The Lady Longhorn girls basketball program takes on a new look this season with Jennifer White, a freshman coach last year, assuming the reins of the program, and former head coach Kelly Krieg becoming a varsity assistant.
Krieg had been the Lady Longhorn head coach for the past two years and was applauded around the Rim Country for putting together a strong, year-round program that included off-season clinics and camps.
Krieg did not wish to discuss why she was stepping down to become an assistant, but Payson High School athletic director Gary Fishel said it was due to undisclosed health issues.
Krieg will continue to teach physical education at Payson High.
White received her first glimpse of prospective players in action when preseason practices officially tipped off yesterday, Nov. 7, in Wilson Dome.
In addition to having Krieg on hand to assist on the varsity team, White has assembled a staff that includes two former Payson High basketball stars —Brandi Waugh and Miles Huff.
Waugh will coach the freshmen and Huff joins J.T. Sarano as jayvee coach.
Waugh graduated with the PHS class of 2002 and during her prep career was one of the Lady Longhorns’ leading scorers while playing for former coach Krystal Garvin. Waugh was also a standout softball player who signed at the conclusion of her senior season to play for Eastern Arizona College.
Huff graduated with the PHS class of 2007 and was a four-year member of the hoop program who starred during the glory years when the team made back-to-back trips to the state finals. After graduation, he played in the Arizona Basketball Coaches Association North vs. South All-Star game. Huff also was an assistant coach in football this school year and is currently student teaching at PHS.
White is obviously excited about her fellow coaches saying, “We have a great staff this year.”
Although White is a rookie head coach, she is firm in her beliefs about how the program should be built.
“We will make a united effort to make a strong program that starts in seventh-grade and continues through the varsity level,” she said. “My hope is that we can build this strong foundation by uniting all the coaches and developing a strong work ethic.”
The new coach also has an eye on the future, “I hope to provide these girls with skills they can use beyond the basketball court.”
As for her strategy and schemes, White remains a bit coy, saying only her offenses and defenses are “my secret weapons.”
She does, however, hint that she could favor both fast break and pattern basketball, “We are planning to run an up-tempo, fast-moving game, however, we have size to fortify our offense with structured control in the key.”
As for defenses, she wouldn’t commit to playing man-to-man, zone or possibly pressing, saying only, “We have aggressive defensive players which will make our defense strong.”
White has not yet had the practice time to formulate goals with team members, but says her personal ambition is to “unite this team and continue building on the concepts they learned last year.”
There has also not been time to evaluate new and returning players, but the coach believes they are “a talented bunch of girls who are prepared to work hard.”
When Krieg stepped aside to become an assistant, she did not leave the cupboard bare for her successor.
Returning are a core of players including Chioya Hill, Emmee Ashby, Jaymi Carlen and Molly Davis, who Krieg praised at the end of last season for their commitment to the program.
Hill returns as an All-East region selection and Payson’s go-to player last year. In fact, the Blue Ridge coach respected her offensive skills enough to employ a “Box-and-1” defense in an effort to limit her scoring.