Arizona Preps is continuing to bring unique coverage to the state of Arizona. We continue our Coaches’ Spotlight to showcase and highlight Arizona’s best high school coaches.
I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down and talking with Coach Katie Fonseca who is the Head Girls Basketball Coach of Mesa High School. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Coach Fonseca for many years (I used to coach her nephew in AAU). We first met when she was here visiting family while serving as the Head Women’s Coach of Blackburn College in Carlinville, Illinois.
Here is our Q & A from our conversation about one of the top up-and-coming programs from the East Valley:
Q: How long have you been coaching?
A: This is my 4th season coaching at Mesa High School. I have a total of (16) years of coaching experience at the high school and college levels. Some of my previous stints prior to Mesa High include: Blackburn College, Iowa Lakes Community College, Tonopah Valley High School and Copper Canyon High School.
Q: Why do you coach?
A: I love the game! I love teaching the game and all that it brings with it. Individually for players and collectively for the team. I love that I am able to build up young women into strong individuals who believe in their capabilities beyond the game of basketball. That they will learn life lessons, and skills that they can use their whole life! I want to give back to the young ladies that come through our program, what I was given as a player by my coaches.
Q: What are your expectations for this season?
A: Winning the Region is a realistic goal, as well as making it back to the state tournament. We would like to earn a Top 8 spot in the state in order to get a first round bye. I along with my team think that these are achievable goals. We will have to compete every game as we have some really tough opponents in our region who are all capable of winning the region title.
Q: Who are your key players to watch this season?
A: Mackenzie Shivers - A returning Region Player of the Year - She can do it all on the offensive end. She is a driver slasher who can hit the 3 consistently, while also getting to the rim. She has worked a lot this year on her mid-range game. Great leader on the floor who can play the PG and SG positions as well as defend!
Ashiian Hunter - A returning 1st-Team Region Player - Great sophomore talent who is versatile and can play the PG and SG positions. She is very shifty with her handles and gets to the rim, can stroke the 3 and was our second leading scorer behind Mackenzie. She plays both ends of the floor and has started to blossom vocally as a leader for our team.
Dei'Jonae Moore - She is a fast defensive stopper who guards the best player on the other team. Make easy buckets off of her defense.
Q: What were the keys into turning your program around?
A: Hard work day in and day out by our players and coaches. It started with getting our numbers up on all of our teams. We then started developing our in-boundary talent and keeping those players from the Junior High and getting them to Mesa HS. We spent the last four years during the spring, summer and fall months with our kids in the gym. We stuck to developing fundamentals, a team over self mentality and getting our players to think basketball. We have been able to push our kids because they are coachable and have bought in. We take them to multiple Collegiate Team Camps during June so that we can play together and we have really spent a lot of time behind the scenes developing relationships between our players themselves and also with our coaches. We do alot of team building that is fun and also that challenges them as individuals and as a team. Our players over the last four years have really been the backbone to turning this program around along with the support of our administration and coaching staff from freshman to varsity.
Q: What challenges did you face leading into this season due to the pandemic?
A: Obviously not getting to be in the gym as much as we did in the past three years and all that, that allows us to do. We didn't get in the weightroom as much this season either and we usually are in there for months prior to the season, during and after. Our freshman numbers are down this year but we love the new rookies we have on our team. The emotional rollercoaster that was a season and then wasn't a season due to the cancellation and then it getting reinstated. We look at all of this as a challenge and our players have risen to the occasion.
Coach Fonseca has turned a struggling program into a competitive contender. We appreciate the time that she took in discussing her program with us. Currently the Lady Jackrabbits are 4-2 and are looking to grind out the rest of the season to compete for a spot in the state tournament. We look forward to watching these Ladies compete the rest of the season.