Nathan Wall's roots run deep into the heart of Butler County. Now as he takes over the Aquinas Catholic girls basketball program, he's setting out to help his new players understand just what that means as one of his first official acts as Monarchs head coach.
Friday, after a week of hosting the team's summer camp, Wall and his roster will make the trek through Butler County, stopping to play basketball on several outdoor courts. In between they'll also be volunteering their time for the local parishes in the area.
"(It's about) spending an entire day on the road with my team and showing them how great Butler County is," Wall said during an interview earlier this week. "There's a reason why I came back home to raise my kids in this county."
Wall is an East Butler graduate who's career has included stops in Wayne, Meridian and David City Public where he just finished up his fifth season leading the Scout girls.
He takes over the reins for Tony Smith who stepped into the Aquinas girls head coaching job a year ago when suitable candidates couldn't be identified.
Wall's hiring has been known to the team for just about two months. He teaches elementary in Bellwood, and thus, has not been sharing the hallways with his future team.
To make an impact on the girls, Wall brought his idea of outdoor basketball and community service, one he's had for a while, to Aquinas Athletic Director Ron Mimick who was fully on board.
"Sports is probably the best way to learn life-long lessons, through competition and being part of a team," Wall said. "Probably the best thing a person can do for someone else is to serve others and care for their communities that they live in."
The idea was received a little differently by the players. Though they were happy to help out their local Catholic churches, outdoor hoops wasn't necessarily something they were familiar with.
That's part of the reason Wall said he came up with the idea.
He fell in love with basketball on his front driveway and in the park playing with friends.
"I told them 'I'm not someone that thinks outside the box, I'm someone that thinks like there is no box. They seemed excited, but also a little like 'Who is this?' he said."
"(I'm excited) just to have fun playing outside. I'm not sure how many kids go out and play basketball anymore outside on a community court. I know that's where I learned and fell in love with the game, was by shooting baskets outside because that was something that was always available for me."
The team will be stopping at six churches during the day and in 10 towns - the ones with outdoor courts.
The day begins at 9 a.m. in David City at St. Mary's. From there the Monarchs will travel to Bruno, Linwood, Octavia, Bellwood, Rising City, Ulysses, Dwight, Brainard and back to David City.
The outdoor courts of Butler Country vary in size and upkeep. Consequently, the team will use some of the smaller courts for simple, fun games, while some of the larger courts may be used to run actual drills.
"It's our first trip as a team," Wall said. "It's a chance for my new team to get to know me better and for me to get to know them better. What a great way for us to get to know each other than spending an entire day together on the road through basketball and also through helping others."
Nate Tenopir and Peter Huguenin are the sports editor and sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach them via email at DVDsports@lee.net