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The Prowler

Fayette County basketball legend brings his talents to Starr’s Mill

Coach+Evert+instructs+his+junior+varsity+basketball+team+mid-game.+Evert+is+a+former+hall+of+fame+player+for+his+high+school+and+his+college+team.
Coach Evert instructs his junior varsity basketball team mid-game. Evert is a former hall of fame player for his high school and his college team.

Coach Evert instructs his junior varsity basketball team mid-game. Evert is a former hall of fame player for his high school and his college team.

Shelby Foster

Shelby Foster

Coach Evert instructs his junior varsity basketball team mid-game. Evert is a former hall of fame player for his high school and his college team.

Luke Bennett, Staff Writer

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Every young athlete dreams of playing on the varsity team in high school, playing in college and one day being recognized as a hall of fame player. While this might seem like a dream for some, for Kerry Evert, the Starr’s Mill JV boys’ basketball coach, it wasn’t just a dream — it was a reality. 

I was interested in pretty much anything with a ball.”

— JV boys' basketball coach Kerry Evert

Growing up like most kids, much of Evert’s time was dedicated to sports. “Anything I did,” Evert said, “I liked to do it with a ball in my hands.” His fondness for sports goes back as far as he can remember. As a young child, he would go into his backyard by himself and just punt the football over telephone wires and kick it through trees.

Evert played multiple sports including football, basketball, soccer and even a few years of baseball. “I was interested in pretty much anything with a ball,” Evert said.  His interest in sports began with his dad who was a football coach for a number of years. Evert and his dad would go in the yard and play football. He was always a very competitive athlete and credits this to playing with older kids. “I remember being in 2nd grade and playing with 5th and 6th graders,” Evert said. This allowed him to gain a head start in the competitive world of sports.

Evert had a very competitive personality, so by the time high school came around for him, he was playing football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and soccer in the spring. At Fayette County High School, Evert played four years of varsity soccer, four years of varsity basketball and two years of varsity football. “I always enjoyed baseball and soccer,” Evert said, “but basketball was always my favorite.”

During Evert’s junior and senior seasons with the Fayette County basketball team, he led the team in scoring, assists, and steals. Evert was also the second player in Fayette County’s history to score over 1,000 points throughout his career. He finished with 1,124 points through four years while averaging just over two steals and three assists per game.

Playing [in] college was more competitive. Everyone in college was the best person on their high school team.”

— JV boys' basketball coach Kerry Evert

“After high school I was heavily recruited by three schools, Oglethorpe University, Rhodes College and Middle Georgia,” Evert said, “I chose Oglethorpe because it was close to home.”

During Evert’s first year at Oglethorpe, the school was in the NAIA division, a division for smaller schools and programs. However, during his sophomore year, the school was promoted to Division III with the NCAA. Unfortunately, once they were promoted to Division III they were not put into a conference which hurt their chances of going to the NCAA tournament at the end of the year.

“Playing in high school was a lot of fun, especially my senior year. You were the big man on campus, not a lot of people could stop you,” Evert said, “Playing [in] college was more competitive. Everyone in college was the best person on their high school team.”

At the college level, each player on the team had a specific role. As a point guard, Evert’s role was to penetrate and dish. If he strayed too far from his role, then someone else would take his place on the court.

Evert played four years at Oglethorpe. During his time there he won the Most Valuable Player award in various tournaments and was an extremely competitive player throughout his career. His team made a great run one year and made it to the No. 9 ranked team in all of Division III.

Submitted by Kerry Evert
Kerry Evert shoots a basket in a high school basketball game for Fayette County High School. Evert’s skills earned him an induction into the athletic hall of fame in 2002.

However, they weren’t able to finish as strong and ended with an 18-7 record one year and 17-8 other years. However, to make an at-large bid to play in the NCAA tournament at the end of the year, his team would have needed 20 wins. “We finished our season and we were just done those three years,” Evert said. ”It kind of stunk really.”

Throughout most of his high school and college career, Evert avoided any significant injuries or setbacks. However, his senior year of college he sustained a knee injury and needed a cortisone shot to help him continue playing. Luckily, he only missed one game, but he never felt like the same player for the rest of that season. While this wasn’t the ending he had hoped for, Evert had a great career while playing at Oglethorpe becoming the all-time assist leader at one point and joining the 1,000 point club.

Once Evert’s playing career ended, he looked for a new way to display his love of basketball. He found that way in coaching. “I’ve always loved coaching,” Evert said. Ever since his son, 2017 Starr’s Mill graduate Kyle Evert, was playing tee-ball when he was four, Evert had always stepped into voluntary coaching positions. For his kids, he coached basketball, baseball, and football.

The time for Evert to coach at a higher level came in 2014 with an open coaching job on the Starr’s Mill JV basketball team. Evert wanted to take the job, but first he had to talk to his son, who was on the JV team, about him taking the job. His son was skeptical of him taking the job, as most kids are about their parents coaching them, but he eventually gave in.

The team, comprised mostly of players in Kyle’s grade, was glad that he took the job. The team the previous year went 2-8. Evert knew, as a former player, what characteristics were important in being a winning individual and team. He took the advice that he was taught as a player and passed it along to his team.

“I tried to put the kids into a position to succeed,” Evert said. “You don’t want to be defeated before you go out there.”

He wanted to instill a “quiet confidence,” not cockiness, in the kids. He wanted them to believe that they could win. He wanted the kids he was coaching to believe in themselves. The team went with Evert’s ideas and won nine games that season. This winning method allowed Evert to not only establish himself as a good player but a good coach.

When they know that you’ve played in high school and college, and you have been successful and that you know the game, [then] they’ll listen to you.”

— JV boys' basketball coach Kerry Evert

The job of a JV coach is to prepare the younger players to play at the varsity level. “Both teams practice with us,” varsity basketball coach Brandon Hutchins said, “so we kind of do the same practice plan, and [the JV team] learns from both of us.” Learning from both great coaches and practicing with the varsity team prepares the younger generation of Starr’s Mill basketball to do great things in future years.

The player-turned-coach was inducted into the Fayette County Sports Hall of Fame in 2002. He was only the second athlete inducted. Shortly after, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame at his alma mater. “To be in that mix, it was really special,” Evert said.

The transition from being a player to being a coach hasn’t always come easy, but by being a star at both the high school and college level Evert brings a sense of credibility to the team. With his success in the world of basketball, he is able to show the kids that he is coaching now what they need to have to make it to the next level.

“When they know that you’ve played in high school and college, and you have been successful and that you know the game, [then] they’ll listen to you,” Evert said. Not only have his players listened to him, they have adopted his philosophy of play and work ethic.

Many players on the roster eye the future of varsity, college and perhaps beyond. With coach Evert in the huddle and on the bench, this dream might just become a reality.  

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Fayette County basketball legend brings his talents to Starr’s Mill