Purdy hoops lean on experience of coach
It is 3:45 p.m. on Monday, and the sound of basketballs banging off the floor fills the hallways at Purdy High School.
Never in the history of the boys hoops program has an Eagles team played a varsity game this deep into the season.
Yet, the gym has 20 players, drenched in sweat and working toward a Class 2 semifinal showdown with Hayti on Thursday.
The high school is decked out in homemade spirit messages and streamers expressing support for the squad .
In the gym, Jeremy Dresslaer, head coach, has a player pulled over to the side and explains that the team is counting on him this weekend.
The coach, then, sees the media and breaks off to do a couple of interviews, only to be interrupted by a phone call that pertains to the Final Four T-shirt orders. The interviews are put on hold for a few minutes while the coach finishes the shirt order. He then gives drill instructions to his team before checking his phone to see a notice that he has new scouting videos to watch before he tells the media he is ready to finish his interviews.
“We’ve been trying to figure out the logistics of the trip, hotels and meals,” Dresslaer said. “It has only been in the last couple of hours that we’ve been organizing the game film and using my contacts around the state, and in the day and age of Hudl it makes it easy to get video.”
If it seems like Dresslaer is being pulled in a million different directions — it is because he is.
Dresslaer, who admits he has a type “A” personality, has tried to take away the distractions that come along with a deep playoff run and allow his players to just focus on playing basketball.
“I try not to talk about myself, but I was lucky enough to go to two Final Fours and a sectional run as a player, so I have an understanding of what these games are about,” Dresslaer said. “Obviously, I’ve never been here as coach, but I’ve been here as a player. We had a really tough loss my junior year in the playoffs, and that loss helped me to focus on just taking it one game at a time and that is what I’ve been preaching to these guys — one game at a time.”
When asked what the first priority was for his team this week in order to prepare for state, Dresslaer, without hesitation, said the classroom.
“First and foremost, we are student athletes,” Dresslaer said. “I told the team that just because we have a game on Thursday doesn’t mean they get to take off from class work this week. Our goal is to prepare for this game like it is any other.”
This season has been one of team building and coming together for the Eagles under the first-year, 26-year-old coach.
“I had scouted this program before I applied [at Purdy] and I knew that they had talent,” Dresslaer said. “I tip my cap to Tommy Egan for what he was able to establish here. I knew in our summer workout that we could be special.”
Dresslaer said that Purdy played Conway during a summer league and lost by 20.
“We were supposed to play Clever [Dresslaer’s alma mater], but neither of us wanted to face each other,” he said. “So, Conway agreed to play us again. I challenged the guys to be better, be tougher and to fight. We went out and we fought all right. Not literally, like throwing punches, but we dove on the floor, controlled the boards and raised our level of play.
“We won that game by 12. So, in a matter of a couple of hours, we had a 32-point swing against a tough team. That’s when I knew I could push this team and I had players that would buy in to my system.”
Dresslaer said his practices are not built for the faint of heart. He believes that the games should be the easy part and that the work should be doubled in practice.
Dresslaer said he employs a good cop-bad cop strategy on his team with his assistant coach, Bradley Maples.
“My freshman and junior varsity players at Clever loved me,” Dresslaer said. “I was the coach that slid in to pick up guys when the head coach would get on them. My old high school coach joked with me when I came here and told me the roles were going to be reversed. But Bradley does a great job of playing his part with the team. We make a great team, and the players have responded well.”
Dresslaer has never shied away from correcting his players’ mistakes, whether in a game or in practice at Purdy. However, the results have been undeniable.
“Coach is tough, but look at where we are at,” said Colt Keeling, senior guard. “You look back and you see that all he did was push you to get better. You see it in film even.”
Keeling is not alone in his feelings.
“Practices are tough, but Coach Dresslaer cares about [us] playing the right way,” said Tyler Keeler, senior guard. “We have won because he hasn’t backed down [from his high standards]. We are a team because of him.”
As the semifinal game with Hayti approaches, Dresslaer maintains his line-in-the-sand motto of “We are worried about Purdy.”
“My old high school coach told me about halfway through the season that other teams have to prepare for you too,” Dresslaer said. “That was the reminder I needed to tell the team, that we control our play and that teams have to account for us as well.”
Dresslaer said the most exciting thing about his team is the fact that they have not peaked in their performance.
“We scored 91 points against Jasper this season, and that game, I felt, showed what happens when we play well,” Dresslaer said. “We are going to Springfield, and we want to play four-quarters strong for two games. Every team there has earned the right to be there, and every team there can win that title.
“I want my players focus on Purdy and that is it.”