Senior staff writer
It has been 40 years since Gary Raker had to be on the basketball court daily at Beech Grove High.
In 1975, Raker became the school’s first and only member of the Indiana All-Star team in school history after leading the Hornets to a two-year record of 37-9 and Marion County and sectional championships. Not only did that year’s All-Star team face Kentucky twice in the annual series, but it traveled under AAU auspices to Europe and Russia and played 15 games in 30 days that summer.
The former player for Oklahoma and Butler universities has returned to the court as an assistant girls coach to middle daughter and first-year varsity coach Kristin Raker, who played at Morehead (Ky.) State and Southern Indiana and teachers at Beech Grove Schools.
Gary’s All-Star photo is on the wall of the entrance to the BGHS gymnasium.
Coming back to Beech Grove was easy for the 1975 alumnus, who had a lengthy coaching experience at Perry Meridian, including four years as the boys head coach.
“I still have good feelings about Beech Grove,” Raker said. “Being an alumnus and to come back and be able to help at the school is a good feeling. We had good hometown support in the ’70s.”
Kristin, a 2008 graduate of Perry Meridian, where her dad still teaches, sees the daughter-father tandem as a good situation.
“He’s very offense coordinated,” Kristin said. “It’s an advantage because everything he’s ran, I’ve ran in my past. He has more knowledge of X’s and O’s and when to run what play. He’s very intense, but so am I. It’s normal for us to work together.”
She admitted that sometimes they come across as “bad cop, good cop” to this season’s team. They have similar philosophies but with different emphasis during practices. Gary is more nuts and bolts, while Kristin is more active, sometimes even taking to the court to play with the girls.
“He can really break it down, make it simple,” she said. “I have to learn to slow it down for them. We have to reteach, reteach and keep drilling it.”
Father and daughter still jaw back and forth, just like they did when Kristin played basketball for the Falcons, where he was her junior varsity coach. Gary recalled many drives home when she would gripe about what the team was or wasn’t doing.
They had one rule at home that Gary’s wife tied to enforce: no basketball talk at the dinner table. And that included the couple’s oldest daughter, Janae, and youngest, Amanda.
“It didn’t work; we tried not to bring it home, but unfortunately we would,” Gary grinned. “She had to ride home with me; it was only five minutes but she was nonstop. And I usually gave it right back.”
The rare daughter-father coaching duo seems to be working.
The Hornets were 6-4 (3-0 Indiana Crossroads) before the Christmas break began. They played in a rugged Franklin County holiday tourney and travel to Class 4A No. 4 Roncalli Jan. 8 for a girl-boy double-header.
The Hornets are led by the one-two punch of sophomores Cameron Cardenas (13.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.4 assists) and Katie Giller (13.8 points, 8.6 rebounds) and bolstered by the steady improvement of 6-foot classmate Mallory Storms (8.0 points, 6.8 rebounds. Cardenas leads in steals with 52 total.
They are among the top players that Gary has coached, including Perry Meridian’s Herb Dove and Katie Douglas.
“We have some very good sophomores,” Gary understated.
The Rakers like the team’s senior leadership and their roles. Kristian Folks, Olivia Pich and Brie Spurgeon are combining for 10.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
The Hornets’ record is deceiving because they led Tech going into the fourth quarter but lost 59-52 and lost at Franklin 43-41 on a missed last-second shot.
The coaches noted that instability has been the norm for girls basketball recently, with four coaches in five seasons.
Kristin served as an assistant coach for two years under Mark Parker, now an assistant women’s coach at Marian with sister-in-law Katie Gearlds, the 2003 Miss Indiana Basketball.
“It’s been hard for the girls to know what to do to build the program,” Kristin said. “We want to instill working hard, never giving up, good team chemistry, working together as a team and getting along on and off the court. We don’t have any drama.
“We’re not going to be easy on them. They have to work in the summer and in the offseason.”
The Rakers’ daughters were third-generation basketball players. Gary’s dad played at Manual with Bill Green. Amanda is a senior volleyball player at Ball State.
“My first love is basketball,” said Gary, who played baseball and football and ran cross country. “But once you reach high school and you’re in Indiana, Hoosier Hysteria is the attraction.”
The Christmas break continues, but several Southside teams will be in action.
No. 4 Roncalli meets No. 1 Homestead in a 4A girls matchup today at 2:30 p.m. in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, with Lawrence North at Franklin Central and Decatur Central at Manual, each at 7:30 p.m.
Boys games tonight find Center Grove at Greenwood and Fort Wayne Snider at Southport, also at 7:30 p.m.
Girls action continues Saturday night with Ben Davis at Roncalli, Whiteland at Southport, Center Grove at Fishers and Lutheran at Ritter.
Boys action on Jan. 2 finds Beech Grove in the four-team New Palestine tourney and facing the host team at 10 a.m. Jennings County visits Perry Meridian and Roncalli travels to Martinsville at 7:30 p.m.