Coach Carter’s Inspiration Has East Kentwood Girls Basketball Program on the Upswing
Don VanderVeen | ADVANCE NEWSPAPERS, February 16, 2012 10:12 p.m.
When asked to explain why his team is playing so well and in contention for an O-K Red Conference championship this season, first-year East Kentwood girls basketball coach Jimmy Carter responded with the words of a president.
“It’s like President Kennedy would say,” Carter recites. “When somebody asks us why? We say ‘Why not?’”
East Kentwood girls basketball teams have not won a league championship since before the turn of the century in 1999, but the Falcons have an outside shot to win or share their first O-K Red Conference title since Clinton Administration. If the Falcons are to party like it’s 1999, they will need a little bit of help over the final week of the season by teams who play league-leading Grand Haven.
“I don’t pay any attention to that kind of stuff,” Carter said. “Each team is a little different and each group of kids is a little different.
“We’re trying to get a program to turn a new leaf and change how they feel about themselves. It’s about turning a new leaf or a new page with a direction and belief in yourself and what you are trying to do.”
The Falcons went into Friday night’s game with Jenison with a record of 14-3 and tied with Rockford for second in the O-K Red standings at 9-2 with three games remaining.
East Kentwood plays at Rockford on Tuesday.
Coach Carter, 65, was a longtime assistant coach for both boys and girls basketball in the City League. He was the head boys coach at Creston in the late 1990s and returned to coaching as an assistant at East Kentwood when his grandchildren were playing there. He took over as head coach at East Kentwood after Lori Young resigned last summer.
“I do have a passion for it,” Carter said. “I enjoy working with the kids giving them back something a little bit. I have a lot of stuff to give yet. I know I can’t take it with me.”
He has instilled his newest team with a “can-do” attitude, while removing the “im” from possible.
“The kids play well together as a team,” Carter said. “They all are being held accountable for their action or inaction, and they’ve all stepped up and are being held accountable. That goes for the classroom as well. We have some rules set up and they abide by the rules. If they don’t abide by the rules, they face the consequences.
“They come to practice and they work,” Carter added. “They’ve been told before what they couldn’t do. I’m telling them what they can do and they believe what they can do.
“They believe in themselves and believe in what we do.”
Those beliefs first came to fruition with an outstanding start to the season and a 45-36 victory over perennial O-K Red powerhouse Grand Haven in December. Grand Haven won the rematch by an identical score on Jan. 31. No other O-K Red Conference team has beaten the Bucs to this point.
“They believed in themselves before they got to Grand Haven,” Carter said. “It didn’t matter what somebody else thought about us. It’s more important of what we thought of ourselves.”
East Kentwood’s starting five of Khadijah Seawood, Shaina Johnson, Chrijuan Carter, Brittany Terry and LaMeeka Davis have all scored in double figures in one game or another.
“The kids feel good about themselves,” Carter said. “Those are the main people we need to have feeling good. We have to make sure we’re doing what we’re supposed to do and everything else falls into place.”