Thursday, July 21, 2005
Tomball Concordia Lutheran crusades in the land of cheese
By TODD HVEEM, Houston Chronicle Correspondent, July 20, 2005, 7:56 pm
The Concordia Lutheran Crusaders have made a 20-hour bus trip in hopes of improving their high school basketball program.
The Crusaders, who are struggling to remain competitive in the rugged TAPPS 3-5A, drove to Milwaukee last Saturday for the bi-annual Wisconsin Lutheran College basketball camp. The five-day team camp ends Friday.
"This is the third time we have gone," said Concordia Lutheran coach Garrett Riveness, who is entering his sixth season at the helm. "They usually have it every two years.
"We have a good relationship with coaches up there. They have a team camp and they keep it small. They have individual instruction, then we play in a tournament."
The Crusaders also will spend at least one day at the Milwaukee Bucks training camp, Riveness said.
"They have a good relationship with the Bucks," Riveness said. "It is really neat for the kids. It is really a fun trip."
Even the 20-hour bus ride?
"Sure," Riveness said with a laugh. "The kids love it. It is especially fun for them. We leave on Saturday evening, so we pull into Chicago about lunch time the next day. We then eat and head up to Milwaukee."
Riveness said nine players made the 1,500 plus-mile trip.
"We have kind of limited it to that number," he said. "The college does a good deal for them. They let them stay in the dorm during the camp and tournament. The college coaches have them over for dinner, so they don't spend any money on food. The whole trip costs kids $150."
Riveness said several of his varsity players coached younger kids in a summer basketball league to help pay for the cost of the trip.
"We ran a summer league at our school for players in grades five through high school," Riveness said. "The kids did not come in as part of a team, but we would place them on a team and they would play that way.
"We let our varsity kids coach the younger kids to help pay for the trip. We wanted them to feel like it was their trip."
Riveness said he had some players also play in a summer league in Conroe, and some other young athletes attend the Don Eddy basketball camp.
"We really had stuff going about six days per week," he said. "Not every kid was doing everything, but it kept us all pretty busy."
The Crusaders return a trio of potential stars in Nathan Elrod, Kyle McCluskey and Jake Griedl. Elrod, who is only a junior, stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 220 pounds.
"He is a big kid," Riveness said. "He was a second-team all-district selection."
The 6-5 McCluskey, who is a senior, was an honorable mention all-league choice a year ago, and Griedl started at point guard as a sophomore.
"We also have Chris Duffy coming back," Riveness said. "He was our sixth man as a freshman. He has done well this summer."
Riveness said he has more than 35 players in the program and hopes to have a freshman team this season.
"We kind of had to pay some dues last year, but the kids are really coming along," he said. "They are improving and having fun.
"We are building a lot from the ground up. We are adding a freshman team next year. We used to have a freshman team, but when our enrollment dipped, we had to drop it. We have started to grow again now."
Concordia Lutheran, however, will not participate in a fall basketball league.
"We will probably not do that," Riveness said. "We have a lot of kids who play football and run cross country. When kids are committed to a fall sport, we expect them to do that. We could probably field a JV-caliber team (in the fall league), but I think kids ought to be sticking with fall sports."
Riveness said Northland Christian and Houston Christian could be the teams to beat in TAPPS 3-5A.
"They were so strong last year, but they both graduated a lot," Riveness said. "Lutheran North also graduated some, but they still have their big scorer back.
"We are coming up. It should be real tight. Nobody is going to go winless or nobody is going to run through the league."