Lady Horns Get New Basketball Leader

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Rory Huff has turned the Lady Longhorn coaching reins over to a man who last year led the Rim Country Middle School Maverick eighth-grade boys to the White Mountain League Championship.

Grant Coley was appointed the new coach last week, about three months after Huff turned in his resignation, saying he wanted to have more free time to watch his son, Miles, compete in football and basketball his senior season at PHS.

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Newly appointed Lady Longhorn basketball coach Grant Coley has coached at several Valley-area high schools. Last year he led the Rim Country Middle School boys to the White Mountain League championship.

Huff was the varsity basketball head coach for three years and prior to that served as an assistant in the program.

Prior to Coley coaching at RCMS last season, he coached various levels in girls programs at Sunnyslope, Dysart, Apollo and Arcadia high schools.

The new coach said he retired to Payson a couple of years ago, after a long career as a Farmers Insurance agent.

In Payson, he decided he wanted to continue his coaching career.

"I enjoy coaching girls, decided to keep going," he said.

For Coley, the keys to molding a competitive team next year and carrying on the success Huff enjoyed will be to instill hustle and discipline in the players.

"If they do those things, they can be successful," he said.

Coley also said he believes that every player should receive equal opportunity within the framework of the program and he will try to fit the offense and defense to the skills of his players.

"Some coaches try to fit their kids into a certain way of doing things. I don't do that," he said. "Everything I do depends on the type of kids I have."

For example, if his current crop of players are blessed with good speed, he'll use a fast break offense.

"Last year (at RCMS) we were fast, so we ran," he said. "If they aren't (fast), we play half-court."

The defensive scheme he'll install will also depend on the strengths of individual players.

"It (the defense) could be man (to man), zone or a mix," he said.

Since Coley's appointment to the coaching position, he's met with his players in open gym sessions held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. each Monday and Wednesday in Wilson dome.

"I am happy with the girls. They look like a good group," he said. "I'm grateful to Rory for helping ease the transition."

The past week, 14 of the aspiring team members are attending a summer basketball camp on the campus of Arizona State University in Tempe.

Huff arranged for the girls to attend the camp prior to stepping down.

"It (the camp) will give the girls a good start for next season," Huff said.

Also on the summer agenda is a round robin tournament to be held June 23 and 24 at Blue Ridge High School.

The annual fray will afford Coley his first opportunity to assess his players under fire and allow the team members to see how they fare against athletes from other East region teams.

The players

Coley inherits from Huff a seasoned team that finished fourth in the 2005-2006 East region standings with a 16-17 record.

The Lady Horns advanced to the 3A state tournament, where a 48-17 loss to powerful Chandler Seton ended the campaign for Payson.

From that team, only Jadyn Walden, Kendra Francis and Danielle O'Haver were lost to graduation.

O'Haver departed the program having set school records for most three pointers in a single season, 64, and a career, 140.

With the trio of seniors now departed, Tori Wilbanks could be called upon to replace their leadership.

Last year, Wilbanks -- who will be a senior next school year -- earned All-East region first team honors playing a forward/center position for PHS.

Appearing in all 33 games, she led the team in scoring (11.4 p.p.g) and rebounding (9.8 per game).

With an additional year of experience and maturity, Wilbanks could round into one of the premier players in the East region.

Alongside Wilbanks in the new Lady Horn lineup could be Christina Deaton and Cydney Figueroa.

As freshmen last season, the talented duo were varsity letter winners and All-East honorable mention.

Deaton averaged 9.1 points and 9.8 rebounds a year, appearing in 24 games. She was sidelined early in the campaign with an injury.

She was also one of the team's most feared defenders, with 24 blocked shots.

Figueroa averaged 4.6 and 2.0 rebounds, appearing in 33 games.

A third member of last season's talented trio of freshmen is Kayla O'Donnell who proved to be an able defender.

"Blocking shots was kind of her forte," Huff said, "She had a ton of them every game."

Regular season basketball practices will tip off in October at the conclusion of volleyball and cross country seasons.

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