After three years at the helm of both basketball programs at Mustang Mountain, Steve Quattlebaum has had a bit more time to relax this summer.
Quattlebaum, who turned over the Central Arkansas Christian boys team to the incoming Matt Hall, returns his focus to the Lady Mustangs for 2013-14. He led them to state championships in 2005, ’06 and ’07.
Quattlebaum, his new assistant, Jason Gates, and the CAC girls have participated in camps at Ouachita Baptist University, UALR, Pottsville High School and Harding University.
And they got better, Quattlebaum said.
"We had three camps in a row in June, and our numbers weren’t real good, so the kids who were there played a lot, got some experience and got better," he said. "(Recently) we went to Harding and had a really good week. We saw some pretty good teams. We’re playing a lot better than we did this time last year."
Falan Miller, the senior-to-be forward, committed to Harding while at the camp.
"Falan’s had a good summer," Quattlebaum said. "Sydnie Jones (the 6-1 junior-to-be) was really good all summer. Sarah Butler, our point guard, got better. She’s played AAU and has really improved. We’ve got a sophomore coming up, Brittany Higgins, who is one we might should’ve brought up (to the varsity) last year. She’s a 5-4, 5-5 guard, and she’s a better defender than I thought she was, and she shoots better than she did last year. She plays a lot of AAU. She’s going to be a big asset for us.
"And Chloe Elkins has really improved this summer. Her shot’s been a little more consistent, and she has improved her defense and rebounding, which we need from her. She’s a good passer; she’s had a lot of good assists this summer. And Jessica McCauley got to go with us to Harding, and she played some good minutes for us."
CAC finished 25-9 last season, runner-up in the 7-4A conference, third in the district tournament and quarterfinalist in the Class 4A State Tournament. Three of the losses came to Malvern, the eventual state champion, which is also in the 7-4A.
Quattlebaum said his team had played Malvern a couple of times early in the summer.
"They beat us one time, and another time they played as a JV game and we won," he said. "We’re going to be a little deeper than we were last year, and we’re going to be able to play a few more people. That should help us. I thought we got fatigued last year. We never really got in shape.
"We’ve gotten a lot better, but we’ve got the defending state champions with four starters back in our conference. So it’ll be tough, but I think we’re better now than we were a year ago."
The Lady Mustangs are participating in CAC’s campus-wide Fastang conditioning workouts, and Quattlebaum said their practice schedule during the school year would move from morning to the afternoon.
"When school starts, we’ll get right into our conditioning," he said. "We didn’t feel like we got a lot done in our morning practices. This group in particular didn’t function very well in the mornings.
"But we’re really excited. I’ll miss working with the boys, but when we’re able to focus on one team, I think it will help. When you’re doing both, it’s kind of hard."
Gates, a CAC alumnus, has coached junior high and seventh grade boys at Mustang Mountain but has not worked with the Lady Mustangs until now.