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Hedgesville gets to Church on time

August 05, 1998|By RON SOMERS / Sports Editor

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. - Hedgesville High School's new basketball coach, Kelly Church, remembers his first night in town.

He had driven from Richmond, Va., to be interviewed for the post vacated by Charlie Scott's resignation. A storm had knocked out the power. As Church drove past the high school, he saw some kids hanging around outside the gym, chased out by the darkness. He stopped, told them who he was, and they volunteered to show him the gym.

"The door cracked open, and a teeny bit of light came out,'' he said Tuesday after athletic director Don Dellinger announced his appointment.

Church hopes that his tenure will bring more than a teeny bit of light to the 960-seat gym. He's seen his own share of darkness, but it has hardly dimmed his love of basketball and his love of kids.

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His last coaching stop was as a volunteer at Armstrong High in Richmond's inner city.

"It was 99 percent minority, and 90 percent of the kids were on a free-lunch program,'' Church said. "The best player and the coach were both shot.''

But Church focused on the light, not the darkness.

"Those kids could not have been any more polite,'' he said. "Kids are kids.''

Church, 31, has a simple and well-defined approach to dealing with his players.

"Kids like discipline. Because they don't act like they want the discipline doesn't mean they don't want it,'' he said.

His style is to raise his voice, especially on the bench during games.

"I've got red hair, and I'm Irish,'' Church said. "I'm not going to kid you. I'm vocal.''

But he's careful about how he raises his voice.

"There's a difference between being yelled to and yelled at,'' he said. "Kids don't like to be yelled at.''

Church said yelling at kids creates an atmosphere of disrespect between him, the players and their families.

"If I'm really going to get on anybody, it'll be real quiet, and they'll be sitting beside me on the bench,'' he said.

Church said he found out about the Hedgesville job from Drew Catlett, an assistant to his uncle, Gale Catlett, at West Virginia University. Drew Catlett played at Hedgesville in the early 1980s, and he and Church became friends when Church was a student assistant coach at Longwood (Va.) College, where he had played, and Catlett was an assistant at nearby Hampden-Sydney. They also have worked basketball camps together.

"Gale Catlett says this is the best place in the world to raise children,'' Church said.

Church has twin sons, 2 1/2, and said he is such a basketball fanatic he named them after two of his former players at Godwin High in Richmond - Adam Chandler and Alex Christopher. To take his fanaticism a step further, he pointed out with a laugh that their initials are "ACC.''

The Catlett connection remains at Hedgesville. Brady Catlett, the nephew of Drew, is one of three returning seniors. The others are Kenny Roberts and Shane Moats. Last year, the Eagles went 15-8 and lost in the second round of the playoffs.

Church won't guarantee wins. But his enthusiasm - he said he stays up nights drawing up plays hour after hour - might put Hedgesville's prospects in a brighter light.

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