Newly appointed Lady Longhorn basketball coach Shaun Hardt is no stranger to Rim country sports fans.
He's been a fixture on the local athletic scene for the past two decades and was a member of the 1981 state championship football team. When he was a senior in 1983, he set the Payson High School track and field mile record of 4:30. That mark still stands.
After he graduated from high school, Hardt's sports connection to Payson continued when he married former Lady Horn basketball star Ellie Teach.
Tim Fruth, who was Teach's coach from 1983 to 1985, labels her "the best point guard to ever play at Payson High School."
Following Hardt's graduation from Northern Arizona University in 1996, he returned to his hometown to accept a fifth-grade teaching position at Frontier Elementary School. While teaching there the past four years, he's served at Payson High as an assistant football coach, freshman boys basketball coach and last year as the jayvee boys basketball coach. Last winter, he and Nicole Ward co-coached the Rim Country Middle School eighth-grade girls team.
Hardt was appointed the new Lady Horn coach to replace Jerry Daniels who resigned at the conclusion of last season. In stepping down, Daniels said he wants to spend more time with his family, which includes two sons who are involved in the PHS sports programs.
As the new coach, Hardt will assume the reins of a very successful program that was a consistent state tournament qualifier under Daniels.
The off season
Following his appointment, it didn't take Hardt long to jump hightops first into the program.
Monday afternoon, he called a meeting of high school girls who are interested in participating in basketball.
Hardt laid out a rigorous off-season program that he said would help prepare them for the rigors of play in the rugged 3A East region.
First up, there's participation June 3 in the Apache Junction Invitational Tournament. Hardt said he doesn't know who is entered in the summer shoot-out, but the fray will give him the opportunity to assess the team and spend time with his players.
Next, the team is slated to travel June 13 to 17 to Page, where the squad will participate in the Power Classic Summer Tournament.
Hardt thinks the event could turn into a barn-burner since it will attract many of the potent northern Arizona reservation teams that usually dominate the 3A and 4A state tournaments. Teams from Utah also will be on hand, Hardt said.
Also on the agenda for prospective players is a basketball camp July 17 to 20. The camp will be open to players 8 to 14 years of age and will be held daily from 8 a.m. to noon in local gyms.
Former Lady Longhorn basketball star Erin Dahlman, who went on to play college ball in Prescott, will serve as camp director, Hardt said.
A summer tournament involving East region teams is still in the works. If all goes as Hardt and fellow coaches plan, the teams will meet at a central location - possibly Show Low - one day a week throughout the summer.
"That could give us eight or nine games of (playing) experience," Hardt said.
Hardwood hopefuls also will be given the opportunity to hone their skills in pickup games during open gym sessions slated for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday throughout the summer. Those sessions begin June 5.
Hardt's hoop plans
Hardt dismisses the term "run and gun" when describing his coaching philosophy, but, he said, "we'll push the ball up (court) and play an up-tempo game."
He said his emphasis in early season will be on fundamentals and defense.
The "D" will feature a variety of looks including man-to-man, full-court pressure and several zones and zone traps.
"We will mix things up," Hardt said.
Hardt is carefully assembling a staff to help him implement his coaching philosophy. He's offered the head junior varsity position to Rory Huff.
The rest of the staff hasn't been finalized, but it could include Crystal Donaldson, Chris Schwind and possibly former Lady Horn All-American Amberlyn White, Hardt said.