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By LARRY GOFFINET
LINCOLN CITY—When Heritage Hills senior Kaebra LaGrange signed last month to play volleyball and basketball for Oakland City University, she was continuing a family tradition in more ways than one.
Her parents, John and Tammy (formerly Nixon) LaGrange, each played a sport for Oakland City—John basketball and Tammy volleyball.
Kaebra will also be the seventh grandchild of Ovalee and Dorothy LaGrange to play college sports. And several others had opportunities to do so in this athletic family.
Kaebra’s generation probably inherited a lot of their athletic talent from Ovalee, who starred in basketball and baseball while attending Oil Township High School (it was later renamed Perry Central) in the early 1940s.
He and his brother, Russell, later played for General Electric’s men’s basketball team in an industrial league for years.
Ovalee and several of his relatives also played semipro baseball for St. Croix in the old Double-I League for years. His daughter, Sheila Kleeman, who was born when Ovalee was 30, remembers going to watch him play on Sunday afternoons.
But Ovalee never got to play college sports. At the age when most people today are going off to college he was going off to the Navy to fight in World War II.
Three of Ovalee’s four sons were star athletes in high school. Dave was a frontline starter for Coach Bob Lochmueller’s first basketball sectional championship team at Tell City in 1966.
John and Tim LaGrange were both on Perry Central’s first basketball sectional champion in 1978.
Youngest son Stan was more interested in music. But Denny Doutaz, who coached Perry Central’s boys basketball team when Stan was in school there, said he tried hard to get Stan to go out for basketball.
Ovalee’s four daughters had limited opportunities to play sports. Volleyball, the first girls sport at Perry Central, was not formed until third daughter Sheila was a senior (she did play on that team).
But six of Ovalee’s kids got to watch their children star in high school sports. And three of them have gotten to watch their children continue their athletic careers in college.
Most of the LaGrange offspring have played for Perry Central or Heritage Hills.
But Dave’s son, Gabe, played his high school basketball in the Muncie area, where Dave’s first wife lived. He was named the Delaware County Player of the Year his senior season.
He then played for Huntington University and did well enough that he was named to the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2005, just five years after he graduated.
Mary Carter, Ovalee’s oldest daughter, has had three kids play college sports.
Matt Carter played basketball for the University of Southern Indiana, Mandy Carter volleyball for Martin Methodist College in Tennessee, and Aaron Carter basketball for Indiana State, where he was a starting guard/forward for a team that made the NCAA Division II tourney.
With Kaebra’s signing, John will be able to match Mary’s three kids playing college sports.
His second daughter, Alecia, played volleyball for Oakland City. Third daughter Danielle played volleyball for Indiana University and then USI, where she became an NCAA Division II All-American.
As for the ones who got away from the college recruiters, Eric Kleeman, Sheila’s oldest son, had a chance to walk-on to the University of Indianapolis baseball team. But as a pre-medicine major, he decided he would not have time to do it.
His sister, Kaci, was an All-PAC infielder with a cannon arm for Heritage Hills and had several offers to play that sport at small colleges. But she decided to attend Western Kentucky University instead.
Josh LaGrange, John’s son, had chances to play college baseball but wanted to be a pastor and attended Southern Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., instead.
John’s oldest daughter, Valarie, also attended Southern Theological Seminary intending to becoming a teacher at a Christian school (she later married Josh’s roommate). She turned down several offers to compete as a diver in college after qualifying for the state meet three years in high school.
And Katie LaGrange, Dave’s daughter, could have played volleyball for Ball State University.
Kaebra is the youngest of Ovalee and Dorothy LaGrange’s grandchildren, so she will be the last to play college sports.
But they have several great-grandchildren that college recruiters might want to be scouting in a few years.