NEEDLES — Adrian Chavez begins his first year as head coach of the Lady ’Stangs varisty basketball program this season with a group of girls that includes veterans of his three-year undefeated streak at the junior high school level.
Several are also veterans of his career coaching travel ball teams.
The girls opened their season at River Valley High School’s annual Shootout Tournament on Friday, Dec. 6.
“I’ve been coaching for 12 years,” Chavez said. “I started off with the rec department program and have been a coach at the junior high level for about six years.
“Over the past three or four years I’ve had a high school travel ball basketball team with girls from all over the Tri-state: River Valley, Needles, Mohave, Havasu, Kingman … over the last four years I’ve been coaching about nine months out of the year.
So what about that undefeated streak?
“Junior high,” Chavez replied. “I only lost one junior high game in six years total. I coached three years with the boys, three years with the girls in junior high. My only loss in my junior high career was with the boys team. I never lost with the girls team.”
Competition tends to increase in the higher age brackets and the summer travel ball circuit, he continued, is highly competitive. “In high school basketball you play against the best girls from one school. In travel ball you play against the best girls in the entire city. This past summer we won two tournaments and placed in the top three at a couple more.”
His team is based out of Bullhead City and practices at the Boys and Girls Club in Bullhead. “Corey Heath (Mohave High School varsity girls basketball coach) and I do that team together,” Chavez explained. “He has a lot of access to gyms over there. It’s easier to get gym time, that’s why we do most of our stuff over there.”
Four of this year’s Lady ’Stangs team played on the travel ball team during the summer: Jordyn Breaux, Rylee Chavez, Mia Andrews and Julianna Ortiz. Rylie Willis is a future Lady ’Stang. “Willis is in eighth grade now but played on the travel ball team and will be ready to contribute right away,” he said.
Two additional Needles players, Savannah Hazlewood and Kobrea Phillips, didn’t play full time on travel ball but have played in a couple of tournaments, Chavez continued.
Another travel ball team is the Fort Mojave Lady Braves with Marie Mills, Clarisse Chavez, Gabriella Roberts, Te’ Limon and McKenna Duarte. Standout Valentina Limon graduated last year.
The junior varsity head coach, assistant varsity coach and a Needles High Valedictorian is a standout as well: Gena Chavira. “Gena and I coached together for junior high boys maybe three years ago,” Chavez said. “Gena played college basketball so she brings a lot of knowledge to the program as well.”
With all that experience what does the new coach see for the season ahead? “I’m excited,” he said. “No matter what, any time you lose a (Class of 2019) Paige Murch or a Valentina Limon, those are big shoes to fill. Those are two tremendous athletes and basketball players but I think we’ll be able to fill the void if we work hard every day.
“We don’t rebuild, we reload.
“Riley Breaux is almost as tall as Paige Murch. She’s a returning starter from last year and I expect big things from her this year. Marie Mills, Clarisse Chavez and Gabriella Roberts are also seniors; Marie and Clarisse are going to be major contributors along with Riley Breaux. They’re going to be my senior leaders that I’m going to rely on.”
Athleticism will be a strength of the 2019-20 Lady ’Stangs, he reported. “I think we’re going to be a fast team. What we may not have in height we’ll make up for in transition. That’s what I’m going to stress: play fast, create easy baskets. A lot of these girls play a lot of basketball so I think their experience in playing as much as they do is going to be huge.
“I think we’re going to have great depth with this year’s team. I think we’re going to be solid.”
The defensive strategy? “We’re looking to put pressure on the ball at all times,” Chavez said. “Full court press, half court press, man-to-man: we just want constant pressure on the ball.
“One word I keep pounding into their heads is rebounding. I stress rebounding. We’ll practice rebounding every day. It’s going to be a point of emphasis this season.”
Offensive rebounding, he said, is very much a part of that strategy.
Asked about a coaching philosophy, Chavez replied: “Play hard, play smart and play together. That not only goes for on the court but in the classroom and community as well. One of the best coaches I ever had, Bud Parker, said something to us and it’s true: ‘More people know you than you know just because you play on this team.’
“Those are valuable words that I will stress to this team as well.”
Why does he coach? “I played college football (and) college baseball. Basketball has always been my top interest because it’s fast paced, much faster than the other sports. You have to make in-game adjustments on the fly. There’s a lot more strategy to it. So I think as a coach it’s one sport you can say keeps me on my toes the most. That I really enjoy.”
Overall, he concluded, “I think this year is going to be a great season. I think if we all play together and we play by our motto there’s not reason why we cannot compete for a state championship.
“This has been a dream job for me. I started coaching in the lower levels to one day get to this position. Now I’m here and I’ve got to make the most of it. It’s going to take everybody: every player, every coach. Everyone’s going to be just as important. Everybody’s going to have a role and if we all play together we’re going to make this season special.
“I have nothing but the utmost respect for (previous multi-year coaching team of) Manuel Calderon and Pat Murch. I think their records speak for themselves. They made the Lady ’Stangs basketball program an elite program in our league and I just hope to carry it on.”