Sometimes when a coaching vacancy appears, the person selected for the role is faced with a difficult rebuilding process with players lacking in experience and skills.
Former Yellow Jacket Jason Hodges won’t have that problem as he begins the 2019-2020 basketball season as the new head coach of the Stephenville High School Honeybees.
In addition to having four seniors, several of the underclassmen not only gained valuable experience but also made significant contributions last season.
In June, Hodges was named as the replacement for longtime SHS head coach Alan Thorpe, a member of the 500-win club who took a position as head girls coach at Granbury. He led the Bees to a 25-8 record last season when they reached the regional quarterfinals.
“I feel like we’re going to be deep this year,” Hodges said of the Honeybees he inherited, which includes five returning lettermen who have had significant varsity playing time. “We’ve got three seniors, Mikayla Diaz, Jettie Funderburgh and Kassidy Nowak, that have been a huge part of the Honeybee program the last few years.”
Three other players with exceptional athletic ability — junior starting post Alee McClendon, and sophomores Landri Withers at forward and move-in Jaylee Matthews at guard — will offer a high basketball skill level when they join the team at the end of the volleyball season. Withers was a state track qualifier as a freshman last spring in the long jump. Matthews played on the varsity basketball team at Seminole under Leland Bearden, who had guided Smyer to two Class A championships in three trips to the state tournament.
“We’re going to push the ball in transition,” Hodges said. “We think we’ve got the guards that are capable of doing that. We’ve got a ton of post players. And we’ve got some guards that are pretty quick with the basketball.
“Mainly we’re going to push the ball and then of course we’re going to just try to suffocate people with our man defense. Coach Thorpe always had great defensive teams in the past and we want to continue to build on that and take it to the next level. Points will come, but we’ve got to have that defense.”
Others currently listed on the roster, which could change, are senior Dayanira Inman, juniors Katie McIrvin and Asia Hays, and sophomores Maci Guay, Bella Diaz and Zoe Birdwell.
Hodges said he is fortunate to have his two assistant coaches — Beth Phelps now leading the junior varsity and Chelsea Goff as the freshman team coach. Phelps had been coaching at Crowley but returned to Stephenville, where she had been a student-athlete with the Honeybees in the early 2000s (then Beth Bramlett). Goff will be the freshman coach.
“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” Hodges said. “There’s going to be some learning curves with me being new, but when those three come over from volleyball we’re going to be even better. And it’s going to be exciting.”
Hodges said that not only is the district alignment going to be tough — featuring state-ranked Glen Rose and rival Brownwood along with Godley and Mineral Wells — but their competition in Region I, including Argyle and Canyon, will be treacherous.
This will be the seventh season for Hodges as a head basketball coach, and his 15th in coaching overall. His overall record is 118-76, which includes four playoff appearances with his most recent school, Class 4A Midlothian Heritage. Prior to that he was head girls coach at Class 2A Rio Vista.