With summer season kicked off for schools in the month of June, Wayne has officially named their new boys basketball coach. Byron Pickens will take over the program coming from an assistant role at Northrop. His hire was approved by the Fort Wayne Community Schools board on Monday, June 10.
“It has always my dream to be a head coach. When I first started at Northrop, I didn’t think I was quite ready but coach [Rod] Chamble pretty much put me on the fast track to be a head coach; he gave me a lot of responsibility,” Pickens said. “I just felt like it was the perfect time for me to reach out, branch out.”
Pickens has been coaching in the Fort Wayne area for the past four years, starting out with the Indy Heat Program in 2015 where he has coached different age groups. This summer, he has been the head coach of Indy Heat Red 2022. Before coming to Fort Wayne, Pickens trained players at Chicago’s Senn High School the summer after graduating from college.
His transition into coaching took him to Rod Chamble’s staff at Northrop, where he was a key assistant during last season’s share of a Summit Athletic Conference title. Pickens spent three years with the Bruins program.
Branching out, as Pickens puts it, leads him to Wayne where he thinks he will be a strong fit. He reference’s the positives in the students, the school and the Wayne community as areas he can grow with and build on.
“I think it is just like myself, it has a lot of opportunity for growth,” Pickens said. “Expectations are all what you make them I think. We had goals there at Northrop which were to win Sectionals and win conference; when you know that you are prepared for the goal, it is not that hard.”
Pickens is originally from the Chicago area where he played at the aforementioned Senn High School before going to Mineral Area Community College. He finished his college playing career at Tennessee Tech where he he graduated in 2011 after seeing limited action his senior season.
His college career gives him a strong background for one of his areas of focus: getting Wayne’s players to the collegiate level.
“Just by me being a college athlete, they are going to hear and know I know what I am talking about. But the proof is in the pudding; if I am saying ‘hey I played Division I basketball’ but I am not doing anything to prepare them for Division I basketball, then my going there doesn’t mean anything,” Pickens said.
“It starts the conversation but it is all about what I am doing that is going to get those kids to buy into my system.”
Pickens will replace Aaron Rehrer, who resigned after nine seasons at the helm. Rehrer’s Generals went 15-10 last year, making it to the finals of their Sectional before losing to Huntington North. Despite Rehrer posting winning seasons four of his nine years in charge, Wayne has not won a postseason title since 1994’s sectional, which was just the fourth in program history. The program won a Regional in 1981, but has never advanced past that point.
The Generals graduated a big class, but there will be plenty of varsity experience coming back to help Pickens in his transition. The new Wayne head coach referenced the strong summer of Quincy Miles and the desire to build off the lights out shooting of Michael Redding as two points of emphasis in a style he says will look a decent bit like Northrop’s.
“Coach Rod [Chamble] and I are similar, both from the Chicago area. Chicago basketball is fast and with very, very aggressive defense,” Pickens said. “It is not exactly what Fort Wayne is built on, but I think the personnel that is at Wayne is built for my style, getting up and down on offense and very hard nosed man to man defense trying to force people into turnovers and bring some excitement to the game.”
Redding averaged a third best 9.2 points per game last season and Miles averaged 4.4 points per game as the team’s seventh leading scorer. The other top five scorers all left in graduation, including Outside the Huddle All-Area player Craig Young. Andre Beasley, who saw time in 17 games, is also slated to be a senior with Redding and Miles.
The team will first get together with Pickens on June 14 and then will play together in the Snider Monday Night League on June 24.