Q&A: Kearsarge boys’ basketball coach Nate Camp talks Cougars 2023-24 turnaround

Kearsarge boys’ basketball coach Nate Camp (center) talks with his starters before a game this season at Kearsarge Regional High School in North Sutton.

Kearsarge boys’ basketball coach Nate Camp (center) talks with his starters before a game this season at Kearsarge Regional High School in North Sutton. Courtesy Couper Gunn / Maxfield Productions

Senior captain Eddie Kinzer attempts a layup for Kearsarge during the Cougars matchup with Fall Mountain on Jan. 8.

Senior captain Eddie Kinzer attempts a layup for Kearsarge during the Cougars matchup with Fall Mountain on Jan. 8. —Courtesy Couper Gunn/Maxfield Productions


Monitor staff

Published: 02-06-2024 2:39 PM

Modified: 02-06-2024 2:59 PM

Kearsarge boys’ basketball finished last season 4-14. Entering play on Tuesday, the Cougars are 13-3, hoping to secure a top seed with the Division III playoffs beginning next week.

The Monitor caught up with Cougars head coach Nate Camp to learn more about the team’s turnaround this season. Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity and brevity.

​​​​​​To hear the full interview, listen to this week’s episode of the Monitor Sports Podcast linked below:

Concord Monitor: Last January, you guys had lost to Hopkinton by 16 points to fall to 1-6. Can you take us through that part of the season last year, to go from 1-6 and finishing the year 4-14 to now being 13-3 and one of the top teams in Division III?

Nate Camp: We were pretty young last year. We had some good players, but some of our better players were sophomores or juniors. We had a couple good seniors, but that group of kids hadn’t really played a lot of basketball together. The year before, we had graduated a ton of kids. We had like nine seniors the year we went to the state championship (in 2022), and so it was kind of a void where you had all those kids that were playing together, and then the group behind them really hadn’t gelled the way that they had. We had to get to back to that. We had to get back to coming together as a group and really putting time in.

The big factor, which I think everybody kind of knows now, is our best player was hurt with Noah Whipple. He was out with a knee injury all last season, and he was just a sophomore. I knew he’d be back this year, but I just didn’t know to what extent. Credit him and his work ethic and his family and the work he’s put in with his physical therapist. To have him back doing what he’s doing for us this season as a junior, it’s phenomenal.

He’s arguably the player of the year in our division. Guaranteed a First-Team All-State spot. He’s that type of a player. So to have someone like that back, he makes everybody around him better. All those younger kids are now believing in themselves, and he’s helping with that, but they’re also just getting better by the day.

CM: Couple things to follow up on. First, with Noah, what impresses you most about what he’s brought to the table this year?

NC: His motor just never stops. At the beginning of the season he was on a minutes restriction, so before Christmas we only played him like half the game. So he could only go in for like four minutes in the first quarter and keep it going that way. I think one of the games we played, Hopkinton, he only played maybe 18 minutes, maybe 17.5 whatever it might’ve been, and he scored like 21 points.

It’s hard to dial him back because he just goes so hard all the time, whether it be defense or offense. He’s just so dynamic. He’s hard to guard because he’s a guard, but he can play inside, too. You don’t think he can shoot it, well then he drills two 3s in your face. He’s got the ability to play inside and outside and be a good leader while doing it, and he’s bringing everybody else along. Everybody’s believing now that we can contend, and he’s helping do that.

CM: One of the things you mentioned was belief and the kids believing in themselves. That was something you’d mentioned last year as well. Why was that something so valuable, even last year, showing that you believed in them even when the results weren’t necessarily showing up in the win-loss column?

NC: As a coach, I strongly feel that so much of the game is mental and just trying to make it known that, ‘Hey, I’m here for you, whether we’re up 20 or down 20, whether we’re 1-6 or now we’re 13-3, as a coach, I’m not going to turn my back on you.’ Obviously, I want you to keep believing in yourself, but if I can start getting the ball rolling with that, I look at some of our players and we’ve had multiple guys help chip in and lead us in scoring.

I’m just looking down the roster, (Austin) Needham has had a good year for us, Parker Goin, even the freshman Eli Whipple, Noah’s younger brother, has had some really good games for us. Bragen Kinzer, a sophomore, we’re bringing him along. Drew Huff has had an outstanding (year), he’s only a sophomore too, and he’s been one of our ball handlers and making really good decisions. I’ve talked ad nauseam about Noah Whipple already, but Eddie Kinzer, senior captain, he’s done a lot of the dirty work for us. Ajay Tremblay, just another player that can score and get to the basket. The list is long there where if you’re coaching against us, who do you try to stop?

We have to make sure that everybody on our team believes in themselves that they’re all good players because if we’re just one player, if we’re just Noah Whipple, coaches can stop that. They can try to load up their defense strategically to try to limit him. But can Needham knock down some shots? Can Huff make some baskets? These guys all have gotten better because we’re playing kind of free and having the ability for them to have fun, just feed off each other.

CM: Coming off last year at 4-14 and then starting 3-3 this year, has it surprised you that you’re looking at the standings now and you’re 13-3 on the season?

NC: Absolutely. Our goal was always to get to double-digit wins. I didn’t think we would get to our 10th win so early, Jan. 25. You figured you could make improvements and we’re going to win a few that maybe you didn’t think you’d get, but you might lose a couple that you thought you were going to win. I think the difference is, down the stretch of these games, we’ve made good plays. Even the game where we lost by one to Hopkinton at Hopkinton, we had the ball at the end, and we just missed. That ball could’ve gone in. We’ve been right there with some really good teams.

As a coach, that’s always encouraging to know. I don’t want to beat teams by 20 every night. I don’t want to lose those games either, but I’d rather be in close games so we can be battle-tested come February.

To hear the full interview, check out this week’s episode of the Monitor Sports Podcast: