Lake Norman & Mooresville

Former NBA center takes Eagles' reigns

Ben Handlogten's basketball journey has taken him all over the world.

He played professionally in Greece, Italy, Japan, Spain, South Korea and Turkey. At age 30, Handlogten broke into the NBA, playing in the league from 2003 to 2005 with the Utah Jazz and the New Jersey Nets.

But Handlogten, who was named the new head basketball coach at Southlake Christian, didn't come to the area because of basketball. Instead, it was to finally settle down with his family.

"We had been everywhere," said the Michigan native. "I told my wife that when I was done playing she could choose where we would live."

But after dedicating his life to basketball, it was only a matter of time before the former center found a way to get involved with the sport and share his love for the game.

His wife, Danielle, was finishing up her masters in secondary education and was offered a job at Southlake when they were looking for schools for their three children. Handlogten wanted to be involved, so he approached the school's athletic program.

"I came in one day and said, 'so you guys have basketball? Want some help?'" said Handlogten.

The Western Michigan grad had no coaching experience - apart from having worked at summer basketball camps - but he was received with open arms by the Eagles. For the past two seasons, Handlogten was an assistant under coach Trent Barnes, who left the team after three years at its helm to pursue business aspirations.

Handlogten said that Barnes was open to his ideas and gave him a lot of leeway to instill some of those on the team.

"That should make the transition from assistant to head coach pretty smooth," the 36-year-old said.

Handlogten added that getting the opportunity to lead the Eagles is exciting.

"I obviously like the game of basketball; it's been very good to me," he said. "I look forward to the opportunity of teaching the young men here the game."

Handlogten explained that coaching at the high school level has been an adjustment.

"I'm used to college and professional basketball and there's a certain mindset when you get to that level that you don't see here," he explained. "You can't really translate NBA or college to a small high school."

He takes over a Eagles team that went 6-15 last season. Southlake losses its top two scorers to graduation for next season, so Handlogten will have to find other ways to score.

But he admits he's not too worried about the wins or losses for next year. He'll be focusing on teaching his players to simply show up and play hard every game.

"There's a lot to be said for kids who will go out and will leave it all on the floor," said Handlogten.

"You can take a team that plays hard - plays concentrated - and beat a team with a lot more talent a lot of the time."

His focus for next season will be how much improvement the Eagles shows from their first practice to the final whistle of the season.

Handlogten said that he will rely on his competiveness - his will and drive to win - to teach his players the game.

"I want to instill that on the kids," he said.

Handlogten said that competitive nature has been with him since he was a boy, who played just about any sport that involved a ball.

He didn't start playing organized basketball until he was in seventh grade. Handlogten soon found out that the game just made sense to him even at that early age.

"For some reason something about basketball just clicked," he said.

It didn't hurt that he was tall - really, really tall. Handlogten recalls being his current height - 6-foot-10 - when he was still a sophomore in high school.

Having been a standout at South Christian High School in his native Grand Rapids, Mich., before playing in college for the Broncos in addition to his 10-year pro career, he said he's been around schemes and looks that will hopefully help him next season.

"I think I've been in about every basketball situation that there is," he explained.

That, in addition to having witnessed so many coaching styles and personalities, should come in handy next season for him.

His experience should also help Handlogten keep his players attention.

"A lot of them know my resume and that speaks for itself," he said. "They've figured out that I know what I'm talking about."