The name Aaron Eaton is very familiar to fans of the Kennard-Dale boys’ basketball program of the early-to-mid 1990s.
One of the school’s all-time great players, Eaton teamed up with Adam Miller, Craig Sharnetzka and others to lead the K-D boys to unprecedented success, including a District 3 Class 3-A championship.
Eaton and Sharnetzka are looking to recapture the magic that made Fawn Grove a hotbed for basketball back in 1992 and 1993.
Only this time, it will be on the girls' side of things.
Eaton, a 1995 graduate, was recently named the school’s new varsity head girls' coach for the 2018-19 campaign. He’ll take over the program from his mentor, Bob Rudisill, who stepped down after leading the Rams to the second round of the PIAA Class 4-A playoffs this winter.
While some things will certainly be different — namely the fact that the legendary Rudisill won’t be on the bench — Eaton doesn’t figure to change a whole lot in his first season. Both he and Sharnetzka were a part of Rudisill’s staff the past two years. Another holdover from that staff, Duane Deppen, will also be back, meaning that the majority of the coaches that the girls have become acquainted with will remain intact.
“I think we just have to stick to what we do,” Eaton said. “I don’t think it’s anything fancy or unique. We just have to keep building off of what Coach Bob built here.”
Trying to stay positive, emphasize sportsmanship: One of the biggest takeaways that Eaton, who played for Rudisill at K-D when he was the boys’ coach, is to always try to stay positive. While the negative things that can happen on and off the court seem to draw more attention than the positive ones, Eaton hopes to keep things positive with his squad.
Eaton hopes a good deal of that positive vibe will include a strong level of sportsmanship, something that the program displayed under Rudisill. Eaton had a good seat for a valiant display of sportsmanship that was bestowed upon the Rams back in 1993.
Back then, Miller, who set the Y-A League’s all-time scoring mark that season, was closing in on the 2,000-point mark for his career. In a game against West York in the York-Adams League playoffs that season, Miller had a chance to hit the 2,000-point mark with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left. Miller, however, missed his first attempt but converted on his second, leaving him at 1,999 points.
With the Rams firmly in control of the game, West York’s Travis Hoffman decided to make the unusual, by sportsmanlik, decision to inbound the ball directly to Miller so he could reach the 2,000-point milestone in the victory.
“That was pretty classy, is what it was,” said Eaton, who also spent two years as Rudisill’s assistant at York Suburban in 2008 and 2009.
Eaton, who has two daughters (a third grader and a seventh grader) in the K-D youth program, would like that type of gesture to become emblematic of the K-D girls' program.
And, in his opinion, the foundation for that is already strong right now.
“I think that one of the things that Bob has helped create here is a positive environment,” Eaton said. “We’re constantly trying to build confidence, and we have each other’s back in everything we do.”
Coming off successful season: Eaton will also inherit the task of continuing a very successful K-D girls' season from 2017-18. K-D made the Y-A League, District 3 and PIAA 4-A playoffs this past year and finished 15-13 overall. With no seniors on the roster, even bigger things could be expected from the squad in Eaton’s first year.
Eaton, however, doesn’t believe that those expectations will impact how he determines success in his first season at the helm.
“Does our success last year create a pretty high expectation?,” Eaton said. “Maybe externally it does, but certainly not internally. I think that our group right now has a lot of girls that like to compete. They don’t really like to lose and they’re used to winning, whether that is in basketball or lacrosse or softball or whatever. So I’m sure they’re all going to compete hard at it every night and that they will not back down.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.