(SUBMITTED PHOTO) Noah Wood, a graduate of Lutheran High School, will continue playing baseball with the Lincoln Trail College Statesmen. Wood, seated, is with, from left, stepfather Sam Pierce, mother Melissa Pierce, father Mike Wood and sister Lacey Pierce. Lincoln Trail, Robinson, Ill., is coached by Kevin Bowers and is in the NJCAA. At Lutheran, Wood was selected as an All Indiana Crossroads Conference catcher as a junior and senior. He helped lead Lutheran to four IHSAA baseball sectional championships and a Final Four appearance. He also lettered in football.
By Al Stilley
It is easy to see the many ways that former Roncalli and Marian University basketball standout Kellie Kirkhoff has been groomed for her first high school coaching position.
Kirkhoff scored over 1,000 points and helped in leading the Rebels to two IHSAA regional girls basketball championships. The backcourt ace also left behind a basketball legacy at Marian where she ranks as the No. 2 all-time scorer and earned NAIA All-American third-team laurels.
She jumps from college with a short stint as girls’ reserve team coach at Speedway High School where she did her student teaching into the mentorship fray as head coach at Greencastle. She accepted a teaching position during the recent second semester at a middle school in Lawrence Township.
The 23-year-old Southside product is well aware of the challenges of coaching and of her heritage.
“Basketball has been my life since I was four years old,” Kirkhoff recently told Joey Bennett of the Greencastle Banner-Graphic. “I feel I’m very much prepared to have success….I’d like to think I’ve earned it on my own.”
Kirkhoff’s pedigree should contribute to easing her task as one of the state’s youngest high school girls’ basketball coaches.
Her father, Jeff, is a longtime boys’ basketball coach at St. Barnabas Catholic School on the Southside and her mother, Tina, coached volleyball. Her grandfather, Bob Kirkhoff, who died earlier this year is an Indiana Hall of Fame coach who followed Kellie’s on-court exploits at Roncalli and Marian.
“Obviously it helps to have so many coaches in your family, to have the name ‘Kirkhoff’ and to be playing girls’ basketball … it’s just kind of what we do, I guess,” the third-generation coach said. “Both my grandfather and my dad are very passionate about the game of basketball. I like to think that I got that from them, and with that passion comes intensity and high expectations.”
With her background, she contends that Greencastle is a good fit for her. She will teach biology at the high school and already enjoys the atmosphere at McAnally Center, the same gymnasium where Beech Grove’s boys’ basketball team reached an IHSAA Class 3A boys’ basketball regional title game last season. She also is following a coach who was there for only one season.
Kirkhoff wants a team that can speed up the game with quickness on each end of the court. She will concern herself with the competition later.
And she has the total confidence of Marian University coach Katie Gearlds, the 2003 Indiana Miss Basketball and two-time NAIA national championship coach at Marian.
“Kellie was a fun player to coach, one of the most competitive players we’ve ever had here at Marian,”
Gearlds told Bennett during a recent interview. “She was obviously never the tallest player, but her athleticism and speed made up for that. More than that, her basketball IQ made her easy to coach. She understood what we were looking for, what we needed from her, and what we needed from everyone else as well.”
The Greencastle girls team was 14-8 last season; Kirkhoff seeks to guide the program to its 11th straight winning season.