Once in a while Lindsay Klemmer remembers what it was like to play for the Salem varsity girls basketball team.
Klemmer was a standout among standouts for the Rocks — the team went 18-2 her senior year — before graduating in 2000. She then got sidetracked by an injury before enjoying a successful college career at Madonna University.
And that team, coached by Fred Thomann, featured a nucleus of four players that had been together for eons. That was a similar situation to this season, with six senior friends and longtime teammates on a team that won the KLAA Central Division.
Seeing that group of players through to the finish line is why Klemmer wanted to continue coaching the Rocks following an emotional 2013-14, when she took over the team after Thomann’s December 2013 death.
“I know there was a group of four of us when I was a senior (at Salem), but it’s like your own little family,” Klemmer said. “They have each other’s back. They’re so different in so many ways, on the court and off the court. But they have each other’s backs and they’re nothing but best friends both on the court and off the court.
“They’re a blast, they’re a lot of fun, and they’re one of the main reasons I came back here. I wanted to make sure these seniors went out on a high note especially after everything that we went through together last year.”
This season has been a big success for seniors Maranda Armstead, Allison First, Katie Latack, Shara Long, Hayley Rogers and Jamyra Wilson. But Klemmer knows those girls are nearing the end of their Salem careers.
“I have a hard time thinking about that,” Klemmer said. “I just feel, I love these kids like they’re my own, I treat them like they’re my own. I’ve been so blessed to have them here for my first full year.
“… I just want to make sure I bring out the most potential in them that they have, so that they leave here with no regrets and they say ‘Hey, I gave everything I absolutely could and I had the best experience that I could have.'”
It has been an emotional year for Klemmer, too. Not only did she lose Thomann, her high school coach and mentor, she lost her “Uncle Buck” Craig Buchanan last summer.
Buchanan coached at Northern Michigan University and Marquette High School over the years and he was going to help Klemmer out with the Rocks when he passed away.
“This whole season for me has been dedicated to two of the most inspirational men in my life that I’ve lost,” she said.
Klemmer said coaching the six seniors was the primary reason for continuing with Salem.
But now, she intends to keep going, especially with some promising young players such as freshman sisters Jala and Lasha Petree on board.
“I believe that this (division crown) is the start of something great,” Klemmer noted. “I’m ready to bring back the tradition that Fred imbedded in me when I was here.
“Which is the blue-collar work ethic, the hard work, the hustle, all those little things he made sure I did as a player. I’m ready to get that out of them. I’m ready to lay a foundation here and build from that.”