PREP BOYS BASKETBALL: Peoples returns to Schlarman to coach boys

·5 min read

Sep. 10—DANVILLE — Keith Peoples had amazing success in coaching the Schlarman girls basketball team to two straight IHSA Class 1A titles.

Now he hopes to get close to that success with the Hilltoppers' boys team as he recently took the head coaching job.

"Officially I took the job in late June, early July, I just didn't make it public then," Peoples said. "I took the opportunity and challenge and I am excited about it."

After leading the Lady Hilltoppers and his daughter, Anaya Peoples to their second title in 2019, Peoples went on to coach the Schlarman junior high teams, which included his son, Keison Peoples.

During the last few years, the Hilltoppers were able to have success, including the 2022 IESA Class 8-1A title.

"Keison is a freshman now and I have been coaching the junior high boys since 2019-2020 when Anaya and everyone graduated," Peoples said. "I had been doing that job along with coach OJ (Ollie Harrison) and coach Jerry O'Neill."

The years in the junior high level has helped Peoples build a foundation that he hopes will keep the Hilltoppers full of talent in the long run.

"We have some very talented young men. I have dedicated a lot of time to coaching the current freshmen and I have some eighth-graders and a group of seventh-graders that are promising," Peoples said. "We are trying to build a program player by player, brick by brick and we start with our youth. We started early with our current freshmen and we have some young men in 3rd-5th grades that we are grooming and developing the intangibles and the habits of competition. We are excited about the future and the season."

While Peoples is back in the Vermilion Valley Conference, he will have the added challenge of dealing with the best boys teams in the conference.

It's a huge difference in my opinion. The game is faster and can be played above the rim," Peoples said. "There are layers that you must get through in order to reach that point where girls really trust you and play for something bigger than yourself and it is beautiful.

"For guys, they want to do things their way and skips some steps. If you want to play successful basketball, you have to play the right way and hopefully my experience will work with the boys."

But he said that if he can teach the freshmen and the veterans from last season to change the pace, success can come a little quicker.

"We have slowed the pace to ensure that our young men understand and believe is to not slow them down, but to be more efficient so you don't have to work as hard and if we work together, we can accomplish something special," People said. "The guys have been receptive, including the incoming freshmen because they have experienced winning a state championship collectively and that goes from the starting five to the second group. We know what it takes to win and we hope that they will buy in sooner than later."

Peoples said that the hard work will come no matter what and fans should not expect success early.

"This is a journey, not a sprint. I am not expecting immediate success, I just want to be better each day," Peoples said. "I want my kids to understand commitment and hard work each day. I want them to build great habits on and off the court each day and over time, if we are consistent over time, they will experience success to some degree or another. We have a challenge ahead of ourselves and we are ready for it."

With Anaya Peoples playing at DePaul University this season, Keith Peoples said that he will still follow her but his focus will be on the team.

"My commitment will be with the boys team. I am always going to be Anaya's No. 1 fan and I am always going to talk to her and support her in other ways," Peoples said. "When there is a conflict, I will choose to be with the players and my daughter understands that.

"Our relationship is genuine and well-rooted and she understands that her brother needs me as much as she did when she was in school. My focus is that this team gets the best of me. If there is time and no conflict, then I will see my daughter either in practice or games or no practice or no games. I appreciate spending time with her as much as I can. "

Peoples says that this new journey in his career could not be done without his assistant coaches and his wife, Tricia Peoples.

"I am a strong believer that in my journey that I would not have done it with the genuine support of important people. Coach O'Neill, Coach OJ has been there and more importantly my wife," Peoples said. "Coaches that coach their children and wives of coaches is not an easy task and we are starting over again. It is different thing from coaching our daughter and now coaching out son. I am getting it from both ends, from opponents and critiqued at home. But I signed up for it and she makes me accountable and a better coach and she has me see things from a different angle. I really appreciate her support."