HAGEN: Assistant coach's scouting helping KernelsSIOUX FALLS — There are three times this year when the Mitchell girls’ basketball team is scheduled to play games on consecutive days.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
SIOUX FALLS — There are three times this year when the Mitchell girls’ basketball team is scheduled to play games on consecutive days.
Earlier this year, the Kernels went on the road and cruised in two games in two days against Rapid City opponents, winning by margins of 39 and 32 points.
When the Kernels took the court Friday evening against Sioux Falls Washington, it was the start of another back-to-back stretch. The No. 1-ranked Kernels were handed their first defeat of the year, falling to the No. 2 Warriors 52-42 at a packed house at Washington High School.
At 7:30 p.m. today, the Kernels play the No. 3-ranked Class AA girls’ basketball team in the state when they travel to Aberdeen for an Eastern South Dakota Conference matchup. It’s clear this stretch, facing two of the top-three teams in the state on the road, is the toughest for Mitchell this season.
Before Friday, Mitchell had not played a game since Dec. 18, giving the players some time to anticipate this run. And while the girls on the team were getting ready, so were the coaches.
Assistant coach Jesse Kroupa, who’s in his second year alongside Morgan, was able to scout both Sioux Falls Washington and Aberdeen during the holiday break.
For three straight days, Kroupa put in some extra work and watched this weekend’s opponents play.
Along with head coach Wes Morgan and assistant Joe Shepardson, Kroupa watched Washington play Sioux Falls Lincoln on Dec. 20 in Sioux Falls. The next day, he drove to Brandon to watch Washington again. The day after that, he drove to Yankton to scout Aberdeen.
“We have some pretty good girls on this team,” Kroupa said before Friday’s game. “They take care of most of it and they’re giving us coaches a couple of great years. We want to do everything to not let them down. The success comes from the kids, but we want to do everything we can to help out.”
In high school basketball, it’s not unusual for coaches to watch their opponents to find strengths and weaknesses and help game planning. Last season, Kroupa drove nearly 1,000 miles and scouted seven games.
Besides that, he also peels information about future opponents off the Internet, reading box scores and what coaches say after games. He keeps everything sorted in folders, pulls it out and goes over it with the other coaches before the Kernels match up against that specific team.
“We just don’t want any surprises,” Kroupa said.
Kroupa someday hopes to be the head coach of a team. In what sport, he’s not too picky.
But right now he’s enjoying being an assistant and putting the extra time in doing the little things that help build successful teams.
“I just like to know what’s going on,” Kroupa said. “I just try to pick up anything I can.”