Ex-St. Teresa coach set to take over at STM

Ex-St. Teresa coach set to take over at STM

CHAMPAIGN — Ashley VanEtten sought to move on from "a bad situation." Josh and Krista Hinkley were aiming to close a "window of uncertainty."

In one fell swoop, the two sides combined to accomplish both of these goals.

VanEtten is slated to become St. Thomas More's next girls' basketball coach, the school's co-athletic directors announced Tuesday.

VanEtten will replace Tom Garriott, who departed from the Sabers after coaching at STM the last two seasons to take the same position at Pontiac.

"They have a very strong tradition of not just athletics," VanEtten said of STM. "Faith is very important to me, and being in a place where I can coach and use my faith background to help me in my job and to help me reach the players I'm going to be working with is a plus."

VanEtten's assignment comes almost three months after she stepped down following four seasons in charge at St. Teresa.

She described her setup with the Bulldogs as one that "was going to make my job difficult" despite helping the squad to postseason hardware each of the last two seasons.

Any issues at St. Teresa haven't diminished VanEtten's desire to walk the sidelines, though.

"Her enthusiasm and passion is completely evident," Krista Hinkley said. "We ask applicants what their strategy for coaching is, and she talked for an extended time about that. We're excited about how comfortable she is as a coach."

St. Teresa posted a 77-38 ledger under VanEtten's watch and captured a Class 1A regional crown in 2017 and 2018.

The former Greenville College basketball athlete was named Macon County Coach of the Year in 2016 and 2017, in addition to receiving Illinois Basketball Coaches Association District 15 Coach of the Year recognition in 2017 and 2018.

"I'm hoping my playing background — even though it's been a while — and my most recent coaching background ... will help me to continue to build the St. Thomas More program," the 34-year-old said. "I have high expectations of my players."

VanEtten will take over for Garriott, who compiled a 29-26 record with the Sabers. STM finished the 2017-18 campaign with a 17-10 mark, falling one triumph short of a Class 2A regional trophy.

With the Sabers' summer workout period in the books, VanEtten will have to wait for the 2018-19 regular season to truly see what she has with her STM crew.

The good news for VanEtten is she'll lead a program that returns three starters, led by Division I prospect NaKaya Hughes, and multiple other athletes with varsity experience. And she already knows what sort of personal touch she'd like to place on the group.

"I'm a defensive coach, probably because ... defense was my weak point as a player," said VanEtten, a native of Darlington, Wis. "I hope we're going to be a defensive team that's in your face and will get a lot of transition layups and transition points."

Krista Hinkley said she and her husband received five applicants for the job, and Josh Hinkley added that he witnessed some of STM's stars expressing their approval of the hire Tuesday via social media.

It's only a matter of time before Sabers fans can see what that translates to on the hardwood for a program that won the Class 2A state title in 2014.

"I'm expecting us to be able to compete with anybody we play," VanEtten said. "Hopefully we're going to make it an exciting game (each night) that people are going to want to sit in the stands to watch."

They're making moves

Though not as busy as the boys' basketball coaching scene, the area girls' hoops layout has seen some leadership changes this offseason. A look at the local switches:

SCHOOL, NEW COACH, FORMER COACH

LeRoy, Chris Houser, Danielle Cooley

Milford, Tom Marshino, Mike Duis

Oakwood, Stephanie Marsh, Jeff Ford

Rantoul, Renee Reed, Kelly Thompson

St. Thomas More, Ashley VanEtten, Tom Garriott