We continue our Coaches Spotlight Series with Coach Daniel Trageser of Casteel High School. His Lady Colts are ranked #1 in 5A, and have a record of 9-0. I was able to observe his team dismantle Horizon on February 13th.
Coach Trageser runs an impressive defensive system, which looks to press and trap all 94-feet. His team creates havoc by disrupting their opponents' offensive rhythm by putting pressure on their guards, trapping ball-handlers, and forcing bad passes and miscues, which translates to high percentage offensive opportunities.
Here is our dialogue from our Q&A after the game . . .
Q: How long have you been coaching?
A: This is my 11th as a coach and educator.
Q: Which schools or programs?
A: I started my coaching career in small town Montana at Kila Middle School. I transitioned to the High school girls' game when I became the Frosh Coach at Flathead High School in Kalispell, MT. I coached at Flathead for (3) seasons before moving to Arizona. I was the JV Coach at Queen Creek High School for (1) year; before taking the Head Coach position at Casteel (3) seasons ago.
Q: Why do you coach?
A: Some of the greatest influences in my life were my coaches growing up. I lost my father at a young age, and many of my coaches assumed the father-figure role in my life, during my various sports seasons. I was always involved with sports growing up, and always had a passion for working with young people, as I began to figure out a career path. Coaching and teaching have helped to serve both of those passions; my goal as coach is to hopefully make a difference in my player's life, and helped them grow as young people; much like my coaches did for me.
Q: What are your expectations for this season?
A: Our expectations this season are the same that they are every season. We ask (5) things of every player in our program.
- That our players will COMPETE on every possession and drill.
2. That out players play: Hard, Smart and Together.
3. That our players communicate. Not only on the court, but in their everyday conversations.
(Can you maintain eye contact, can you be an active listener..etc)
4. That our players demonstrate toughness. Are you willing to do the little things?
5. That our players maintain a model and certain model of integrity on the court and in their everyday lives.
We think that if you are constantly and consistently doing those things as a player and as a program; that we are going to be able to have success on the court, and can compete at the highest level for Region and State Titles on a regular basis.
Q: Who are your key players to watch this season?
A: We bring back a very experienced and deep lineup this season. Many of the players in our program have started since their freshmen season. We have had (8) different players score in double-figures already this season; which speaks to their willingness to share the ball and play for each other. This team moves the ball so well and is extremely unselfish; they don't care about their individual numbers, but rather the success of the team.
Seniors guards Daeja Johnson and Autymn Franks are two of those 4-year starters who provide a lethal 1-2 combo in the back court.
Senior Camilla Norton, Junior Rayn Holton and Sophomore Stella Burt; have all seen their roles greatly increase this season in terms of minutes and expectations. They have excelled in those roles so far this season.
Q: What were the keys into keeping your program competitive year in and year out?
A: I think this goes back to the environment and atmosphere we have created over the past (3) years here at Casteel.
We compete daily, we play for team not individual success, we have a great coaching staff; who demands and brings the best out of our players, we hold our players accountable to our expectations, and we have a great community of support here at Casteel.
When you put all those things together and you have kids that are willing to buy in and believe in what you are trying to accomplish; success is a natural byproduct.
Q: What challenges did you face leading into this season due to the pandemic?
A: I think the biggest challenge has been the uncertainty of everything. Not knowing if you will have a season, not knowing if you can practice, not knowing if you can see your friends or if you will be quarantined, because of something outside of your control. You have to remember these are 14-18 year old kids who are dealing with so many things already. They need those in-person interactions and want to build relationships with their peers; consistency is key for their development, as well as physical and mental health. That was taken away from them for so long.
While those months of uncertainty were very trying, I believe they helped bring us closer together as a team, and taught our kids that nothing is guaranteed, and you can take nothing for granted. Those are very valuable lessons in both the game of basketball and life.
Coach Trageser is a fantastic coach, but even better human being. Though this is his 3rd year leading the program, he has impacted his student-athletes positively. The result is a positive culture which wins the right way. His team was very exciting to watch, and I am looking forward to seeing their team make a big playoff run.