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Giants reap NCC Awards

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GIANT AWARD: Marion’s Andreas “Dre” Aguilar, a three-sport standout for the Giants during the 2018-19 school year, was named the North Central Conference’s Male Athlete of the Year. Giants’ football coach Craig Chambers was the league’s Boys Coach of the Year and Marion girls basketball coach Lawrence received the Girls Coach of the Year.
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GIANT AWARD: Marion’s Andreas “Dre” Aguilar, a three-sport standout for the Giants during the 2018-19 school year, was named the North Central Conference’s Male Athlete of the Year. Giants’ football coach Craig Chambers was the league’s Boys Coach of the Year and Marion girls basketball coach Lawrence Jordan received the Girls Coach of the Year.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

Ask almost any coach what is the most important ingredient to high school athletic success, and they’re likely to answer it’s the relationships they build with their student athletes.

And both Marion High School football coach Craig Chambers and girls basketball coach Lawrence Jordan attribute the success of their teams in the 2018-19 school year to the relationships they’ve been building since their arrivals.

Those successes were recently recognized by the North Central Conference as Chambers and Jordan were named the Boys’ and Girls’ NCC Coach of the Year, respectively.

The awards for the Giants didn’t stop there, as three-sport standout Andreas ‘Dre’ Aguilar was named the NCC Male Athlete of the Year.

Aguilar was a leader for the Giants’ football and basketball teams, helping both win NCC, sectional and regional championships last season. He also played a significant role in Marion’s first winning baseball season in nearly two decades. Aguilar was a first-team all conference and 4A football all-state selection while earning a second team All-NCC selection in baseball.

“The kid had surgery on his knee after the football season and he played really not 100 percent for most of the year in football and still was a force, a beast out there,” said Marion High School Principal Keith Burke. “Then comes in in basketball and again has to take a little bit of time off and comes back. Frankly without Dre in basketball we’re not hoisting that regional trophy and we’re not competing in the semistate.

“But forget the stuff on the court ... Dre Aguilar is one of the best people you’ll ever meet in your life,” Burke continued. “That’s what I told him when he came up to get his diploma. I told him I’m really going to miss him, not for the athlete that you are but for the man that you are. He is just a yes sir, no sir and works his tail off. He always has a smile on his face. He’s going to be a success in whatever he does because he competes. He’s a competitor and he cares for people. He’s going to do great things outside of sports. I’m really proud of him and I think the University of Indianapolis is a great fit for him.” 

Aguilar’s growth as a football player helped him lead the Giants with 11 quarterback sacks from his defensive end position even though he missed three games in Marion’s 13-1 season. He was also responsible for one of the most memorable plays of the year when he scooped up a fumble and raced 98 yards for a touchdown with just over three minutes to play to help the Giants secure a 49-35 win over Pendleton Heights in the opening round of sectional play.

“This past season he just put more into the weight room, more into knowing his craft, more into studying opponents,” Chambers said of Aguilar. “With his athletic ability and toughness and as smart of a kid as he is, he did an amazing job of taking us over the hump this year.”

Chambers arrived from Indianapolis Howe after Aguilar had complete his freshman season and immediately started working to change the culture of a football program that had won just three games in the previous three seasons combined. 

“We hit the ground running when we I got here in trying to build relationships with the kids,” Chambers said. “Just talking to them and getting to know them on a personal level and letting them know we’ve got their best interest in mind. In season or during the offseason, we’re somebody they can come to at anytime.”

After finishing 5-5 that first season under Chambers, the Giants went 7-4 in his second year before helping the Giants become a state contender last fall. Marion finished 7-0 in NCC play and allowed just 24 points. The Giants didn’t allow a single point for nearly five consecutive games through the heart of their NCC schedule.

Burke had worked with Chambers at two other schools in Indianapolis, at Tech and Howe, and was instrumental in bringing him, and the shift in culture, to Marion.

“Craig has as good of relational skills of any coach I’ve even seen,” Burke said. “The kids believe in him, they buy into him and they know how much he cares so they’ll run through a brick wall for him. That’s a huge, huge asset to our school and our team. They just care so much for him, they’re going to play hard for him and (the award) is so well deserved.

“He’s not just about winning football games, he’s about teaching them life and about teaching them to succeed and what they need to do to be good men,” Burke added. 

Jordan has compiled a 44-10 record in his two seasons running Marion’s girls basketball program. The Giants finished last season 23-5 and went 7-1 in the NCC to share the conference crown with Lafayette Jeff. Jordan directed his team to two straight sectional championships and led the Giants to the program’s first regional title since 1986 in February that came along with a spot in the Class 3A final four.

Before receiving the honor of all girls’ sports coach of the year, Jordan was the 2018-19 girls basketball coach of the year as well.   

“It’s just really a credit to the season we had and the hard work we put in,” Jordan said. “My coaching staff, it’s a credit to everybody. The award goes to me but it really goes down to our team and the level of success that we achieved this year. It’s great for Marion High School.

“I had a lot of talent – RaShaya (Kyle) and Jazmyn (Turner) and Ellie (Vermilion) – those girls had a lot to do with that, but I appreciate it and everything that came with it,” he continued. “I’m proud to be the Lady Giants coach and looking forward to moving forward and teaching these younger girls. That’s what its all about, teaching and building relationships and getting them to go to the next level. I love it.”

Jordan’s three seniors from this past season, Turner, Markeisha Jackson and Ayana Harvey, will all play college basketball next winter. Kyle is already committed to play at Purdue in the 2020 season while Vermilion is in the process of finding a place to play and continue her studies as well. He attributes the relationship-building process that started when he first arrived to helping make that happen.

“They’ve got to be able to trust you and you’ve got to be able to stick by your word. ... I started talking to them about what I could do for them, what I would like to do for them and just sticking by my word,” Jordan said. “Having a positive relationship with them on the court, off the court, letting them know I’ve got their best interest. I just want them all to have success in their lives. That’s kind of what being a teacher and working in the school corporation is all about. Having that blessing and being able to build relationships, get people in the right direction then leaving that lasting imprint.”

And the imprint the Giants left in athletic competition during the 2018-19 year will certainly leave a lasting impression. 

“A lot of people don’t realize this, we’re not the Marion of 3,000 students of old. We’re sitting around 1,100, the smallest school in the conference,” Burke said. “To compete like we have in the NCC is just an outstanding accomplishment for both our kids and our coaches.”