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A bond on, off the court

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By Matt Birkholtz

Eurides said, “To a father growing old, there is nothing dearer than a daughter.”

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For Mark and Tori Wilhoit the bond of father and daughter will go beyond the years of being a coach and player.

“The beginning was difficult,” he said. “I was pretty hard on her in the beginning, but I wouldn’t trade those years for anything.”

Tori first got interested in basketball when her dad introduced her to the sport when she was in the fourth grade.

“I had always grown up playing sports,” she said. “When my dad saw that he wanted me to take on basketball.”

Tori said that she started playing for summer teams and fell in love with the game.              

Mark Wilhoit became the coach for Williamstown in the 2001-2002 season and for the past six years Tori was a member of the varsity Lady Demons.

Neither could point to one defining moment, but rather several high points in their careers.

Tori said  whenever she broke a record or reached the 1,500th career point, she could tell her dad was proud of her.

“There are so many moments from the rebounds to the points, I can’t name a specific moment,” he said. “I was just happy to spend that time with her.”

Even with good moments, there are rough patches for a coach and player and a father and daughter.

“I had to grow up a lot and Tori as a player,” he said. “There are coaches that their kids do no wrong and there are coaches that their kids do no right. I was the latter one.”

Wilhoit said he took some classes that helped him learn better ways of coaching the team and his daughter.

“It was more maturing for me than it was for her,” he said.

Tori said that the hardest time was when she was in middle school, because she thought that he was being harder on her than the other players.

“He was doing it as a coach to make me play better,” she said. “It was hard to distinguish whether it was my dad or coach getting on me. I always saw him as my dad yelling at me instead of coach.”

Being able to coach his daughter, Mark said he has been fortunate to share that experience with Tori and she agreed.

“Most families spend time watching television in other rooms, but for my family I got to enjoy playing for my dad and my mom came to all of my games,” she said.

When the season ended with a loss to Walton-Verona in the 32nd District Tournament, it marked the last time the two would share a moment on the floor as coach and player.

“I knew if I took a look at dad, I would have gotten real emotional,” Tori said. “I knew I still had softball after basketball, but when I sat on the bench and thought about the end of my dad coaching me, I became really emotional.”  

As Tori graduates in the spring from WHS and moves on to the University of Kentucky to study biology, coach Wilhoit contemplated whether to continue coaching. On March 8, he made the decision to step down as head coach of the Lady Demons.

“We have a good group of middle school players coming up and a good group returning, but sometimes your coaching can become stagnant and it’s time to get fresh ideas into the program,” he said.

Wilhoit said it was a tough decision but he thought it was time to move on and still wonders if he made the right decision.

“I told the players at the banquet to focus on Williamstown basketball and if they continue that the program can only go higher,” he said.

Mark Wilhoit works at Toyota in Georgetown. He said a factor in his decision was not working at the school and being able to see the players outside of practice and games.

“When you have such great kids, it makes the decision more difficult,” he said. “When I told them March 8, I broke down.”

For Tori, the thought of her dad stepping down from coaching at Willliamstown was upsetting, but she supports her dad’s decision.

“I am sad for him because he really loves coaching basketball,” she said. “A lot of people will say it was because of me graduating, but I don’t think that was the main reason he stepped down. He wants to put 100 percent into everything he does and with work; I think he felt that he couldn’t give the girls everything that he could.”

As graduation is looming for Tori the thing she will yearn for the most is being with the team.

“I’m going to miss the girls,” she said. “Two of my best friends, Chelsea West and Haley Rothwell have always played sports with me. We go from volleyball season straight into a long basketball season. I will miss being close to a group of friends and girls and going straight into practice.”