ALEXANDRIA — This season represents something of a homecoming for Kyle Bloom.
After two years as the boys basketball coach at Heritage Christian, the Madison County native is returning to his roots to take the reins at Alexandria. Growing up in Lapel, he often got an up-close view of legendary coach Garth Cone’s work with the county rival Tigers. So he understands the expectations, and he’s looking forward to the challenge.
“Alexandria’s ballplayers were always known for their high intensity,” Bloom recalled, “for being aggressive, for being fundamentally sound and for winning games maybe they shouldn’t.”
That, Bloom believes, is the product of a proud and hard-working community. Much like the one from which he hails.
In 2005, Bloom was a part of Jimmy Howell’s staff as the Bulldogs made the trek to a Class 2A state championship. It was a dream come true to be a part of something so special in his hometown.
“It was everything I ever thought it would be,” Bloom said. “The caravans to and from places, the further you go, the more people follow you.”
Bloom’s always wanted to lead a program of his own, however, and he jumped at the chance to take over at Heritage Christian in 2011. In his two seasons — playing against a strong schedule that included the likes of Cathedral, Chatard and Guerin Catholic — the Eagles finished 24-21 and twice reached the sectional championship game.
Bloom enjoyed his time at the school and said he likely would have returned this season if not for the opportunity at Alexandria. Heritage Christian was about a 45-minute commute each day. Coaching the Tigers requires just a five-minute trip from Bloom’s Farm Bureau Insurance office.
That leaves more time for family. The fact he’s also pursuing his life’s work is just a bonus.
“I went to college to coach,” Bloom said. “I’ve always wanted to coach. When you’ve been given a gift of being able to relate things to kids, it just seems silly not to use it.”
Alexandria offers another unique opportunity for Bloom to use that gift.
The Tigers struggled through a 5-18 season last year, and they’ll be playing for their third different head coach in three seasons. But there’s a lot of experience returning with a large junior class and perhaps just the right amount of senior leadership to guide them.
Layton Carroll is the leading returning scorer after averaging 9.7 points and shooting 37.9 percent from 3-point range last season.
“He’s a great little guard,” Bloom said, “and he defends well.”
Drew Johnson is the team’s other senior, returning after playing 16 games at the varsity level a year ago.
The big junior class is led by Braden Warren, Blaize Kelly, Jonah Jerrills, Jacob Thurston, Evan Hodges and Brandon Wright. Many of those players are coming off a successful football season in which they helped the program reach the sectional final for the first time.
Now, they’d like to translate that success to the basketball court, and Bloom would like nothing better than to help them.
The schedule is unfamiliar to the head coach after two years of playing schools primarily from the Indianapolis metro area. Only University and Lapel are common opponents between Heritage Christian and Alexandria.
So there will be a feeling-out period of sorts.
The Tigers open the season Nov. 26 against Anderson Prep then hit the road for games against Class A No. 8 Liberty Christian and Yorktown.
Bloom isn’t certain what to expect on the court. But he’s already seen his players are willing to put the work in to succeed.
“They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do,” he said. “Each year, you feel like if you can get a couple kids who will run through a wall for you, that’s a success. I feel like I’ve got eight of them now.”