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Lady Indians’ hoops rebuilding in off-season under new leadership

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By Sean Arnold

Buddy Vickers used to joke with Chiefland Lady Indians basketball coach Brian Gore that he wanted his job when the latter moved on.

The pair’s families had been friends for years, as Vickers, a young 71-years-old, was a grade younger than Gore’s father.

Vickers, whose been an assistant girls’ hoops coach at Trenton the last three years under Bryant Frye, witnessing a state finals appearance and another regional finals appearance for the Lady Tigers the last two seasons, liked the prospective talent Chiefland offered.

His opportunity came earlier this year when Gore stepped down, and now Vickers is in charge of Lady Indians’ hoops.

“(Gore) called me and said, ‘Okay Coach, I’m giving it up this year. I got a promotion,’” Vickers said.

It’s a fitting time for new management as the program turns the page on an impressive four-year run that, under Gore and do-it-all standout Takiya London, included four regional tournament appearances and a final four berth.

The roster leans young, though some standout upperclassmen, like Colby Reed and Courtney Hayes, guarantee some more experienced talent at the top. With an open gym and guiding hand from the sidelines, Vickers is encouraging his players to work out daily, and the results have been positive so far, as they work through drills that, while awkward at first, build core strength and fundamentals.

“It just gives me a chance to come in and watch them,” Vickers said shortly after beginning the workouts. “They shoot on their own.”

Vickers coached and taught 10 years in Bronson before leaving it for the insurance business, eventually returning to the court during his retirement.

“My wife and two kids were starving to death,” he said jokingly of his career change.

Vickers says his brother, John Vickers, coached some of the parents of the current Lady Indians.

Vickers went to school in Trenton and played for the the retired, esteemed area coach John Rowe. The new Lady Indians head man developed his taste for a more up-tempo, pressing style of play from Rowe, and was later hired out of college (Florida State) at Bronson by the coach.

“I always wanted to coach,” Vickers said. “I knew in ninth grade what I wanted to do.

“I like up-tempo, I like run-and-gun, I like press, fast break. (Rowe) taught me that, and I’ve just always like it. Over the years I’ve morphed it a little bit. You have to change according to what kids you’ve got.”

Vickers enjoys working with younger players, helping them develop their fundamentals. He coached the middle school and junior varsity squads while at Trenton when a bevy of talent was making its way through the ranks.

“I told Bryant, ‘Those kids we’ve got in middle school are better than your varsity.’ He has had such a phenomenal runs of athletes.

“I told him he’s really put the pressure on me: a final four and two districts.”

Vickers is hoping to bring back to Chiefland a JV squad, which had to disband last season for a lack of players, and which the coach deems critical for the development and interest of younger talent.

Vickers has had a chance to see more of his players in action since the end of the softball and track seasons, though youth softball and non-school affiliated volleyball seasons still demand the time of many girls. They’re set to begin a six-week summer league of around 10-12 local teams. Chiefland is at Trenton next Monday, June 12, before going to Cedar Key on June 15. A camp in Trenton for more elite players is also coming up, as well as a tournament in the Villages at the end of June, where Vickers says Chiefland might be the smallest participating school.

“Our kids have been doing conditioning, now we’re starting to do a little teaching,” the new coach said this week. “We’re finally starting to get kids out."

Vickers is a proponent of student athletes playing multiple sports, a trend that’s rarer these days as young athletes feel pressure to specialize and commit to year-round travel ball in their top sport. He’d like to see his players run track or participate in weightlifting, citing both athletic and mental benefits as well as a more well-rounded resume to show prospective colleges.

“No matter what they play, it helps them,” he said. “We help softball players with quickness and nimble feet and stuff like that. Boys’ basketball helps football players. It all helps out.

"You have to learn to share kids and share time. I can’t make them do it, but I would like for them to do something. That’s when they get stronger.”

Vickers sees a district – and area – on the rise in girls’ hoops, with a particularly strong upcoming junior class of players from the county.

“Trenton’s has a good program. Chiefland’s had a good program. Newberry’s got a good program. Mayo (Lafayette) does. Branford ought to be really good this year. Bronson’s growing. Cedar key’s going to be tough. Even Dixie County is really working on their basketball program.

“I think this district in another year or two is going to be the toughest one in Class 1A.”