It’s back to basketball business for Doug Stotler at Lewis and Clark Community College. He’s courtside again and appreciating every minute of it.
“I’m just doing what I want to do,” said Stotler, the Trailblazers’ men’s basketball coach and director of athletics. “It’s so much fun to be involved in basketball again, and watching the kids play with enthusiasm, heart and courage.”
Stotler, 52, has been involved with basketball all his life, including memorable time at LCCC from 1993-2009. The past five years, he served as director of athletics at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo. The Vikings dropped their men’s basketball program and Stotler missed coaching the sport.
So when Deon Thomas departed as AD and coach from LCCC in June to become an assistant at Illinois-Chicago, Stotler reunited with the ’Blazers. He’s glad he returned.
“I enjoy being the AD because you can see and appreciate the game,” he said of his time at Jeffco. “But you don’t feel it like you do as a coach. That’s why it’s so much fun to be involved in basketball again from a competitive standpoint.”
The Trailblazers, who participate at the NJCAA Division I level in men’s basketball, are going through a transitional season. They lost their opener to West Plains, Mo., 83-76, on Nov. 5. The ’Blazers play at Mineral Area and Three Rivers this weekend in a tournament at Park Hills, Mo.
“I’m having a blast and what really makes it fun are the three guys that are helping me this season,” he said.
Milton Stith, formerly a LCCC assistant, has reunited with Stotler. Justin Sims and John Steen, ex-standout players at Alton High, also are assisting.
“They are so good with what they are doing,” Stotler said. “We’re running a ‘Princeton offense’ that Lee Bennett used to run at Alton High. Justin and John know a lot about it because they played for Lee.”
Stotler added, “You can’t play a high school version of that offense in college because of the shot clock, but there’s a way to do it in college. We have some bugs to work out with it, but I think it’s effective for our talent. What we have to do is figure out where our shots come during the shot clock.”
The 14-player roster includes Devon Hart, a 6-foot sophomore guard from Alton High; and Eldin Salmond, a 5-10 sophomore guard from Madison. Salmond played prep ball at Belleville Althoff.
Michael Williams-Bey, a freshman guard from AHS, is at LCCC, though he is a nonparticipant — or red-shirt — this season. “He will be eligible to play next season,” Stotler said.
Overall, the Trailblazers showcase 11 sophomores and three freshmen. One of Stotler’s main goals is to tap the River Bend for more recruits.
“We want to return to our primary recruitment in having a regional look, with players predominantly from Illinois,” he said. “That’s what I’ve done in the past.”
He’s also working on a reunion for former LCCC players. They were the Bucks when the program started in 1971 and Stotler is trying to bring back ex-Bucks to recognize at a game later this season.
“We hope to do it sometime in February,” he said. Call Stotler at (618) 468-6200 for details. Former LCCC coaches are included in the reunion.
The school dropped its basketball program in the mid-1980s, then revived it in 1993 when Stotler became the head coach. Thus, he’s seen plenty of history and helped write part of it along the way. LCCC recorded a 310-192 record during Stotler’s 16 years at the school and registered two top-7 finishes in the D-2 nationals at Danville.
“It’ll take some time to put this team together, but it’s so much fun to be doing this again,” he said of coaching.