Community League Basketball plays key role in success of future Panthers

By Joseph Garcia

Liberty Hill Community League Basketball coaches gives instruction to players during a timeout of a game. (www.ThunderstruckPhotos.com)

In case you haven’t noticed, the quality of basketball played in Liberty Hill is seemingly second to none.

While the Liberty Hill High School basketball program is being recognized for its highly successful season, it all starts at the grassroots level.

Liberty Hill Community League Basketball has played an integral role in the development of players beginning at a young age. The success of the league is evident in the product put on the court at the high school.

“It’s really been big here in Liberty Hill,” said Liberty Hill High School girls Coach Matt Kirschner. “It gives our kids the opportunity to play the game in an organized setting from an early age. It helps with the fundamentals and with the understanding of the game. It also helps to develop a passion for the game.”

When league President Clay Cole played in the community basketball league in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was not named as such. But youth basketball has assisted the children of Liberty Hill for years and it’s grown exponentially.

Cole said this season, which ended Feb. 11, there were 315 players spread out on 41 teams between kindergarten and sixth grades.

“When I played it was called the same thing, practically,” said Cole. “But there was some type of youth basketball that existed. Of course the size of it has expanded.”

The goal of the league is to provide all community youth with an opportunity to participate in an organized sport that emphasizes developing skills that will benefit them as they progress. The league also stresses the importance of sportsmanship when competing.

As President, Cole’s duties range from organizing meetings and establishing schedules to ordering uniforms. But nothing is possible without corporate or private sponsorships.

“We really push hard for sponsorships and they play a critical role in our organization,” Cole said. “Without them we would not be as successful as we’ve been and it keeps the price of registration down.”

The price of registration is $85 per player and includes a quality uniform as well as good officiating.

“For our 3rd through 6th grade level, we hire high school officials that typically are refereeing on Friday nights to ensure that we get a well-officiated game,” Cole said.

Cole, Director of Unemployment Insurance Support Services Department for the Texas Workforce Commission and a member of the Liberty Hill ISD Board of Trustees, said that while the goal of the league is to establish fundamentals and develop basic skills, it is also to groom first-class talent.

“There were several girls on the varsity team that I believe were a part of our community league,” Cole said. “I think Kourtney Bevers played there for a few years and Jessica Green and Macy Floyd, too.”

Coach Kirschner said there is a visible distinction between his players and those on other schools’ teams who maybe did not have the advantage of playing so young.

“You can tell the difference from (the girls on my team) to other teams that don’t have that kind of a background,” he said. “There is a difference in the knowledge of the game and the fundamentals. We are dependent on the community league to help produce great people and basketball players.”

The talent to come though Liberty Hill Community League Basketball is not limited to the girls.

“I want to say Shane LaCaille and Blake Danielak both at one time played in Liberty Hill Community League Basketball,” Cole said. “So those are some of the top-notch players and I believe it’s a quality program that tries to instill those basic skills of basketball that will hopefully help the young kids progress forward in their transition from youth to the junior high and then to high school.”