Playing near home for the first time since 2008, former New Knoxville Ranger Derek Dicke – now Jonathan Alder coach – made that homecoming memorable Saturday with holiday win over New Bremen.
New Bremen, OH – Trust it, Derek Dicke had no trouble in finding the New Bremen gym Saturday night. The former New Knoxville Ranger, and member of the 2008 Division IV state championship team could have walked those nine miles across routes 29 and 274 blindfolded!
It was good to come home. He was proud to come home, the protoge’ of hall of fame and former Ranger coach Dan Hegemier, who coached that 2008 team at New Knoxville. Now, Dicke is the coach of the Jonathan Alder Pioneers from the Central Buckeye Conference, Hegemier is still coaching at St. Marys, and Saturday…was a homecoming, of sorts.
And you guessed it…in his second year at Alder, after eight years as an assistant at Otterbein, Bishop Ready, and most recently at Hilliard Bradley, there were more than a few that came to make up his personal support section.
He didn’t disappoint, sending family and friends home happy with a thrilling 65-61 win over New Bremen, a game that featured a combined 35 three-pointers by both teams…and at times some sloppy, less-than-fundamental basketball that would have driven Hegemier nuts. New Bremen lost, in part, due to shooting just 6 of 17 from the foul line.
“I don’t think Coach would have liked all the three-pointers,” smiled Dicke. “When I was playing I had to throw the ball into our 6’7” center before I even thought about taking a shot. So no, he wouldn’t have liked it (the three-pointers), but the game’s changed so much since then.
“And he definitely wouldn’t have liked the foul shooting. We pride ourselves on our free throw shooting. We take a lot of them during practice because if you missed them for Hegemier you ran, and you ran a lot. I actually brought his free throw practice routine over here with these guys. If you missed two in a row in his practice, you were going to run.”
Hegemier memories aside, playing New Bremen, in New Bremen, was something from Derek Dicke’s bucket list, just 16 years removed from winning that state championship at New Knoxville.
“This is the first time coming back home, and it’s something I wanted to do…something I hope I can keep doing as a tradition. I would love to go to all the MAC schools. I told our guys tonight that this one meant a lot to me. My dad grew up here, my whole Dicke family’s from the New Bremen community…and there’s just something special about being back here.
“The competition from this area has meant so much to my career as a player and now a coach,” he added. “Coach Hegemier used to tell us, ‘You gotta’ tie ’em up real tight (your sneakers) and roll the balls out and play. Every night in the Shelby County League and the MAC was a grind. Anybody here can beat you on a given night. Brett Norris was at Delphos St. John, then at Hilliard, and my biggest mentor when I was his assistant at Bradley for eight years. And we knew that you had to instill that in those guys…that you had to lace ’em up every night. Regardless of the circumstance, you gotta’ play. That’s what I learned from playing here.”
The game has changed from his generation as a guard for Hegemier at New Knoxville. It’s true what he says…that point guards HAD to throw the ball into the post as a first option to score in those days, unless you were Pete Maravich. The difference? Today, everyone thinks they’re Pete Maravich.
“You can preach defense all you want,” says Dicke. “But at the end of the day you’ve got to have guys that can score the ball.”
And true to that point…his own featured scorer, Peyton Heiss, scored his 1,000th career point Saturday night on a wing three-pointer. The game was stopped, as Heiss ran up in the crowd to hug his family and accept congratulations from his friends. In Dicke’s day as a player you played on and got a slap on the butt from Hegemier in practice on Monday – maybe! Such is the change in culture.
“I was never much of a scorer, but I was surrounded by really good scorers,” he added, smiling. “Peyton’s an unbelievable talent, he’s earned everything he’s got, and since the start of practice two months ago he’s yet to miss a 6 am shoot in the morning. That’s the kind of work ethic he has, how he gets what he wants to get out of basketball, and he’s going to go play at Mount Vernon Nazarene on a full ride. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Dicke was passionate as a player, and now he’s passionate on the sideline. Animated, he can be contentious with officials, and works his leverage just like Hegemier, Norris, Jack Albers, and those other coaches from an era that was so much a part of his basketball journey.
“I’m a little passionate on the sideline,” he admits. “It’s one of our core values, one that I demonstrate the most. Sometimes it can get me in trouble with the officials, but it’s just because I care so much about the game and these kids. They deserve the best.”
He admits, too, that he had thought about wearing his championship ring Saturday, from 2008, just for old time’s sake. He did not, however, thinking with coach priorities now, and not those of a player.
But he did eschew the bus ride back to Plain City, choosing instead to stay at home, in New Knoxville, with family, for the holiday weekend, to appreciate the genesis of what he’s become – those core values that he speaks about so proudly. In truth, that’s the present this Christmas holiday that means the most to ‘coach’ Derek Dicke.
That and perhaps a chance call, or meeting, with Dan Hegemier. You never know.
Saturday’s win was just the bow on top.