Natchitoches Central Head Coach Q&A / Nikki Jones
Continuing our attempt to highlight OUR coaches in Louisiana we caught up Coach Jones from Natchitoches Central . Coach Jones has continued the rich tradition of girls basketball after coming back home and coaching at her alma mater for the past several years. Her style of coaching is tough and as a fan you can tell her players love her for that! Below is our Q&A:
Your team had another successful season making into back to the final four but this year was a little different. Recap last year for us how exciting was the ride to go into the playoffs as the 19 seed and advance to the final four?
It is always exciting to make it to the Final 4. This past season was extra special being that we were ranked the 19th seed. We had a lot of ups and downs this past year due to injuries and inexperience. Our players with little playing experience had to step up into roles that they were not used to playing. A lot of people counted us out because of this, but our girls just kept working and trusting the process. It is always rewarding, as a coach, to see the excitement from your players after accomplishing something you knew they could do all along. Unfortunately, it did not end the way we wanted, but hopefully that will drive us in the upcoming season.
Moving into the 2020-21 season your team brings back a lot of its core as several of your key players will have more experiences how will this momentum help your team for the 2020-21 season?
We have a good core of our team coming back next year. Several girls got playing time that will only help us for next season. Young girls had to step up and play when we had 4 of our 5 starters sitting on the bench with injuries or foul trouble. I am hoping the playing experience throughout the year and making it to the final 4 will give us some momentum and drive to make it back to the state tournament. It is rewarding as a coach to see the excitement in the players when they can reap the rewards of the work they put in day in and day out.
Your team has been recognized as one of the top teams in the 5A classification. What do you feel are the reasons for your team's success?
I credit my team’s success to having a great coaching staff and good athletes buying into our program. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work from every person in this program. We have not always been the most talented team, but our motto is to outwork our opponents. We know offense comes and goes and our best shooter might have an off night, but we have always taught our players that defense is the key to winning consistently. Defense is 100% effort and you have to show up every night and not stop until the buzzer goes off.
What led you to choose teaching and coaching as your profession? Who are some mentors that have help you become the coach you are today?
Once I started playing basketball in high school, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. Basketball has always been my passion. I had a great relationship with my high school coach, Emma Boozman. I also had great college coaches. I knew that I wanted to have those same type relationships with my players and help them advance to the next level if that is what that chose to do. I was lucky enough to move back home and coach under Coach Boozman before taking over the program. I would have to say that she has been my biggest influence as a coach. Today, I work along with a great boys coaching staff at Natchitoches Central and coach against some great coaches. Collaboration with my colleagues allow me to grow and excel as a coach.
Do you have any advice to a younger coach in terms of what makes a good
You must be fully dedicated to your job and your athletes. Work hard for them on and off the court. Let them know you care about them. Remember that each athlete is different. Take time to learn their personalities. This will allow you to better coach them. Always be willing to grow as a coach and stay humble.
I ask this question to all the coaches I interview. What do you feel are some ways that Louisiana can improve the girls basketball moving forward? What do you feel really works and made you glad to be a coach in Louisiana?
Keep giving them a platform to be seen. I know that sometimes it is hard to travel to the bigger tournaments due to holidays or school/other obligations, but they need to be seen. If college coaches aren’t coming to your gym, bring your players to the college coaches/scouts. I feel we have a great group of girl basketball players in the state of Louisiana, and we need to come together as coaches and help everyone see this. Because some kids in the northern part of the state may not be able to travel down south to play on an elite AAU team or live in an area where there is no AAU team available, we must find others ways for these girls to be noticed.
What would you like to see implemented to assist young girls develop prior to high school? What are things middle school kids need to know or should be working on to prepare for the high school level?
Fundamentals. Learning the basic fundamentals of basketball. I would like to see the middle schools visit high school practices to learn how to prepare for the next level. I believe th