Kory Kiekhoefer graduated from New Life Academy seven years ago.
Now the 25-year-old is making a homecoming as the new head coach of the boys' basketball team. Kiekhoefer has stayed busy in basketball since moving on from New Life Academy in 2010. He attended the University of Northwestern-St. Paul where he played basketball with the Eagles, later graduating and becoming a head coach for the past two seasons at Bethany Academy in Bloomington.
But Kiekhoefer always kept his eye on his former high school basketball program, crediting his time playing with former coach Doug Linton for helping him grow as a person.
"Ultimately, three years of varsity with Doug was quite the experience," said Kiekhoefer, who works as a financial planner. "That's why I'm back here, because the program means so much to me. This is the program that really helped influence who I am today."
Kiekhoefer has stayed in contact with Linton since graduating and says they are still friends.
Kiekhoefer has more experience in coaching basketball than most other 25-year-olds. Aside from his varsity coaching experience, Kiekhoefer is also a coach with the AAU Crossfire Basketball U15 team.
New Life Academy activities director Kevin Kleiner preceded Kiekhoefer as the head coach of the Bethany Academy boys' basketball program. He has raved about the feedback from the school's athletic department about Kiekhoefer.
"I obviously know the people at Bethany and the athletic director well, and I know he was doing a really good job," Kleiner said. "I had been hearing good things even before Doug resigned."
Of course, with Bethany being in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association, Kiekhoefer had the opportunity to watch as New Life Academy has finished a combined 22-3 against conference teams over the past two years. Next year's team will have a different look as eight seniors will graduate from the New Life Academy program.
Already somewhat familiar with the roster, Kiekhoefer will look to future seniors Drew Wynia, Zach Thor and Eli Gorter to help provide leadership.
"Anytime you are kind of transitioning to new coaches, I think having senior leadership that is in place, having guys who will be vocal leaders, is huge to have," he said.
Kiekhoefer said he wants to continue building on the program's recent success. For that to happen, he said getting on the same page with the players on a strategic and personal level will be key.
"On a personal level, I think the ability to come in and establish relationships and establish trust in the players is going to be big," Kiekhoefer said. "Ultimately, when players are buying in and trusting in what you are doing as a coach, that is when team success really does happen."