This season, both Longhorn teams will make their inaugural appearance on the same court the Hawks use. They will be facing Milton on Jan. 26 with the girls playing at 2:30 p.m. and the boys to follow. There will also be an eighth grade boys game between the teams at 1 p.m.
“While our football team gets to play at the Dome, it would be good for us to experience playing on an NBA court,” first-year Kell coach Jermaine Sellers said. “It will be different playing in an open arena, and most kids don’t get to experience that.”
Sellers has his assistant coach Ryan Koudele to thank for that. Koudele, a former assistant coach at North Springs High School, has had good work relations with Philips Arena over the last few years and has taken the Spartans to Philips Arena twice in the last four seasons.
“They send out something in the mail, saying ‘we have an opportunity to come, let us know,’” Koudele said.
Last season when Koudele was with North Springs, his team played at Philips on the day of the SEC championship, knowing the Hawks won’t likely be in town, and it worked out well.
Koudele scheduled Kell to play Milton on the day of this year’s SEC championship but Philips ran into a scheduling conflict, the game was pushed back to January.
“We found another day,” he said. “And there was only so many days we could do it. We had to do it on a Saturday because we couldn’t play a game before school was out during the week. (Philips Arena) was able to work with me, and this is what we came up with this year.”
In order to raise money, the Kell teams are required to sell $20 tickets that also includes a ticket to see the Hawks.
Milton is expecting to be a challenging matchup for the Kell boys team.
Former coach David Boyd, who led the Eagles to state championships in 2010 and 2012, was forced to resign last September when his own school reported recruiting allegations. Milton was then put on probation and can’t participate in the region or state tournament. Milton has won six in a row after losing its first three.
Kell’s program has had its ups and downs since its opening in 2002. This season, it’s 6-11 overall as a result of a tough non-region schedule but is 4-3 in Region 7AAAAA. Junior center Grant Bryant has been averaging double doubles for the Longhorns and recently had 50 points and 35 rebounds against Osborne.
Kell’s girls led by senior guard Naomi Stuger are a little ahead of the boys at the moment. The Lady Longhorns (12-2, 5-2) are coming off their first playoff appearance last year and is currently second in their subregion.