New Mingus girls basketball coach Susan Holm came to this conclusion while traveling with her team to last week’s scrimmage at North Canyon:
Her players are cool.
“They are so fun to be with,” Holm said. “It was interesting listening to all their conversations. Every team has diverse group dynamics, but for the most part, they mesh real well.”
Holm also came to this conclusion after watching her team’s first effort against an outside opponent that same day: her cool players have a lot of learning to do to become competitive in the tough 4A conference.
Holm, the program’s third head coach in as many years, inherits a team young on experience and green in terms of hoops fundamentals. Only five players return with ample varsity experience, and none likely consider basketball their number one sport.
Senior Nicole Zettler is a star pitcher on the softball diamond. Senior Laura Weir is a state qualifier in tennis. Senior Ashley Bright earned all-region in volleyball. Juniors Michelle Lee and Brittany Smith likely list softball and volleyball as their top gigs.
“A lot of them haven’t really grasped the concepts of different phases of the game,” Holm said. “We have really worked on offense, but basic things like help-side defense, we haven’t gotten to yet.
“I may not have the personnel to do all of what I wanted to (this year).”
Fortunately, her current personnel do show promise, and the future looks bright.
Zettler likely will be among the starting guards and can be a scorer. “She has one of the prettiest shots,” Holm said.
As with volleyball and tennis, Weir is a solid all-around athlete and one of the most versatile. She can play on the wing or in the post. Bright stands around 6-0 and can be a presence in the paint once she gets her timing and footwork down.
“We intend to really work on post moves with her and bring her along,” Holm said. “She can jump out of the gym. She’ll be very useful.”
Lee is another strong option in the post. Once she gets her “thinker’s mind” wrapped around basketball, look out, Holm said.
Smith will likely run the point and is one of the strongest players on the team. “She’s consistent, smart and she diligently does what you’ve asked her to do,” the coach said. “That’s what you need in a point guard.”
The junior class looks strong all-around. Lindsey Stokes could develop into the team leader by season’s end. She will “run through a wall” if it will help the Marauders, Holm said.
“She’s a natural born leader. You need a Lindsey on every team,” the coach said. “She may not have all the tools and skills, but she’ll play with a whole lot more heart. She’s very coachable and teachable.”
Junior Candice McCoy may be among the most athletic players on the squad. She has good leaping ability and her first step is among the fastest of anyone in a Mingus uniform.
Fellow 11th-grader Tera Stutheit is a hard-worker who will provide depth at point guard. April Naef is another go-getter.
Ashley Perrault gives Mingus four seniors. She moves up from JV and could be the team’s biggest surprise by conference play.
“She’s one of those who is a sleeper,” Holm said. “She’s gets in and scraps. And she can shoot the ball.”
Two sophomores join the varsity roster – Elissa Bañuelos and Heather Crawford. Bañuelos may be one of Mingus’ best pure athletes. She led the freshman team in scoring much of last season and earned a starting spot in softball as a ninth-grader.
“She claims not to know basketball, but she moves real well, and I anticipate her being in the game very early if not starting,” Holm said.
Crawford also played on the freshman team a year ago and makes the jump over JV. She will likely move from the wing to the post and has good ball-handling skills.
“She and Elissa – look to them for the future,” Holm said.
And that’s what a lot of this season could be – preparing for the future. Holm is in her first year of coaching varsity girls but has experience working with state championship contending teams.
Holm, whose maiden name is Reeves, was a standout at Camp Verde High in the 1980s and earned a scholarship to play at NAU. She was John Willey’s assistant at CVHS in the 1990s when the Cowboys reached the 2A finals and played at America West Arena.
Holm replaces John Christensen, who directed the team for one year before retiring from all coaching. Pete Fredlake was the coach in 2001-02 before retiring from the school. Bob Young returns to coach the JV girls. Audrey Islas will again coach the freshman girls.
Mingus varsity only won three times last season and did not get a victory in Grand Canyon Region games. This season’s league schedule likely will be just as tough. Sinagua is ranked fourth in 4A, and Flagstaff is listed sixth by The Arizona Republic.
Page and Chinle are always tough and scrappy, and newcomer Payson was a state quarterfinalist in 3A last year.