June 14, 2010 | Jeff Febus

Once a starting point guard for the Knights, Ricky Shilts is now on the coaching staff for his alma mater.

The son of legendary Kalamazoo Valley Community College men’s basketball and men’s golf coach Dick Shilts, Ricky Shilts has always been around a ball or a game.

"I guess coaching is kind of in my blood,” said Shilts recently. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Beginning this fall, Shilts will get the chance to coach at his alma mater, as he was recently named the junior varsity coach of the Calvin men’s basketball team, replacing Mark Christner who recently left to accept the head varsity men’s basketball position at Waynesburg University (PA). In addition to his junior varsity duties, Shilts will serve as an assistant with the Calvin varsity, working with his former head coach Kevin Vande Streek.

Back with the guys ...

"I’m really excited about being back in the mix at Calvin,” said Shilts. “I’m already looking forward to the practices in the fall and getting back into the trenches with the guys.”

As a basketball player at Calvin from 2003-to-2005, Shilts was the starting point guard on teams that earned NCAA III Tournament berths during the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. Calvin’s 2004-05 team not only earned an NCAA III Tournament berth, but advanced all the way to the NCAA III Final Four, where it placed third.

"There were a lot great memories,” said Shilts of his two years on the Calvin men’s basketball team. “Our teams were very tight knit. We had a strong finish to the 2004 season, and that gave us the momentum we needed to make a deeper tournament run my senior year.”

After completing his collegiate basketball-playing career in 2005, Shilts continued to serve a five-year stint as an assistant varsity basketball coach at Grandville Calvin Christian High School. While there, he worked alongside his father-in-law Doug Jurgens, also an assistant coach at Calvin Christian High School. Shilts is married to fellow Calvin graduate Lisa (Jurgens) Shilts, who recently served as a freshman girls basketball coach at Grand Rapids Christian High School.

Having his former point guard back on his coaching staff is a huge bonus said Vande Streek. “Ricky was a smart, heady player,” said Vande Streek. “He was also a fierce competitor, and those are also great qualities to have as a coach. I could always tell that Ricky had a future as a coach. He learned from one of the best in his father.”

Learning to play

As a young boy, Ricky tagged along at his father’s basketball games, serving as a waterboy, a cheerleader or whatever role he could fill. “It was a fun learning experience,” said Shilts. “I picked up things from an early age as my father’s team camps, his practices, riding the team bus and, obviously, at his games. I spent quite a bit of my childhood in a gym, but it was great. I always enjoyed it.”

As a prep athlete, Shilts attended Kalamazoo Central High School and helped lead his high school basketball team to the Class A state finals in 2001. He then turned his attention to playing golf and basketball for his father at Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC). The summer before his first semester at KVCC however, he was involved in a car accident that nearly crushed both of his feet.

Shilts underwent surgery on both feet, losing valuable muscle tissue in the process. In a 2004 story in the Kalamazoo Gazette, Dick Shilts remembered the accident and subsequent surgery. “I still remember the night the surgeon sat me down at Bronson Hospital and carefully explained that the surgery had gone well, but that some muscle tissue had been removed," he said in the interview with the Gazette. "He could not promise that (Ricky) would even be able to walk/run normally, and  (he said) that basketball was iffy, at best."

Through vigorous therapy, Ricky was able to play basketball again, doing so for two years at KVCC under the coaching of his father while also finding time to golf in the fall and spring, qualifying for the national junior college championships his sophomore year.

"There was a lot of rehabilitation, a lot of work, but it was worth it,” said Ricky. “I was very blessed to have Coach Vande Streek come and take a look at me during my second year of basketball at KVCC. He actively recruited me and made me feel welcome on my visit to campus. I’ll never forget that.”

Relationship on ice

Shilts met his future wife Lisa—also a basketball player— in a bit of an unusual way. “We met in the training room,” laughed Shilts. "Lisa had hurt her foot in a summer work accident and was still rehabilitating it when I met her. We were both icing our injured feet when we met for the first time. We still joke about it to this day.”

The couple married after graduating from Calvin and are now parents of a one-year old son Brodie. Shilts graduated from Calvin with an interdisciplinary degree in recreational therapy and communications. After graduating from Calvin, he moved to Kalamazoo to work at an area golf course. “I didn’t really have a set plan after graduating,” said Shilts. “I just let God lead my path and trusted that he would open some doors.”

After his marriage to Lisa, Shilts moved back to the Grand Rapids area and found work as a sales representative at the Maple Hill Golf Course in Grandville. “I work primarily in the golf store, selling equipment,” said Shilts. “It’s a family-owned business and a great place to work.”

Turning back to his thoughts on the Calvin men’s basketball season, Shilts has one date already circled on his calendar: December 1. That night, Shilts will lead the Calvin junior varsity men’s basketball team down to Kalamazoo to face his father’s KVCC team in a non-conference game.

"I think we’re both looking forward to it,” said the younger Shilts. “I’ve thought about it a few times already.”
Asked who his mother Carol Shilts will root for, Ricky quickly quipped, “Oh, I think she’ll root for me.”

Driving around a defender.

Ricky Shilts

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