Coach Doug Kraft: AAU Cats interview

Ed note: Doug Kraft has been coaching the Cats for several seasons. His playing (CV alum) and coaching experience at various levels, gives Doug a unique view on AAU and HS hoops. Coach Kraft has been a huge help to llhoops for scores, insights, and a play by play fill-in for llhoops live stream. Enjoy

 

CATS 2019 roster  
Player HS
Andrew Zentner Garden Spot
David Kamwanga Lancaster Catholic
Devin Atkinson Lancaster Catholic
Elijah Eberly Elizabethtown
Ethan Hine Penn Manor
Joey McCracken Warwick
Lance Lennon Lancaster Country Day
Ryan Hilton Hempfield
Seth Beers Lampeter-Strasburg
Trey Wells Lancaster Catholic
Carter Gingerich McCaskey

 

1) Give us a run down on your practice places, assistant coaches, and key helpers for the CATS. 

We practice at Lancaster Bible College. We are very blessed. That’s truly been our home base for the past four seasons. Athletic Director Pete Beers and his facilities coordinator, Frank DeFilippo allow that to happen. On the rare occasion we have a conflict, we practice at Lancaster Country Day.
Our assistant coaches for Cats 17u, Tom Wernoch and Dave Evans, have been with the team for awhile. These guys are quality men and great friends. Tom moved to the Lancaster area a little over 10 years ago. He is the best kept secret in coaching in our area. He had a fine career as a player at Dickinson College and was a successful high school coach at Immaculata HS in Somerville, NJ. I am very lucky to have someone as good as Tom to lean on. Dave was a high school teammate of mine. (More like I was a teammate of his). He was a great player for Conestoga Valley. In 1983, he was the cog that led CV past Lebanon, Carlisle and Harrisburg before losing to Reading in the District 3 final. I trust him. His eyes and insights are so helpful. 
The other key helper is my wife, Terry, who unconditionally signs off on my involvement.

2) Give us a quick run down of your spring/summer season with the Cats?

I felt we had another good season. We went 17-8 overall. We played 8 tournaments, losing in the finals in 3 of  them. We hosted our 5th annual College Coaches Night. This year we invited Central PA Elite in for a showcase game that night, which drew 36 college programs and over 50 college coaches. CP Elite won, 55-50, but both teams really benefitted. It still the best thing Cats 17u does. We downshift in May and June so the guys can focus on their obligations with their high school teams. We did take a group down to Mt. St. Mary’s for their team camp in June and went 3-0 that day. We finished up in July with two Hoop Group Jamfest events during the D1 live recruiting period, which was only July 11-14 for AAU teams this year. We went 5-2 in those events and generally played our best brand of ball that week.

3) How do you adjust to the games/players as the season progresses?

We really focus on being our best in July. We have a new group every year, so we are rather intense and demanding of them initially in the Spring to try to create a culture of success. Execution isn’t the priority at the start. It is important, but most vital is how hard we work, how hard we commit to each other and how hard and unselfishly we play.
Once we get to know who can do what under the constraints we develop, we will put in offensive sets to give our best scorers the chance to score. It’s more open opportunity early on in the season and then we’ll tailor things for July. We identify our best perimeter defender and interior defender so we can challenge them when necessary.

4) Has the AAU scene changed at all in the last few years? Style of play, level of play, schedule, etc?

I don’t think it has really changed that much. Locally, programs have developed to give more players opportunity. The AAU scene really comes down to who the coach is, not the name on the jersey. There are still the same issues, but I think locally more high school coaches are becoming more comfortable with it.

5) How do you stay in touch with current and former players?

I put a lot of time trying to stay connected to them all as best I can via text and phone calls. I show up for their games in any sport, I use social media to keep all informed, and I will spend time away from the court with them. Obviously, it has become harder over the years because the volume of players continues to grow. I am pretty confident that they know they can reach out to me at any point if they need me. 

BONUS:  anything you would like to change for AAU or High School Hoops?

I really don’t spend time thinking about those type things. I know the thought “I have a better shot at a scholarship if I play AAU” should be dialed back.. Scholarships in basketball are very difficult to obtain. The focus needs to be on “how can I get better?” That is a goal that can be obtained 100% of the time.

Bonus 2:  What was it like to call a game for LLhoops this season? 🙂

That was fun. The intensive training program that was provided was difficult. I was very fortunate that my partner, Eric Thomas, was strong enough to carry me. I look forward to getting another chance to do it. It was definitely pretty cool.

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