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June 14, 2014

HIGH SCHOOL BOYS' BASKETBALL: Sturgeon thinks Floyd has potential

Highlanders’ coach was UIndy mentor for 10 years

FLOYDS KNOBS — Floyd Central High School boys’ basketball fans know all about the Highlanders’ travails the past several years.

The Highlanders have had three straight losing seasons, including last year’s 5-18 campaign, and produced below-.500 records in eight of the past 10 seasons.

Floyd Central has 25-year championship droughts in both the Hoosier Hills Conference and the IHSAA sectional round. That has left the Highlander faithful starving for a return to the glory days when Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame head coach Joe Hinton was in charge at FCHS.

But new Floyd Central head coach Todd Sturgeon sees some light at the end of the tunnel in the Knobs. The former University of Indianapolis head men’s hoops coach thinks Floyd Central has the tools to be a competitive force in Southern Indiana again.

Sturgeon believes the Highlanders’ feeder system is strong, especially at Highland Hills Middle School where he has helped coach the eighth-grade boys’ program the past few years. The main obstacle he sees is keeping young players interested in basketball when they enter Floyd Central.

“The big thing is there has been success at the middle-school level for years, but they have not been able to convert that success to the high-school level. We’ve got to get more players in the pipeline,” Sturgeon said. “Sometimes the kids stop growing or they get interested in another sport or they transfer. We just need to do everything we can to develop players and get them to the varsity level. We’ve got some good classes coming in.”

Sturgeon thinks in order to keep those young players intrigued about Floyd Central basketball is for his coaching staff and himself to create some excitement for their new program.

“The main thing is for us to be involved at every level of the program right now,” Sturgeon said. “We need to show people that we want to rejuvenate the program and develop some enthusiasm.”

Sturgeon thinks his program will not have to wait too long to generate some excitement. He believes the Highlanders can be competitive next season after they lost only one senior from last year’s squad in forward Zane Nichols. Expected to return for Floyd Central next season are guards Myles Ervin, who made the 2013-14 News and Tribune All-Area third team, and J.C. Kinnaird, who was an All-Area honorable-mention selection.

“I think we have a chance to do something next year,” Sturgeon said. “We’ve got some guys who want to work and are anxious to win. We’re excited about the guys coming back. We have some seniors who don’t care what we do five years from now. They want to win now.

“We’re not on a seven-year rebuilding plan. I think we can be competitive next year.”

Sturgeon’s resume proves he has lots of knowledge on winning basketball games.

The 1983 Brownstown Central graduate was the head men’s coach at Indianapolis for 10 years from 1997-2007. He had a 151-126 record in the decade he was the Greyhounds’ coach, leading them to seven winning seasons. Sturgeon ranks third on Indianapolis’ all-time victories list.

Sturgeon guided UIndy to three consecutive berths in the NCAA Division II Tournament from 2003-05.

Prior to being the Greyhounds’ sideline boss, he was an assistant men’s coach from 1992-97 at Indianapolis and from 1988-92 at DePauw University, Sturgeon’s alma mater. He coached under the late Royce Waltman, a former head coach at both colleges, during that nine-year stint.

Sturgeon considers Waltman, who was an assistant for Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight on Indiana University’s 1987 NCAA championship team, his mentor. Waltman passed away on April 7 after a long battle with cancer.

“He taught me how to prepare for opponents and know exactly what to do in certain situations,” said Sturgeon, who played for Waltman during his senior season at DePauw. “He was demanding, but he let you do your own thing. He was also tremendously loyal. Guys always had a chance to get back [into the game] if they were not performing. Today, you see guys get pushed out the door if you don’t perform. But he didn’t do that.”

Another thing that Waltman liked was a difficult schedule to prepare his team for the postseason. That belief is something Sturgeon inherited from his former coach.

“He believed in a tough schedule. I think that’s true no matter what level you’re at,” Sturgeon said.

After the 2006-07 season at Indianapolis, Sturgeon resigned as coach for family purposes as the time demands of being a college coach took its toll.

“I got out of college coaching because you’re gone all the time,” Sturgeon said. “One of the reasons I stepped away was it was taking time away from my family.”

But Sturgeon did not quit coaching cold turkey. Along with helping coach the eighth-grade program at Highland Hills, he has coached AAU and travel teams the last seven years. He also helped coach the Highlanders some in the summer when former Floyd Central coach Randy Gianfagna was at the helm.

After his predecessor, Mark Lieberman, resigned after last season, Sturgeon thought it was time for him to be a head coach again.

“I felt it was the right time and I wanted to get this program pointed in the right direction,” said Sturgeon, who has never been a high school head coach until he got hired at Floyd Central. “I think basketball is basketball.”

Unlike his former job at Indianapolis, Sturgeon will get the opportunity to be close to at least one member of his family in his current position. His oldest son, Connor, is a 6-foot-4 junior-to-be forward for the Highlanders. Sturgeon also has a son in the FC feeder system as his youngest son Cameron will play for the Highland Hills eighth-grade team next season.

“It gives me a chance to spend more time with my family,” Coach Sturgeon said.

Sturgeon plans on implementing a system that stresses discipline and being fundamentally sound like NCAA Division I programs Virginia and Wisconsin.

“We’ve got to defend, we’ve got to be unselfish and we’ve got to share the basketball,” Sturgeon said. “And we’ve got to shoot the basketball.”

Shooting the basketball more proficiently is something Sturgeon says the Highlanders must improve on if they are to be a factor next season.

“We’ve got to excel at that at Floyd Central,” Sturgeon said. “We don’t have the biggest and strongest guys, so we’ve got to emulate that style at Floyd Central.”

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