her high school career.
“It’s an honor for all of these girls, and its one more chance for them to come out and play with the other area girls,’’ she said. “It’s a good chance to showcase their talents one more time in front of their family and friends.’’
The Battle for the Border All-Star Classic is scheduled to be played tonight in Covington and on Saturday at the Palmer Arena in Danville.
The girls game will open the action tonight at 6 p.m. (Eastern), followed by the boys game, tentatively set for 8 p.m.