Jaysie Chambers Sheppard has been all over the world while playing basketball, but part of her never left the Bay Area.
That’s because Elizabeth Stanley, her high school coach at Amador Valley in Pleasanton, Calif., is still part of Sheppard’s life.
“I am still very connected with her,” Sheppard said. “That’s the kind of situation I want to foster here.”
Here would be Desert Vista, pending board approval, as Sheppard is the top candidate after Thunder officials interviewed six perspective coaches to take over for Rachel Proudfoot, who stepped down after four successful years in order to take care of an ailing loved one in Virginia.
“Her energy and passion separated her from the others,” Desert Vista athletic director T.J. Snyder said Monday after Sheppard was introduced to the families of the players. “What you see is what you get. We are just really excited to have another coach who strives for excellence, cares about her kids, and has a great vision.”
Sheppard, 31, wasn’t your typical candidate in that she doesn’t have much high school coaching experience and most of her coaching interaction has been with boys.
She doesn’t have a win-loss record to put on a resume or promote the fact that she has led teams to x-amount of playoff runs like other candidates, but what Sheppard does have is a strong foundation of basketball, faith and the desire to help young women to gain the confidence to succeed in any circumstance.
“I played in Greece where I was called every name you could think of and some you probably couldn’t,” she said. “I would run back down court blowing kisses because I was killing them.
“That’s the kind of confidence you have to have in yourself to be successful not only in basketball but in life. It is something I want to share with these girls in this community.”
And by community, Sheppard is talking about more than the girls who earn the right to wear a Thunder uniform.
“I want to have autograph sessions after games where young ladies can see what it takes play Desert Vista basketball and hopefully they will be inspired to do something about it,” she said. “We did it at my high school and it wasn’t about us getting a chance to sign autographs. It was about having the little girls aspire to be something special.”
Sheppard is married to Nick and they have a 2-year-old daughter, Niveah. They had a chance to get to know the players just a little bit after meeting them late last week.
“I was getting after it already,” Sheppard said. “They were in the weight room and I was excited to see that. I haven’t been part of the team aspect in awhile. I’ve been working with boys mostly. The girls atmosphere is a lot different. Gathering together and working together, and I can see there is something special at this school.
“Dr. (Anna) Battle and Mr. Snyder gave me a sense of what the atmosphere is like and I came out of the interview feeling like this is exactly what I want.”
Incoming senior guard Kylie Butler, who will be one of the leaders remaining from last year’s 25-win team, said their first couple of interactions have been positive.
“We were all crying and balling when we heard about Coach P. leaving,” Butler said. “It was tough, but it seems like everything is going to be OK. We’ve had a chance to meet (Coach Sheppard) a few times and it has been good.”
Sheppard, who will not be an on-campus teacher, said opponents can expect an up-tempo game when the Thunder steps on the court.
“We are going to be a very up-tempo team,” she said. “Girls basketball needs to be seen as a fast-paced, transitional, get-after-it kind of ball because if we keep it slow all of the time no one is going to want to be apart of that. There is going to be a large amount of intensity and everything else is going to follow.”
Sheppard, whose playing career as a 6-foot-1 forward ended in 2008 with a stint with the Phoenix Mercury when she was waived on May 5, 2008, has spent the last few years with her husband building a 501(c)3 ministry called TPA HOOPS (Today Pro Athletes Helping Others Obtain Personal Salvation), which includes a basketball academy.
It is one of her passions in life and now she hopes to share some of that with the Thunder players, but when it comes down to it, Sheppard relies on the early lessons she was taught by her high school coach.
“Heart is something you can’t teach but somehow she did,” Sheppard said. “I grew to love this game and now it is my time to pass the passion on to the next generation.”
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