As a sophomore at Hickman High School, Ben Dierkes was given the opportunity to play varsity basketball.
Three years later, Dierkes will be playing his final home game for the Kewpies (9-13) on Friday night against Jefferson City (12-10).
Dierkes said playing for varsity squad as a sophomore was a new and challenging experience, but that experience has helped him become a leader for his team both on and off the court.
“I think the biggest thing is leadership, because at the beginning of this year, not a lot leaders were stepping up, so it was big to be the guy who helps get the coach’s philosophy to the other players at all times, because the coaches cannot always be out there with us,” Dierkes said.
Hickman coach Kenny Ash said Dierkes is the type of leader every coach wants.
“Ben definitely has a leadership style which is more of a lead by example,”Ash said. “He just goes out there and works. He does the things that underclassmen need to look up to and emulate. He’s been a wonderful kid to coach, and he’s really kind of a coach’s dream. He’s always there, he’s always working. He’s just a really committed kid to the program.”
Dierkes said he was a little overwhelmed with the speed and the pace of the varsity style of play as a sophomore, but after three years, he wants to be the leader who stays cool when the pressure rises.
“It helps a lot being in big game situations especially with the Rock Bridge-Hickman game,” Dierkes said. “I have been in that rivalry for three years now, and it has helped me be patient and to stay cool.”
As a sophomore, Dierkes felt his basketball IQ and instincts were the main reason for playing varsity, and now he feels he has developed those instincts into becoming a quality leader. Being a team leader for Dierkes is not about leading the team in scoring, it is about doing what it takes to improve the team.
“I think success is based on the team and how well the team does,” he said. “I really don’t believe in just having one good player. I would rather score 10 points and win than score 20 and lose. No matter how I do, I just want to get the win and help my team get better.”
Although Dierkes prides himself on being a leader for his team, he is quick to give credit to the coaches who have helped him become the player that he is today.
“I think all of the coaches I’ve had are the reason for my success on the court,” Dierkes said. “I just seem to learn something new each year. Coach Sutherland and Coach Ash have taught me so much about being a leader and they taught me a lot of what I know about basketball.” On Friday night, Dierkes and the Kewpies will look to avenge a loss to Jefferson City earlier in the season and try to gain some momentum heading into next week’s district tournament at Rock Bridge.