As Kaimarr Price walks into the gymnasium at Mountain Pointe High School, memories from his time at the school as a student-athlete come back to him.
“It takes me back, that’s for sure,” Price said. “Just thinking about Desert Vista games on Fridays gets the blood going.”
But as Price stands near the Pride logo at center court, it’s now for a different reason. He’s there to teach and become a mentor for players in the Mountain Pointe basketball program who are now on their fourth coach in four years.
Most importantly, he’s there to show the younger players on the team that he’s there to stay.
“They don’t want to hire a new coach every year,” Price said. “One thing with me is that now that I am in this position, I don’t want to go anywhere. I’m where I want to be.”
Price was hired to be the next basketball coach at Mountain Pointe after former coach Kirk Fauske stepped down to coach PHHoenix Prep, a new basketball academy based out of the Powerhouse Hoops Facility in Phoenix.
The 6-foot-7 former power forward jumped at the opportunity to return to his alma mater and coach the basketball program. Price called it his “dream job.”
“I love the community here,” Price said. “Whether it be Ahwatukee – where I am from – or south Phoenix where we draw from. “I think this is one of the best public school jobs in the state.”
Price played at Mountain Pointe under former coach Sam Ballard. A knee injury during his senior season in 2007 delayed his path to college. He enrolled and played at Chandler-Gilbert Community College before transferring to Western Illinois, where he played for two seasons until 2012.
He went on to play overseas in Croatia and France in 2013-14 before injuring his knee again, ending his playing career.
Price returned to Mountain Pointe as an assistant coach under Hosea Graham from 2015-17 before joining the staff at Ottawa University in Surprise, Ariz.
“It was eye opening for me as a coach,” Price said of his time at Ottawa. “Seeing the amount of scouting that goes into preparing for a game. We did a lot of film prep in college and overseas but it was mostly done for us.
“So I learned how to do a lot of that stuff and have carried it over to here.”
Price has already started scouting Mountain Pointe’s opponents for the 2019-20 season. He’s analyzed film and has started to develop game plans. He believes being prepared is only half of the battle.
The early preparation allows Price to become acquainted with the Mountain Pointe players. Though that has proven to be a simple task given his experience with the team last season.
Price’s nephew, Khalid, was a senior captain for Mountain Pointe last year. Price attended some of the Pride’s practices and games throughout the season.
“It just makes it easier,” Mountain Pointe soon-to-be junior point guard Jason Kimbrough said. “He knows a lot of us and he coaches us just as hard as Fauske. He is going to make sure we grow and function together as one team.”
Kimbrough will be the only returning starter for the Pride after forward DeAndre Henry elected to join Fauske at PHHoenix Prep.
The 5-foot-11 point guard has already been asked by Price to become a leader both on and off the court. So far, he’s exceeded expectations.
“In between the transition from the end of season to when I was hired, Jason kind of conducted the workouts for all the guys,” Price said. “He scheduled gym time, led the workouts, all of that. He’s very mature for his age in terms of his leadership. We will be looking at him to lead us a lot.”
Kimbrough averaged 6 points, 2.3 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game last season on a team that finished 22-7 and relied heavily on Henry and now Arizona State freshman forward Jalen Graham.
But knowing that he will be the floor general the next two seasons for the Pride, Kimbrough has raised the bar in terms of expectations for his team and himself this season.
“I want to do everything that I did last year at a higher level,” Kimbrough said. “I want to get more assists, more steals and be better on defense. I love these dudes, they’re my brothers.
“We know that if we just grow and stick together, we can still be a frontrunner for a state championship.”
Mountain Pointe has been regarded as a contender for a 6A state title the past three seasons. Though uncertainty surrounds the team from an outside perspective, Price echoed Kimbrough’s belief of the Pride having the ability to compete with anyone in the state.
Just in the few short weeks he has been with the program, Price has already seen improvement. And he doesn’t plan for that to end anytime soon.
“We’ve played some good teams so far this summer,” Price said. We have lost to some pretty good teams and we have beaten some good teams. But it’s only summer ball so you can’t really get a good feel for anything right now.
“But the main thing I’m looking for is how we compete. I want the fearlessness to be present from day one and so far it has been.”