Polk County head boys basketball coach Antoni Staley

Alumni game part of Staley’s plan for Polk County basketball

One of the goals that Antoni Staley set in his new role as Polk County High School’s boys basketball coach is to grow community interest in the program.

Staley wants not only to see the stands packed when the Wolverines hit the floor this winter, but he wants to grow the program’s presence in the community, to make certain the Wolverines are lending a helping hand where possible.

To that end, Staley has organized the 1st Annual Coach Thomas Memorial Polk Alumni Game, set for July 30 at 6 p.m. at Polk County High School. Admission will be $5.

Players from throughout the history of the Wolverine program, male and female, are expected to take part in the school’s first alumni contest. Proceeds from the game will go to the granddaughter of former Polk County head coach Derek Thomas, the school’s all-time winningest coach, who passed away earlier this year.

“We’re doing it for him. He was a big part of my life,” Staley said. “And we’re doing it for his granddaughter. I still stay in contact with his daughter (Brandie Thomas Mercado).

“(Thomas) would see a person in need, and he wouldn’t say, ‘if you need something, call me.’ He wasn’t that kind of person. But if you needed something, he made sure it got taken care of. When I got interviewed for this job, one of the first things I said was that I wanted to do something for him and the county too. This game is part of that.”

Staley has gotten a number of commitments from former Wolverines, but he would love to see the player roster grow as much as he wants to see a packed gym on the 30th.

“I just want to see people come out and participate in it and enjoy it,” Staley said. “The game is the reason we’re doing this, but it also gets people involved in basketball. I want to get the community involved in basketball here.”

Anyone interested in playing can reach out to Staley at (828) 223-0976. Staley hopes the alumni effort will grow to become separate men and women’s games with different beneficiaries each year.

In addition to organizing the alumni game, Staley has been busy holding summer instructional workouts with returning players.

“It’s been going great, lot of young guys,” Staley said. “Rustin Muse, Malik Miller and Brett Phipps are three returning seniors who have been coming to the workouts and leading the guys. We’ve had no less than 10 or 11 and the most we’ve had is 28 or 29. Even at the 5:30 a.m workouts, we’ve had 12 to 13 guys.”

Staley has also been working out with members of Polk County’s varsity girls team and Polk County Middle School boys and girls players, focusing on one-on-one drills designed to let him not only get to know the players, but give them individual attention.

The work now is all geared toward the opening of practice later this year and, soon after, the first game.

“I can’t wait for that first game,” Staley said. “I think about people like Coach (Wink) Mintz. I can’t wait for that first game and to see him sitting by the door, in his chair.”