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De Groot back at the helm

Bryan De Groot was the head coach behind some of Central Minnesota Christian School's top girls basketball teams. Now, after a three-year hiatus, he's back to guide the Bluejays. De Groot likes to help people. That's why, in 2008, when one of his...

JAKE SCHULTZ | TRIBUNE
JAKE SCHULTZ | TRIBUNE

Bryan De Groot was the head coach behind some of Central Minnesota Christian School's top girls basketball teams.

Now, after a three-year hiatus, he's back to guide the Bluejays.

De Groot likes to help people. That's why, in 2008, when one of his daughters told him the Bluejays needed a junior varsity coach, he stepped in to fill the spot. Two years later, he was the head varsity coach.

For three years he coached the varsity squad to a 36-27 record and earned a share of the Camden Conference North title in 2010-2011.

Following the 2012-2013 season, though, De Groot decided to step back.

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"I was tired," De Groot said. "It was a lot of fun but I needed some time away from the game."

Jessica Wedel took over for the next three years but she resigned after last season, leaving a vacancy once again.

De Groot was the obvious choice. He worked in town as a real estate broker and, despite taking some time off from coaching, kept a close eye on the Bluejays.

"I had a lot of people ask if I'd be willing to do it again," De Groot said. "I thought about it for awhile and I thought to myself, 'If I decide to do this, I need to have that passion for the game again.'"

De Groot said he's already starting to feel it again and it shows in practice as he runs through fast breaks with his players and jumps in on plays.

"I guess I knew it would come back but you never really know," De Groot said. "It's tough not to get excited about this game, though. I knew once I smelled that popcorn and heard the crowd on Friday night my heart would get going a little faster."

The Bluejays open their season at 7:30 p.m. Friday night with a home game against Lac qui Parle Valley and at his disposal is a senior-heavy team with something to prove after last year's 5-17 season. With seven seniors on the team, De Groot likes the leadership his team can show.

"We've got a good bunch of kids this year," De Groot said. "The attitude is great. We'll have some challenges ahead but there's no doubt they'll work hard."

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Bluejays senior guard Allison Bulthuis figures to be a key player and she likes the atmosphere around practice.

"I feel a lot better this year," said Bulthuis, who played on the junior varsity team during De Groot's previous tenure. "I knew he was nice and a good coach then, and this year I get to see that every day. He's a strong leader, nobody doubts what he says. It's been a lot of fun so far."

While De Groot is fortunate to have a strong senior class he also inherits a team that lacks size, something that could become a problem for the Bluejays down the road. They'll combat the downfall with plenty of athleticism and experience.

"I think we'll be OK," De Groot said. "Allison is small but she's plenty smart. She doesn't make many mistakes. Kalley (Schwitters) is incredibly athletic. She's faster than most people think. And Ellie (Greenwaldt) is aggressive and gets to balls that you wouldn't expect her to get to. Our top three are really talented."

Popcorn will pop, fans will fill the stands and you can bet De Groot's heart will speed up once again as his Bluejays embark on the 2016 season.

JAKE SCHULTZ | TRIBUNE
JAKE SCHULTZ | TRIBUNE

Related Topics: GIRLS BASKETBALLBBE JAGUARS
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