Keller's Basketball Blog

December 30: What is a Cager?

I sometimes, ok how about often, get grief for my vintage approach to coaching.  “So what is a cager?” I ask my sophomore team.  First I get the blank stares and then a barrage of attempts to answer.  “Ask your parents.”  I challenge them.  OK parents, what is a cager?  Well for those of you with a bit more gray hair might know and if you don’t here is how the term became a symbolic description of a basketball player.

In the initial era of basketball as we know it, an out of bounds pass was awarded to the first person to possess it. Well, it didn't take long for this rule to cause problems. Players were fighting for balls off of the were getting involved...and it was more like today's pro wrestling than it was basketball. Well, like hockey, it was decided that it would be an improvement for fans if the court was "caged" with a fence, and the patrons were protected. The players ended up playing in a "cage," and thus the tag "Cagers" became a common term of endearment. Soon after the decision to "cage" the court came an even better one - to change the out of bounds rule altogether.

Today the cager term is rarely used, but I like to think that it continues to serve as a basketball metaphor about life for our girls.  I think we all hope that playing basketball provides an outlet for them to find and expand their talent.   We can, for a small amount of time each day, protect them from all the frustrating influences of world events.  Our “cage” is about surrounding them with an environment of support, teamwork and individual success.  Let’s celebrate our Forest Lake Cagers.

December 18: The Littlest Angels

I break from tradition and I have prepared this tribute to the shooting victims from last week.

In a sky filled with stars

Full of sparkle, oh so bright.

There is something quite special

On this cold winter night.


A new constellation appears

so clear to my eye

I am in awe of the sight

But I am not sure I know why.


I stand in the snow

and stare for a while.

As twenty stars form a face

with a huge child smile.


Our new littlest angels

Have found their way

Playing games in the heavens

To let us know it is okay.


Holding hands with each other

Only love, no more fears.

Their six teachers beside them

Smiling brightly, no more tears.


So the next chance you get

Look for the brightest shooting star

You will say to yourself

“littlest angel” there you are.




So let me set the stage.  It was Saturday and I was  four games into a seven game commitment to officiate a traveling tournament.  On one end of the floor was a seventh grade team from the host city, Osceola, starting warm up drills.  Seemed routine (like there is every a routine with girls basketball) and then at the other basket their opponent.  I did a double take wondering if this team was at the wrong gym or even the wrong tournament.  Eight girls, with average height less than five feet, started to warm up getting ready to play against Osceola with a significant height and size advantage.  On their jerseys it read “Clayton” a small town in western Wisconsin from what I learned.   “Oh my!”,   thinking of the route that was about to happen.  As I prepared to toss the ball for the opening tip the smallest of the Clayton players stepped into the circle, laughed and said, “only kidding”.  Then it happened. Clayton defined early and often who the real underdogs were in this game.  Up and down the court the smallish players proved that basketball is not about physical size, but about discipline, about fundamentals, about doing the little things really well.  You name it, the Clayton team did it.  They moved without the ball, set picks, shot with great skill, played great defense, boxed out, ran a set offense – shall I go on?  And the girl who joked about taking the jump, well, she was the best of them all.  She was running the team and the offense like a varsity point guard.  The giants on the floor was not the team from Osceola, in fact this team got thumped by the visiting Clayton team.  During this game it was Clayton who were the giants of the hard court.  They did the little thing really well making big things happen, they played with passion, they had huge hearts  and they were having fun.    The Clayton Giants represent basketball at its very best.  While their goal was to win, they defined success by how they played.  We should all learn from this young team.   Oh, by the way, after congratulating the Clayton coach for one of the best games of the day he told me that they were all sixth graders playing up in this tournament.  Western Wisconsin be ready.



OK let me tell you a story.  The year was 1992 and then a younger Coach Keller, with less gray (yea there was a time), was hosting customers in Barcelona, Spain the home of the summer Olympics. The job had its perks.  It was the night of the semi-final basketball game where the winner advances to the gold medal game.  The US's "dream team", as they were called, took the floor.  Just being in the arena with the likes for Micheal Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson was a once in a life time experience, but can you imagine the opponent thoughts.  These NBA professionals had thrashed every team up to this point, so they warmed up with extreme confidence.  On the floor walked the team from Lithuania dressed in their donated "tie dye" uniforms getting ready to play the best team in the world.  The modern day inventor of the Olympics once said "the most important thing is not to win, but to take part". Hold on a minute.  The Lithuanians had other ideas in mind.  When you translate the Olympic motto from its original Latin it means, "faster, higher stronger".  On this night the underdog would run faster, jump higher and just played stronger basketball at least during the first half.  The US team was humbled by the tenacity, confidence and teamwork of their opponent recognizing that you just can't show up and expect to win. At the final buzzer the "dream team" prevailed sending them to the gold medal game which the won easily.  As the game ended, the "tie dye guys", had won a moral victory and then, still in amazement of the opportunity, requested autographs from the the NBA players.  What an experience basketball can offer. Incidentially, the Lithuanians advanced to win the bronze medal the next night.

The 2012/13 Ranger team has chosen the symbolism behind the Olympics as their theme this season.  The Olympic Rings show five interlocking circles that represent the five parts of the world participating in the Olympics.  To the Ranger team it represents five players, at any given time on the floor, playing together, playing with pride, playing with heart regardless of the opponent. The teams at all levels are in training and getting ready.  Are we a dream team?  Well let's just say we are a team dreaming of great success this season.  We will be ready. So, let the games begin!