St. Fred's Waller wins Girls Basketball Coach of the Year
By Cody Futrell
MONROE — There are few things in the world St. Frederick basketball coach Joseph Waller likes less than talking about himself and his own accomplishments.
Waller would much rather point out the superb job his coaching staff around him did, or his Lady Warrior players coming together throughout the season.
But, there is no denying the instant impact his arrival had on a girls basketball program once the door mat of District 2-1A. Waller led the Lady Warriors to the playoffs that earned their highest seeding (No. 18) in nearly a decade and narrowly missed a first-round win at No. 15 St. Mary’s in a 29-26 defeat. The kind of turnaround the Lady Warriors showed under Waller, going 15-13 after winning just 3 games in the last two years combined, earned the coach the 2014 All-NELA Small School Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
“My coaching staff around me (assistants Johnny Mercer and Macie LaBorde) had just as much to do with it,” Waller said. “They both did a tremendous job. Those two were a huge asset to me.”
Waller spent time as a head coach in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools at Prairie View Academy in Bastrop before taking the St. Frederick job last summer. Waller was head coach of the boys and girls basketball at St. Frederick for the 2013-2014 season.
Waller saw within the first week of practice this fall, that the Lady Warriors had the potential to make this season memorable.
“I could tell right away, we had the pieces in place to be competitive,” Waller said. “The team needed structure. The program needed structure. Kids, no matter what they act like, when they act like they like doing things on their own, they like having structure. They like having someone there to tell them what to do. My assistant coaches did an incredible job of helping me bring that structure the program needed.”
After a 2-4 start to the season, St. Frederick went on a four-game winningstreak, highlighted by a 46-38 win over Class 4A playoff qualifier West Ouachita which was the true starting point for the program being back on the road to respectability.
“I think that day, when we beat West Ouachita at the Delhi Charter tournament, was the day we began to believe,” Waller said. “Our girls, I think, looked at that and said ‘OK, we can be pretty good.’” With seniors Emma Weems, Kristin Smith, and Yasmeen Labbab able to finish their high school basketball careers on a good note. The future behind leading scorers such as Amber Sellers, Megan Prudhomme and Rachel Augerson have the Big Blue Nation excited about things to come.
“I think we can do better,” Waller said. “I think the upside for the program is there. We just want to work hard, to get better and improve.”