By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School girls basketball program is hosting a camp for hopeful future Celtics July 1-3. It will double as an opportunity for athletes and their families to meet the Lady Celts’ new head coach, Derick Handley.
“We’ll be looking for the next Madi Hingston or Sydney Hunter, and there’s going to be lots of hands-on time with current players and coaches,” Handley said.
The camp is open to all girls in kindergarten through eighth grade and will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day. Cost of the camp is $45 per camper and includes a shirt. Two can register for $80. Registration forms are available at the McNary office, 595 Chemawa Road N., and can be completed on the first day of camp provided space is available.
Handley replaces Paul Pickerell who led the program for two years before accepting a job coaching golf at Corban University in March. Handley joins the Celtics having led the McKay High School program for four years and providing a much-needed shot in the arm to a fading Royal Scot program.
“My first year, we only had 16 girls try out. Last year we had more than 50,” Handley said.
Handley, who lives in Keizer with wife Allison and 5-month-old son Emerson, will also be teaching English and social studies at McNary, which will give prospective players extra facetime with the coach. He’s hoping that presence will impact the number of girls trying out for the sport.
“Last year, we only had two teams (junior varsity and varsity), and that’s a problem. We should have three, but’s that’s also partly our responsibility to make happen. It means reaching out to the youth leagues and being part of what they’re doing while inviting them to be part of what we’re doing,” Handley said.
He’s already planning a Future Celtic Night when visiting youth players will have their own bleacher section.
In the meantime, he’s gunning full bore with the current crop of Lady Celts. Much of the varsity roster is in a summer ball league where its record is currently 13-2. They won a tournament at Liberty High School last week.
“We started an incoming freshman, a sophomore and three juniors and won the tournament,” Handley said. “What we have right now is balance. Madi and Sydney are both great players, but we’ve got Kaelie Flores and Reina Strand on the floor doing great things. There’s not going to be one name at the top of the scoring lists. I hope to have several players averaging double digits,” Handley said.
If there’s one area where he’d like to see them put in some work, it’s in the girls’ self-confidence.
“They see a team like South Salem (High School) and they know they’re good, but they tell themselves they’re not that good,” he said. “We can be just as good as them, and I think we might have as much potential Division I talent as they do.”
Beyond the court, Handley wants the Celtic athletes to learn teamwork and selflessness among the other lessons sports can impart.
“I was an okay student in high school, but my motivation was baseball and basketball. I was the first person in my family to go to college and, quite honestly, I don’t think I would have had the skills or motivation to do it without the athletic piece. That’s what I hope they learn as part of the program,” Handley said.