Hampton takes Lady Champs' reins
Kendall Hampton has been a life-long student of the game of basketball.
From her earliest days of playing junior pro, all the way to being a national runner up in the NAIA at Cumberland University, she's seen the best of what the game has to offer.
That life-long dedication to the sport recently led her to being named the Cascade Lady Champion head basketball coach.
Hampton, a two-sport athlete at the college level, also was drawn to the job as Cascade has expanded its athletic program and will now feature a varsity volleyball program as well—which Hampton will also helm as the head coach.
“To have the two sports I played and loved, and to be able to share that with kids, that's something not a lot of people can say they get to do,” she said.
During her high school years, she got rather familiar with the general area.
From Sparta, Hampton often faced Shelbyville Central in the region, but also competed in the thick of a highly talented district.
“At the time, we were part of the same district with Riverdale, Oakland, Segel and Blackman. And we were always in the top third of that district. We played Shelbyville Central a lot—so I'm familiar with the area because of that,” she said.
She followed her high school career as a two-sport athlete at Cumberland University for her freshman year, but decided to focus on basketball for the remainder of her college years.
“We were national runners up in the NAIA division my sophomore year. That was a lot of fun to be part of. It was a good overall experience,” she said.
“I had teammtes from all over the world and a great thing to be part of. I hope to develop girls here to get that same opportunity.”
Like her playing career, Hampton began at the earliest stages of competition and eventually found her way as an assistant at Cascade Middle School under coach Chad Spencer.
“After that, I coached at an elementary level, which is where I started primarily as a school counselor. I've done travel basketball for quite some time at the middle school level. I was an assistant at Rock Springs Middle School two years before I got here, and then I was an assistant basketball here under Chad (Spencer),” she said.
Due to changes in coaching personnel last season, the Lady Champions had a tumultuous year.
Hampton hopes to not only provide a stable offseason in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also provide stability within the program.
“I think working on creating that team environment and unity amongst all of us and being there for them because they've had such a change in the last year. The biggest thing is, I want them to know I'm here to be here,” she said.
Being a smaller school, Cascade hasn't always had the height of other programs.
Noticing the returning talent, Hampton already has a basis of a plan of the type of game she wants to instill within her players.
“I favor more of a fast-paced game, especially when you have athletes like we have. I look to definitely move the ball up and down the floor more than what they've done in the past. That's something especially we can do when we're not quite as big as other teams,” she said.
While she is the third coach Cascade has had in three seasons, Hampton also hopes to return Cascade to a team that is a perennial challenger in the region tournament.
“As a player, I never had a losing season. I definitely want to push them to be at the level I played at and I experienced. We're going to be very disciplined. I think that's a big piece,” she said.
Discipline is just part of the equation and Hampton hopes to push the Lady Champions to put the necessary work in the offseason before the new season tips off later this fall.
“You have to be willing to work hard when nobody is watching, so that when they are, you're primed and ready to go,” she said.
As if the transition as the new coach doesn't have enough challenges, Hampton also has the task of navigating through a volitile COVID-19 pandemic.
“As far as right now, we can't have any phyiscal contact, speaking to offense and defense. We're able to do a lot of drills, similar to what we would do in season. But we can't do any kind of offense or defense work like we would in season where there is significant contact,” she said.
Although she hasn't had a ton of time in the gym with her returning players, she's pleased with the effort level so far.
“They have definitely raised the bar to where I want them to be.”