Sports

June 27, 2014

For Ingle and Roadrunners, offseason challenges go beyond the court

This summer hasn’t been the easiest one for Dalton State College men’s basketball coach Tony Ingle.

Luckily for the Roadrunners and their young program, Ingle has a wealth of experience that suggests he can still get everything done.

In an interview with The Daily Citizen on Wednesday at the conclusion of his annual youth basketball camp, Ingle said many aspects of the program “shut down” when assistant coach John Redman was seriously injured in a car wreck on April 28. Redman’s fiancee, Brittany Huber, died in the crash. The couple were en route to Mobile, Ala., for their wedding.

Redman continues to progress — he is continuing rehab at the Irene and George Woodruff Family Residence Center in Atlanta — but in the wake of the accident, Ingle halted some of the program’s typical offseason work.

“There are a lot of things more important than basketball,” said Ingle, who served as the interim head coach at NCAA Division I program Brigham Young University during the 1996-97 season and led Kennesaw State to the Division II national championship in 2004. “I just put everything to the side. I shut down for about a month.

“(Redman) did a lot of work and wore a lot of hats. At this level, you do everything.”

The challenges of this offseason have extended beyond the coaching staff to players, too.

“I can’t say it hasn’t been (stressful), because it has been a little,” said Sean Tate, a rising senior and the Roadrunners’ returning starting point guard. “You need to overcome adversity.”

Dalton State returned to the basketball court last season after a 35-year hiatus for the school, and the Roadrunners made a quick impression in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) as they went 26-4. Tate said the team, which exceeded Ingle’s expectations, now has at least some pressure to duplicate that success this season, when they’ll begin membership in the Southern States Athletic Conference and be eligible for postseason play.

“I feel like there is a little bit (of pressure), but we try not to think about that,” Tate said. “We try to take it day by day.”

Some of the pressure might be to replace Demetrice Jacobs, Desmond Phillips and Ricky Sears, who finished their college careers in February, and that brings recruiting into focus.

Ingle said NAIA rules allow for year-round recruiting. That’s different from the NCAA, which has “dead” and “quiet” periods during the year. Dead periods do not allow for in-person contact between the coach and player. Quiet periods prohibit in-person contact — aside from meetings on the college’s campus — and coaches watching a recruit play.

For most of May and June, the NCAA is in either a quiet or dead period, which makes July a busy month for those coaches on the recruiting trail.

“In NAIA, you’re allowed to recruit all year,” Ingle said. “In May and June, in some NCAA divisions, it’s a grace period and you can’t recruit.”

Ingle said another big difference is the style of recruiting. At the NCAA Division I level — to which Kennesaw State transitioned during Ingle’s time there — the programs are larger and better known and sometimes the school’s name alone is a recruiting tool.

The Roadrunners don’t have that kind of recognition yet.

“It’s a lot to do with the institution,” Ingle said. “How many people grow up wanting to come to Dalton State College? No one, because they didn’t grow up with Dalton State having sports.”

Ingle noted that Redman, who was previously a graduate assistant at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., helped recruit Sears, who played at Spring Hill. Redman also helped recruit Jacobs, whereas Ingle helped bring in rising senior Ladaris Green, who played for the coach at Kennesaw State.

“It’s more a personal, who-you-know type thing in the NAIA,” Ingle said.

Dalton State also has a schedule to fill, work that’s not yet complete for Ingle.

“I’m still trying to schedule some games,” he said. “We don’t have a completed schedule yet. It’s an unwritten rule in the NAIA to have everything done in July.”

But being part of the Southern States Athletic Conference made that part of Ingle’s job easier than last year, when he didn’t have league play to automatically fill in some slots.

“I knew the conference would give us 18 games,” Ingle said, “and we’d need to schedule 12.”

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