Boys ready for Battle again/Player profile: Noah Trader

Pat Battle is home again.

The once leader of the Pleasant Ridge Rams’ boys’ basketball team has found his way back to Easton after some years away, after Drew Williams left the post after last season to coach at Tonganoxie High School.

Battle is now working at the school where he says he enjoyed his greatest successes to date in his 27 previous years coaching.

He was a head coach at Pleasant Ridge from 2004-2011 before moving back to Junction City, where he had been an assistant, and was the team’s head coach for five years. Last year he was the head coach at Atchison County High School.

“When the opportunity was presented to come back here, my family jumped at the chance, so here we are,” Battle said. “I bleed blue and gold. This is family. My very formative years were here. Both my kids went to kindergarten here – one is going to be a seventh-grader and one will be a sophomore. I had some of the greatest successes I’ve had.

“I love the area, I love Leavenworth. Friends are here. Even coming back over the years for funerals, weddings, what have you, this is a family personal decision.”

Battle’s Rams went 18-4 and lost in the sub-state finals in 2009-10 when the school went up for a year of 4A ball. They also won three Delaware Valley League titles during Battle’s first tenure in Easton.

The players are adjusting to a familiar face on the sideline even if they are now just experiencing Battle first-hand as a coach.

“I grew up with my brother (Gary) and he played basketball when he was with coach here,” senior Dayton Flack said. “I used to come and watch him play a lot and I enjoyed it a lot. I always wanted to play for him. I am glad I get to play with him now. He’s a really good coach, I’ve always respected him and the way he coaches. He likes to get hands on with you and if you say, ‘I want to do this,’ he will help you fix it.

“Every time I do something wrong he’ll come over and help. I try to get that in my mindset on what I need to do.”

The players still recognize the contributions Williams provided to the program despite its struggles over the past few years as he dealt with player defections.

“He knew what he was doing,” senior Logan Baker said. “He had coached at big schools and he came here and tried to teach us a whole new mindset of offense and defense. I enjoyed it, I guess others didn’t. He just wanted to push you mentally every single day.

“I stayed because I love basketball and have played ever since first grade. I guess others didn’t have the priority of basketball in front of their other hobbies.”

“I thought he was a fantastic coach and I enjoyed everything he did,” Flack added. “He was trying to get us better. People here aren’t used to the mindset he had: To get better every single day.”

Battle appreciates the groundwork Williams attempted to lay on the Rams’ hardwood.

“I am pretty excited about our opportunity,” Battle said. “We have some kids that can play inside and score and others that can score from the perimeter as well. How we develop a point guard is going to be a huge part of it. It’s probably going to be by committee. What’s exciting about it, when you look at players 1-5, they can all handle the basketball. A point center isn’t a bad thing either. There are some opportunities there.

“I feel the key to us getting better is to what degree do we fill and play our roles and where we have improved defensively? We will be different – not good or bad. They were exclusively man and we will mix it. We will do a variety of things that necessitate how we can be successful.”

The cultural shift for the program is now about those players who stuck it out with Williams and battled and went through the ups and downs and now want to take the next step.

“I feel like the people who stayed and are working out and trying to push themselves have the better mindset and are acting like they want to be here,” Flack said. “We hit a lot of open cuts and try to hit the man cutting through. But, when things aren’t working for us, we like to go behind the arc … and settle for one of those (long, low percentage shots).”

So far, Baker sees some good stuff coming out of the summer.

“I like how a lot of our underclassmen are committed and most of us are here almost every day,” Baker said. “We need to work on rebounding and boxing out.”

Battle has an appreciation for the veterans of the program that have hung around.

“The fact that they stuck with it is going to pay off,” Battle said. “They are receptive and open to my philosophy and the way that I coach, which is just different. There are some things they really do well that Drew instilled in them. I see those things. The key for us, is their commitment to the offseason strength and conditioning program and getting more physical. We have seen guys from this program that are there every day and that’s going to be a part of becoming better athletes.”

Player Profile: Noah Trader - Doing What it Takes

Entering his senior year in school, Pleasant Ridge’s Noah Trader is doing whatever he can to make his basketball dreams come true.

The 6-foot-2 Rams’ stalwart has done a little bit of everything over the recent years from playing inside because he’s his team’s tallest player to moving to a perimeter position when playing AAU ball.

He’s been learning how to take his game to the next level while taking some lumps.

“I’ve been going to weights every summer and playing AAU tournaments all around,” Trader said. “(Playing with the Kansas City Pacers) we practice two nights a week and have tournaments on the weekend. It’s a lot faster and a lot more athletic guys that can shoot the ball really, really well. I do OK, not as good as I do during the season (at Pleasant Ridge). It’s more competition.

“It’s really helping my guard play. Here I play a post or power forward, but there I play a guard, so that helps my handles and getting quicker and trying to get past guys. I’ve been working on moves every single day. I have been working on my guard play more, because that’s what I would have to play in college.”

Trader really wants to work on his game to get to a point to parlay his skill set into a scholarship.

“I’ll probably end up at a small college or any college I can go to,” Trader said. “I can go wherever really.”

Once he leaves, he would be walking away from a high school program that means a lot to him.

“I have really great teammates and every coach we’ve had, even though they left, they were here and wanted us to get better,” Trader said.

Trader is a hoop junkie, but he still is able to do some normal kid stuff.

“Most of the time when I am not playing basketball, I go fishing all around here,” Trader said. “I go to the fishing lakes and small ponds. I go fishing with most teammates. I go about twice a week. I am OK, I catch something every time I go. I like catching crappie and the best fish I caught was probably a five-pound bass, that’s not that good. Crappie are fun to get and they are really good to eat.”