Fri, 14 Feb 2014 22:49:26 GMT —
Off the court, you won't find a nicer guy than Craig Engelbrecht.
Quiet, unassuming, low-key, God-fearing, likable.
On the court, he's roughly half of that. Let's just say he's still God-fearing and likable ... most of the time.
But he can be more animated than Homer Simpson.
"We play a style that I think is exciting for the fans and we want to get the kids excited to play," said Engelbrecht, head basketball coach of the Eugene Eagles. "I'd like to be more coach K-like (Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski) and just sit there and watch everything work smoothly, and you never have to raise your voice.
"But that's just not my style ... I start every game thinking I'll do that, but it never works."
Technically speaking, however, Engelbrecht is certainly not out of control.
"I've been very lucky this year, I've had no technical fouls," he said. "Maybe they've just gotten tired of calling them on me."
But then, when your team is 19-1 and ranked third in the state, there's not much to be upset about.
More on the team to come.
First, let's consider this: Perhaps Engelbrecht's animated nature on the court comes from his background off the court.
"I hadn't thought about that, but probably so," he said with a laugh. "People have said that I'm very dramatic, so maybe that does come from my drama background."
Besides being a speech and drama teacher, Engelbrecht was in charge of the school's spring play for 15 years.
"When the principal came to me and asked if I could do a spring play," Engelbrecht recalled, "and get paid as much as I'd get paid for two seasons of baseball (fall and spring), I said: 'Are you kidding?'
"So I accepted that opportunity. I was full-fledged speech and drama. Putting on a play is no different than coaching basketball, you have to get people in the right position and get them doing in the right direction.
"I thought it was a natural progression."
This is just a part of Craig's List --- basketball, drama, dramatic basketball, winning basketball.
Engelbrecht grew up in Eugene and after earning his degree in Education from the now-University of Central Missouri, he taught and coached girls basketball at Russellville for three years.
Then he returned home.
"The job opened up and I thought it would be kind of cool to go back to your hometown, although a lot of people thought it wasn't a good thing to do," Engelbrecht said.
A lot of people can be wrong a lot of the time.
"It's worked out fine, I think," Engelbrecht said with a smile. "I don't know why it's been so special, but when you go to a school and spend all your time there, you want to do the best you can for the community and the school.
"So I think it's been a good fit."
You could say that.
Engelbrecht is in his 27th year at the school. To add to his list:
* He was Eugene's assistant basketball coach for three years.
* He's been head coach for the past 24 years, and earned his 400th career win at the Nixa Tournament in late January.
"I've been coaching a long time and I'm old, that's all that means, I've been told that," said Engelbrecht, 52. "But it was still very special, to be around this long and to still enjoy what I'm doing and having this many good players come through our program."
This was 400 wins at Eugene, it doesn't count his time at Russellville. So how many wins, total, does he have?
"Well," Engelbrecht said, "I don't know. I've been looking through my notes and I can't find anything on those three years. I even looked through those Russellville year books and I can't find what our record was.
"I thought it was pretty important, but I guess it wasn't that significant."
* He took Eugene to the state championship game in 1992, losing to Portageville.
* He was the head baseball coach at Eugene for three years, taking to team to the Final Four in 1988. The Eagles finished third.
* He's also taught English and world literature and, for the last four years, physical education.
Now, back to this year's team. The Eagles aren't good, they are really good.
"I think we've overachieved as far as what we thought we could do this year," Engelbrecht said. "We return most of our players from last year; last year was kind of a growing experience, and we thought we'd be successful this year.
"But I don't think any of our players, in their wildest imaginations, could imagine we'd have the season that we've had thus far."
The team's lone loss was to Class 5 Nixa in the championship game of the Nixa Tournament.
"This is a very mature group," Engelbrecht said. "They approach every game with the mindset that they're going to do the best they can; they've had great focus in every game."
They always seem to come up big ... even though they're anything but. The tallest player on the roster is 6-4.
"We've never had much size at Eugene, except the '92 team --- that's probably why we went the Final Four," Engelbrecht said. "We've been undersized for so many years, we're used to it.
"Our style of play is press full court, get teams going fast, and trying to shoot the ball in the basket. We've had a lot of good shooters through the years, and this team is no different.
"As a matter of fact, I think this might be one of the best shooting teams we've ever had."
Leading the charge for the Eagles --- who are averaging 78 points a game --- is 5-11 senior point guard Cody Shaw, who's averaging 17 points and four assists.
"Cody has really matured as a leader," Engelbrecht said. "His skills are obvious, but his leadership has been so much better this year. He makes us go. He's the total package ... he just does everything."
Juniors Tyler and Travis Kempker --- 6-2, 170-pound junior twins --- are averaging 14 and 12 points, respectively, while 5-10 senior Drew Geritz (8.5 ppg.) is the biggest spark off the bench.
"Drew is instant offense, he's like a microwave," Engelbrecht said. "As soon as he comes into the game, we want him to shoot and put the ball in the basket, and he doesn't disappoint."
The Eagles will celebrate Homecoming on Friday night when they host Tuscumbia, in a game that will feature 61 years and 1,652 games of head coaching experience --- not to mention 1,097 wins.
Engelbrecht has a career mark of 402-237, while Tuscumbia's Bill Blanton --- a 37-year veteran of the high school wars at numerous stops --- is 695-328.
"That's a lot of old guys together coaching basketball," Engelbrecht said. "It's going to be fun; it's always fun to match wits with Bill. I have a lot of respect for him and what he does with his programs."
Sixty-one years, 1,652 games and 1,097 wins on the court at the same time.
If that isn't a state record for one game, it has to be close.
Just another thing to add to the list.