Before the players hit the hardwood with the high school team for the first time in Seymour, the future can be found all over the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium during games.
It’s easy to spot many of the Owls’ players of tomorrow, as they’re sporting Seymour Swish attire and move around the gym in packs.
Since the travel basketball program started in the 2014-15 school year, hundreds of kids have passed through the Swish ranks.
The goal of the program has been to develop skills and IQ at an early age and play tough competition so the players are ready once they get to Seymour High School.
One Swish team in particular had a strong campaign this winter.
The Swish sixth-grade purple team, which played in a league through Midwest Youth Tournaments, recently finished its season with a record of 20-4.
“What we’ve been doing the past two years is that we’ve been having a fall league, which is at various schools around our area, and the winter league, which is at Franklin High School,” Swish sixth-grade coach Jeff Nicholson said. “You play two games every Saturday in the winter. In the fall, various schools host.”
The team featured a mix of players from the Seymour Middle School Sixth Grade Center and Immanuel Lutheran School.
Nicholson said this group of boys had experience playing together before the season started.
“It was a really fun group,” he said. “Ryan Chandler actually first put them together when they were first-graders. This year, they went 20-4. Three of the four losses, they avenged and beat the team the next time around. The fourth loss, they didn’t play that team again. I fully expected if they had another chance, they could have beat them. The biggest loss was by four points. (The losses) were close games.”
Some of the teams the Swish faced were from Brownstown, Columbus, Franklin, Greenwood and Jeffersonville.
Playing strong competition is what the program wants.
“They’ve beaten teams that are on the high school schedule,” Nicholson said. “They will see these other players down the road. The kids want to win at the high school level, and that’s what we’ve tried to prepare these kids for. It’s always the big picture. We want to do the little things now so they can do big things in high school.”
Parker Thompson, a student at the Sixth Grade Center, said he enjoyed playing on the team.
“We had some good players and moved the ball well,” he said. “These guys are my friends, and I have a good coach. We played in a really good league.”
Sixth Grade Center student Brady Harpe said he’s proud of the team’s winning record.
“We were pretty good at rebounding and got to the basket and shot the ball well,” he said. We went hard every time, even in practice.”
Nicholson said there were games where all 10 players would record points, and there were six to seven times where they had a different leading scorer.
Throughout the season, the Swish worked on a variety of skills.
“We’re just teaching them to play. We don’t run a bunch of set plays,” he said. “We get them in space, and they’ve learned how to cut, back-cut, set defenders up, play in space. It was just a great group to coach. There were times I would just stand there watching they got so good at running this dribble-drive offense.”
The kids also played on their school teams during the season, giving them even more experience.
“This year in the sixth grade, they’ve played at the Sixth Grade Center and Immanuel and 24 games with travel basketball,” Nicholson said. “This group had between 40 and 50 basketball games this season. It’s a lot, but that’s what it takes these days to be prepared for when you get to high school. They have the confidence and can win tight games. They’ve seen just about every type of scenario in a game.
“What it’s doing is improving basketball IQ. They’re getting that court time at a young age. It develops the players that it’s going to take to build the program at the high school level.”
Before Swish got started, it was on the parents to get their kids involved in travel basketball.
Nicholson said the program’s effects could be seen right away.
“The way they started, it was really neat. You would start seeing those uniforms around Seymour games,” he said. “Kids take pride in being in the Swish program. Now, you can go to home games and pick them out. You see them in their jerseys, shooting shirts or game shorts. It’s a big deal to be a part of the program now.”
Nicholson said he believes all 10 of the kids he coached are multisport athletes and that the kids have close bonds. He thinks the closeness the kids have will be big down the road.
“They’re tight, and that’s what good teams are,” he said. “They look out for one another. It has really been a pleasure coaching them. They are one of the few teams I’ve coached where I’ve said to myself in the last game, ‘This is the last time I’m coaching these kids. They’re going on to middle school.’ They are good kids with good families.”
Ty Tormoehlen, a student at the Sixth Grade Center, said he felt the team improved throughout the season.
“We passed the ball well and had good plays. We shot the ball very well,” he said. “I improved on shooting and getting to the basket. I learned how to play good defense.”
Immanuel’s Ty Nicholson said the team has grown together throughout the years.
“It was fun playing with my friends. We have been playing together since the first grade,” he said. “I think the team improved on both defense and defense. I feel like I got better with my shot and staying on balance.”
In the future, coach Nicholson looks for big things from this group of players.
“When we look ahead, I think this will be one of the classes that will be a part of something special,” he said. “You never know until you get to high school, but the seeds are planted. The youth program is what’s going to change things.”
Nicholson said tryouts for next year’s teams should be in early October. The program aims for at least two teams of eight to 10 players for each grade from second through sixth. Between 50 and 60 kids made up last year’s teams.