Nicole Villarreal knows the recipe for a winning basketball program from the eight years she worked as an assistant coach at perennial powerhouse Duncanville.
Now she comes to Highland Park hoping that she has the right ingredients to duplicate that success in her first job as a varsity head coach.
Villarreal knows it won’t happen overnight, at least not at that level. But she is enthusiastic about developing a girls program at HP that will compete for district and state titles.
After all, that’s why she thought the Lady Scots were a perfect fit once she decided she wanted to become a head coach.
“There’s a lot of tradition here and the kids work really hard. They want to do everything they can do to be successful,” Villarreal said. “I thought it was the next best place for me.”
The Lady Scots will open the regular season tonight with a game at Rockwall.
Villarreal was hired in the spring to replace Amy Matlock, who left after six seasons at HP to become the coach at Frisco Independence. That allowed Villarreal valuable time for Villarreal to meet with players and familiarize herself with her new school before classes started in August.
She coached at various levels in Duncanville ISD, and was a varsity assistant on the 2012 and 2013 teams that won Class 5A state titles and were widely considered among the best in the country.
Her mentor is Duncanville head coach Cathy Self-Morgan, who worked with Highland Park ISD athletic director Johnny Ringo at Austin Westlake during the early 1990s.
HP will lose several key contributors from a squad that finished 17-10 last season and fell to The Colony in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
Villarreal’s goal is not to just direct a successful varsity team, but to build a program throughout the district. That’s why she has visited Highland Park Middle School almost every day, aiming to instill the same principles and strategies in players and coaches there.
At the high school, she’s encouraging her players to be involved in more camps and on club teams. They spend more time on weights and conditioning.
The Lady Scots will employ a more up-tempo system with a young roster in its first year at the Class 6A level. That might lead to some growing pains, but Villarreal hopes it will lay the groundwork for success.
“Using a classification as an excuse is not something we’re going to do,” she said. “We plan to compete and ultimately we want to win. I’m not going to be happy unless I see progress from the girls.”