Unlikely journey leads LaGrange back homeJanuary 11, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
Growing up, Southridge junior guard Joe LaGrange always hoped to play basketball for the Jasper Wildcats.
His mom would drop him off at Jasper practice sessions to spend time with his dad, Tim LaGrange, who coached the Wildcats from 1997 to 2006, so Joe was surrounded by basketball from early on.
“I grew up in the gym, basically,” Joe said. “I used to idolize those guys that my dad coached and I always remember looking up to them and I knew someday that I wanted to play for the Jasper Wildcats.”
However, when Joe entered the first grade, his family moved to Jeffersonville, where his dad would coach the Jeffersonville Red Devils boys basketball team from 2007 to 2010.
After wanting to be a Wildcat for so long, Joe turned his sights on becoming a Red Devil — a team that had success in the past, including his dad’s 2009-10 team making it to semistate.
Once Joe got to high school in 2015, he made the varsity roster at Jeffersonville as a freshman and was one of the team’s starting guards during the 2016 season and was expected to be one of the Red Devils’ top threats during the 2017 season. However, at the end of his sophomore year, Joe received the news that he wouldn’t be in Jeffersonville much longer.
“Around last spring I found out that my dad had gotten the superintendent job in Huntingburg and I was really excited for him because I knew it was a great opportunity for him,” Joe said. “I knew that moving back to Dubois County wouldn’t be as hard as moving to somewhere I had never been before and I knew there’d be some familiar faces.”
Tim was named the superintendent of the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation in May after Mike Eineman announced his retirement. He had been an assistant principal at Jeffersonville and also held positions as a teacher and dean of students.
Even though Joe grew up and lived in Jasper, he was actually born in Huntingburg and his grandfather, Wayne Ransome, was an assistant coach for the Southridge boys basketball teams that made back-to-back final four appearances in the Indiana High School Athletic Association Tournament in 1984 and 1985.
Joe’s first experience with the Raiders (6-5, 1-2 PAC) came last June when he attended his first early morning lifting session, something the Raiders call “Dawn Patrol” where Jayce Harter got his first impression of the new transfer.
“He showed up at 6 a.m. like the rest of us and got tired as a dog just like us when we were going through all the hard workouts coach (Ted O’Brien) puts us through,” Harter said with a laugh. “He’s definitely a big addition to our team and a school as a whole. He’s an excellent kid, he’s a smart kid — he’s the only junior in our calculus class — and he’s a winner. Even if we’re just playing spike ball or cornhole in the backyard, he’s competitive. That’s just what he’s about.”
When Joe arrived at that first lifting session, he wasn’t fully sure what to expect. But once he got to know all of the Raiders individually, he was excited for the possibilities that were ahead for this Southridge team.
“Everyone was very welcoming from the first day,” Joe said. “I remember every single guy coming up to me and introducing themselves and they were just telling me how glad they were to have me. It really just made me feel welcome. I’ve gotten a lot of close friends now and it’s helped that a lot of them are guys who also play basketball.”
O’Brien had been excited knowing that Colson Montgomery would be coming from the middle school ranks to play varsity basketball as a freshman, but when he found out that Joe was coming to play basketball for the Raiders, he was happy to gain a player with the amount of varsity experience Joe had.
“He knows the game well, he understands how to handle his responsibilities and the biggest thing he’s brought to us has been his work ethic,” O’Brien said. “He’s a gym rat, I always have to kick him out every night because he’s still here putting up shots and working hard on his game. From day one, it seemed to me that he got acclimated pretty quick and his leadership qualities helped to make his transition easier as well.”
So far this season, Joe is averaging 12 points per game, along with 2.5 rebounds per game and 2.8 assists per game, and has scored in double-figures in all but two games.
He started the season as Southridge’s primary point guard but now the Raiders have Montgomery run a lot of plays from the point, freeing Joe up to do more scoring from the two-guard spot.
“He can do a lot of things for us — he has a strong pull-up jumper game, he’s a good passer, but most importantly, he plays hard,” O’Brien said. “He’s just another guy for us who can both handle the ball and score which is exactly what we needed.”
The move back to Dubois County has been a successful one for Joe so far, even as he continues to search for his exact role as his Raiders will battle Perry Central (3-9) and Jasper (5-4) — the school he grew up wanting to attend — this weekend.
But no matter what role he is in, you can count on Joe as a team-first kind of guy.
“At first, I was just trying to get used to playing with everybody, but now I’ve become friends with all of these guys,” LaGrange said.
Harter added, “He’s a heck of a guy — he does his part out there and we’re definitely thankful that he’s here.”
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