Basketball mentoring program scores big in East Prairie - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Basketball mentoring program scores big in East Prairie

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It all started when Head Coach Casey Knight decided to try an intramural program for 50 elementary school boys, six Little Eagle teams in all. It all started when Head Coach Casey Knight decided to try an intramural program for 50 elementary school boys, six Little Eagle teams in all.
The experiment turned into something that got the entire community excited about a whole lot more than just basketball. The experiment turned into something that got the entire community excited about a whole lot more than just basketball.
As for the Little Eagles, they say they love learning from the teen coaches, and watching them play. As for the Little Eagles, they say they love learning from the teen coaches, and watching them play.
Coach Knight says he came up with the idea to give the little kids an opportunity to learn fundamentals. Coach Knight says he came up with the idea to give the little kids an opportunity to learn fundamentals.
EAST PRAIRIE, MO (KFVS) -

A new program in East Prairie is turning local youth into better basketball players and better boys all around.

The East Prairie High School Eagles basketball team took on a unique coaching assignment this year. The task: turning Little Eagles into future community stars.

It all started when Head Coach Casey Knight decided to try something new this season. He began an intramural program for 50 elementary school boys, six Little Eagle teams in all.

The experiment turned into something that got the entire community excited about a whole lot more than just basketball.

Of course, it all starts with lessons in drills and skills.

"We just teach them the fundamentals and they really look up to us," said Seth Johnson. Johnson is a sophomore on the Varsity squad. "It's been great being a coach for the elementary boys."

"It would have helped me a lot as a player," said Brett Ellis, another member of the Eagle Varsity squad. He also serves as one of the Little Eagle coaches. Ellis enjoys coaching all the younger boys, including his little brother.

"He teaches me how to dribble and how to shoot," said Hayden Ellis, a third grade Little Eagle. "I think he learns from me too."

The program, of course, breeds better athletes.

"We get to have fun and win some games and play," said first grade Little Eagle Evan Kenedy.

But it fosters better citizens overall.

"If doesn't matter if you win or lose it's how you play the game," said Little Eagle, Royce Carter.

"You just go out there and do your best," said Jase Aycock, a Little Eagle. "They teach us a lot."

Coach Knight says he came up with the idea to give the little kids an opportunity to learn fundamentals. Otherwise the closest town they'd have an opportunity to play in would be Sikeston. For some that just wasn't possible. He wanted them to be able to play at home in East Prairie.

"I thought there's no better way than to use my basketball players as coaches," said Coach Knight. "They can be a good influence and a good leader and a good role model for my little kids."

Results far exceeded Coach Knight's expectations on an off the court.

"To be a basketball player you have to be a good student a good role model. You're representing the community," said Coach Knight. "The little ones idolize the high school boys and look up to them and it's so neat that one day they know they'll be coaching little kids."

The teen coaches say the Little Eagles open up to them.

"When you see them it makes you want to act right do better," said Johnson. "It's a very big deal. If you let them down it's like you're letting yourself down too."

They love knowing they make a difference.

"Whenever we tell them something and they smile and I know they got it, that feels really good," said Ellis.

As for the Little Eagles, they say they love learning from the teen coaches, and watching them play.

"It's not just about winning it's about playing and having fun with your friends," said Little Eagle, Elijah Hall.

"When they tell me good job, it makes me feel good," said Rafe Byassee.

Parents also say the program has made a difference.

"It's been a big deal for the entire community," said Leslie Kenedy, Little Eagle parent. "I think it's good for old and young. I mean just to be able to see the high school students out there playing and know that's what the little ones want to be doing, that's just everything to them."

The Little Eagles play their final games this Friday night, and Saturday. They hope to continue the program again next year.

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