Industrious Jeeps keep legacy in mind

Heather Rousseau/The Herald
Tyler Haas, who elevated for a shot in a January game at Jasper, is part of a Northeast Dubois senior foursome that’s immersed as much in the community and other school activities as athletics. The involvement ranges from volunteer work to roles in the upcoming school play. For now, the Jeeps’ priority is on the court as they prepare for Saturday’s Class 1A regional matchup against Lanesville at Loogootee.

Herald Sports Writer

Every season around January, when the arrival of the postseason looms closer, Terry Friedman sits his players down to talk about legacy.

The Northeast Dubois players look at the pictures of Jeep squads from the past, celebrating sectional and regional wins, and Friedman asks the question.

“Forget about who the leading scorer is. Who the most valuable player is and all that stuff,” the eighth-year Jeep coach said. “We talk about leaving a legacy and what are the fans going to remember the 2013-14 Jeep team for.”

It’s a responsibility Northeast Dubois doesn’t take lightly.

It’s why this year’s class of seniors, beyond trying to collect wins and sectional championships, also focuses on being a part of the community. It’s why after Tyler Haas became the third Jeep player to reach 1,000 career points in February, he was quick to shift praise to his teammates for even passing him the ball. It’s the reason four senior jocks on the basketball team are all involved in the school play. And it’s one of the many things that will be on the mind of the Jeeps (11-12) when they take on Lanesville (15-8) at approximately 12:30 p.m. Saturday in the second semifinal of the Class 1A regional at Loogootee.

For the Jeeps, they want to be successful, but they also want that success to arrive in a way fans can appreciate.

“Over here in Dubois, we’ve got one sport that we focus on, and that’s basketball,” senior Gage Knies said. “You’re held to a certain standard when you put on a Jeep uniform. And that’s to go out there and hustle and work as hard as you can, because that’s what the fans want to see.”

Two straight sectional championships will certainly help shape the eventual memories of this year’s senior class, but Haas recalls when the wins didn’t come so easily.

“Me and Bill (Schepers) were on the same fifth- and sixth-grade team and we always did absolutely horrible — two or three wins a years. Seventh grade (Cameron Riecker and Gage Knies) came along, and Cameron, he’s athletic, and Gage is also good at sports. We were like, ”˜Man, we’re going to be really good this year.’ And we just did horrible again,” Haas said with a laugh.

The four seniors eventually clicked, both on and off the court. It’s what stands out to Friedman about this year’s class. They’re a group that spends time together beyond just the four-month grind of basketball season. And it’s what they do in their spare minutes that helps solidify part of their desired legacy.

It’s a long list of activities outside of just sports. Haas, Riecker and Schepers are ushers at their church. Knies is still an altar server. They help out at community trash pick-ups and volunteer at the Dubois Septemberfest. They hold offices in the student council — Knies is the president — and participate in Spanish Club, Beta Club and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

These basketball players apparently have an artistic side as well. Each will be appearing in the school’s spring play, “Shrek.” Knies plays the ogre princess, Fiona. Riecker is the Big Bad Wolf. Haas will be the Gingerbread Man.

“And I’m the guy who sells Pinocchio,” Schepers exclaimed with laughs from all four.

“We’re just very involved and I think it’s fun to be involved. And we try to do it together because what’s more fun than being with your friends as much as you can?” Knies said.

The constant involvement is a habit all the Jeeps pick up when they come through the Dubois system. On Saturdays and Sundays during the season, the team assists with the Junior Jeeps program, helping players in first through fourth grade work on basketball fundamentals. Those same kids are introduced once or twice a year during varsity contests and even get some action on the floor during halftime.

“We come in and we help teach the kids,” Schepers said. “It’s really great for the kids to interact with the basketball players so they can play one day.”

The ultimate goal is to create a continuity through the program. Every Jeep coach from fourth grade and up played ball for Northeast Dubois. On the varsity staff alone, they have a pair of former sectional and regional champions in Friedman and assistant Bruce Terwiske.

Everyone is all in to keep basketball growing and moving forward while staying loyal to the Jeep tradition, the same one the players now see and feel when they examine an old team photo or put on a Jeep uniform. It’s the feeling of the shared community, and it’s what Friedman says will eventually ring loudest.

“(The fans) are going to remember a team that played together, played hard, worked hard, and I told (the team), when you do those things, they’re going to have a good memory of you, whether you win or lose,” Friedman said.

Contact Joseph Fanelli

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