Tuesday, May 29, 2018
Souder a Sycamore -- TUESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
CHRIS SOUDER LEAVING MERCER COUNTY TO ACCEPT ASSISTANT JOB AT INDIANA STATE.
Chris Souder probably won't be at a lot of Seygan Robins games for UofL this year. He and Robins were essential in getting Mercer Country girls high school basketball to two straight Kentucky titles in 2016-17 and 2017-18. His team last year had four seniors headed off to play college basketball...Robins maybe the most significant...with her joining Jeff Walz's Cards.
And it now looks like Chris Souder will be departing with those seniors. After being named the Coach of the Year for two straight years in Kentucky girls basketball venue, he's leaving the high school scene for the collegiate ranks. He'll be an assistant on first year coach Vicki Hall's staff at Indiana State University. Hall took over the Sycamores WBB program on March 21st...after ISU finished 11-19 and 9-9 in Missouri Valley Conference play. The ISU squad saw their head coach Joey Wells resign after a 2-11 start in the 2017-18 season and finished the season under interim Josh Keister.
"I will not be returning to the sidelines (at Mercer County) next season to pursue an opportunity I just can't pass up". Souder texted. "This is definitely bittersweet for me."
A chance to be a part of something from ground level. A chance to work with an up and coming former assistant coach at Toledo who helped build the resurgence in Rockets basketball. It has to be quite hard for Souder to just walk away from all that he had built at Mercer County over the past 19 years. A 490-214 record. Teams that won 20 or more games in 16 of those 19 seasons.
Be there no doubt about the next statement. Chris Souder knows high school basketball talent. A very wise move by Hall to bring someone on board who has been evaluating, scouting and developing high school girl cagers for the last 19+ years. That's a huge boon to Indiana State recruiting possibilities. The Sycamores also have five seniors listed on a ten-player roster...so new troops will be needed. With the dynamic Hall in charge, it shouldn't be too hard for ISU coaches to get into living rooms and talk to student-athletes and parents.
Hall was the 1988 Indiana Miss Basketball at Brebeuf High School in Indianapolis...plus the Gatorade and Naismith national player of the year. A Hoosier legend, so to speak. Terre Haute and Indiana State is one hour west of Indy....on I-70.
Souder was a 1984 graduate from Harrodsburg High School, the county seat of Mercer County. Leaving an area where he basically grew up and has many relatives can't be easy. I know that the decision has to be rough. I'll follow the Sycamores next year. After all, Larry Bird went to and prospered at ISU. Basketball has a history in Terre Haute. The Missouri Valley conference is a strong one in women's basketball with Bradley, Drake, Evansville, Illinois State, Loyola, Missouri State, Northern Illinois, Southern Illinois and Valparaiso being members along with Indiana State.
Cardinal Couple became a fan of Souder and Mercer County back when Robins was a sophomore in high school. His dynamic style on the court, his down-home friendly approach in media interviews and his willingness to talk to Cardinal Couple and have his players do the same won us over. Paulie made travels to Harrordsburg to watch Mercer County play, to interview Robins and Souder and also caught up with them at Girls' LIT events and when they would traverse to Louisville for games against the Jefferson County schools.
Souder invited me to watch a practice during last year's season. I arrived in Harrodsburg to catch about the last half hour. Entering through a side door to the Mercer County gym, I may have caught the participants a bit off guard. Souder stopped practice, though, came over to me, shook my hand and took a brief minute to introduce me to the team before resuming the practice.
I stood in the end zone watching the drills and the scrimmage that ended practice. There with me was one of the Lake sisters, (Lexy), who was icing a sore ankle. We chatted about the team casually, what it was like to play for Coach and eventually...I got my interview with Coach Souder and Seygan. A fun and informative interview. You can find it here in our archives, if you want to recall it, on the Thursday Nov. 17th, 2017 edition of Cardinal Couple.
Souder cared about all of his players. If a player's ride or parents were late to pick them up after practice, he would tease them that it was a long walk home...but would wait with them until they were safely picked up. His niece Emmy was on those championship squads. Stories of Sunday cookouts and get together's lent a "we are all family" approach to what is Mercer County girls basketball. Exactly what you want to see in a program.
A new opportunity. A chance to see if the principals and theories that Souder used in high school and which got multiple Mercer County girls to the NCAA, Division I and college work once you are coaching college hoops. Souder won't be the most popular man in the county like he was in Mercer, nor will he be the top dog of hoops in Terre Haute. What he will be is an experienced, successful and engaging staff member that will try and help to right the ship in Terre Haute after three years of less-than-stellar-ISU WBB.
Bittersweet. I hate seeing him go but wish him well.
I'll miss my chats with Coach in the Mercer County venue. I'll miss the drives to Harrordsburg and stopping on the way for a few pieces of Bojangles chicken and fixins. There are no Bojangles in Illinois. J Ford's Black Angus Steakhouse serves up a quite decent rib eye and you have to try their their lobster corn dogs...yes, you read that right...lobster corn dogs. Cackleberry's served a pretty good breakfast last time I was up there...I hope they're still around.
Maybe we'll get a chance to chat with him in his new role as a assistant. We can only hope that Mercer County's loss turns into the Wabash Valley's gain.
Coach Souder was one that I figured would eventually retire from Mercer County after 30 or so years of coaching. A native son of that area. Sometimes, though, you have to take the chance. Grab that golden ring of opportunity and see what it can get you. Where will it lead you? I have no doubt that Chris could return to just about any high school gig he wanted if it didn't work out at ISU...but let's take the positive and high road approach here. I'm sure there was a lot of thought involved in the move.
Remember, a kid from Iroquois High School took a chance and left the safety of Rick Pitino's staff years ago and that move turned into a love affair between Scott Davenport and Bellarmine.
A journeyman assistant coach took a gamble and asked for an interview at a major university right after he had been on a staff that had won a national championship. UofL and Tom Jurich took a chance on Jeff Walz and that worked out pretty well, right? Remember the players coaches took chances on who turned out to be relevant parts of championship teams? It's your turn to see where the road of opportunity takes you. Travel confidently. After all, one never knows until they try.
Go pursue that dream, Coach Souder. See where it will take you. Go...knowing that there are a whole lot of fans in your corner wishing you the best and want to see you succeed. Players that are grateful for your guidance. Reporters who enjoyed interviewing you. Friends and family who want the best for you. Ride the tiger, climb the Sycamore, join the staff and grow with the trees. The Sycamore variety.