AA blog: With Azar, Wesleyan’s sucess is not automatic – it’s systematic

Jan Azar could walk away from coaching today and she’d still be the most successful girls high school basketball coach in state history. As head coach at Wesleyan – her first and only head coaching gig – she’s led the Lady Wolves to 10 state titles in the last 12 seasons and they’re currently six-time defending champions, which ties a state record. Azar has more than 400 wins and was inducted into the Gwinnett County Sports Hall of Fame in 2012. Those accomplishments rarely come for any coach, and she’s already achieved them as she hits the prime of her career.

Fortunately for Wesleyan, Azar isn’t walking away any time soon.

But how does a coach sustain such a level of success? How does she keep her kids focused and from feeling like a state title automatically comes with playing for Wesleyan? Why has player turnover had no affect on the Lady Wolves’ historic title run?

“(Winning titles) is a good place to be and a hard place to be,” Azar said. “(Every year) they want to accomplish what everyone did before them. Some people might think winning state is automatic, but it takes hard work to accomplish. Nothing’s automatic. I’m always reminding my coaches and players to stay on their toes and we’re always finding different ways to progress. The key is to not become satisfied and to keep challenging each other.

“We have to remember what made the foundation and expect to continue to do those things. We don’t want our players to feel pressured, but they understand they’re in a special place.”

One reason Azar said Wesleyan is a special place is because it’s a K-12 school. That means the students can begin learning the same system they’ll play in from grades 9-12 at an early age. When Azar first arrived at Wesleyan in 2001, she had never been a head coach. She had assistant coaching experience though, and was a member of the Mount De Sales Academy staff when it won the 1994 GISA girls basketball title. Having learned the ropes from other coaches, she set to install her system the first two seasons she was there.

Needless to say, that system has worked.

“My goal has been to teach young players how to play hard and apply lessons learned to their lives,” Azar said.

The Lady Wolves are gunning for a state-record seventh consecutive championship. So far, they’re 7-1 and they’ll play at Brookwood on Dec. 19. If they’re going to win another title, they’ll have to do so despite the loss of five seniors who went on to play at D-I schools on scholarship, including AJC Class AA player of the year Katie Frerking. Nikki McDonald, a junior, has emerged as the team’s leading scorer with 14.6 points a game and Mikayla Coombs is averaging 11.1 points. Coombs is one of seven freshman on the team.

“The freshman have all grown up together and know the system – they know Wesleyan basketball,” Azar said. “They’ve stepped right in. It’s nice when you graduate a talented class and have new ones that can come right in. They’re not starting from scratch.”

Etc.

Numerous Class AA teams across the state will participate in holiday tournaments. The Lady Wolves will play three games in the Carolina Invitational tournament, which begins Dec. 27 at Bishop England High School (Charleston, S.C.) … Meanwhile on the boys’ side, defending state champions Greater Atlanta Christian will play in the Southeast Basketball Academy’s Atlanta Hoop Festival on Dec. 21 at Pope High School in Marietta. GAC will lay Class A power North Cobb Christian at 8:30 p.m.

Send Adam Krohn an email at AdamKrohnAJC@yahoo.com and follow him on Twitter.

4 comments Add your comment

black

December 19th, 2013
3:28 pm

System means all kids are apart of the program since elementary level.

Hubie Green

December 19th, 2013
11:53 pm

Azar invites the top middle school girls players from around the metro area to visit the school and games. Then some (it only takes two per year in basketball) enroll in middle school in which residence does not matter. They then come up through the system there. It is a brilliant strategy and perfectly legal under GHSA rules. From there they are very well coached and develop a high level of basketball skills. They also often play on the same summer league (AAU) teams. They have beaten more athletic teams by being in better condition and more fundamentally sound. I know for a fact they invite the best metro middle school players to come visit. And make no mistake about it; Azar is an outstanding coach.

Roanld (Laney 4 Life)

December 22nd, 2013
9:19 am

Hubie… How is this right under GHSA rule. This is not college !!! They should not be allowed to play against public schools. Public schools can’t go out and recruit. Or at least they cannot do this in Augusta . Kids have to go to the schools they are zoned for here. The private schools are taking away chances from the public schools. They are pretty much playing with stacked decks and myself and lots otheres think this is wrong. The Bufords, Weslayans, and etc. should not be allowed to play against the public schools. How is it fair that the same schools keep winning the championships every year. GHSA needs to make some changes quick. The private schools should have to play by the same rules as the public schools !!!

Dallas Page

December 22nd, 2013
12:22 pm

Hubie is right about Wesleyan getting kids in middle school. I don’t know if its legal or not but the GHSA stands for Georgia High School Association so they are probably not too concerned about whats going on in middle schools. She also is a very good coach so when you have the most talent and good coaching, you are going to win it almost every time. Laney4Life – your girls teams have been very talented for years now but the coaching advantage is very lopsided. I do love it when Wesleyan plays good competition from higher classifications. They hold their own but its a lot different than when they play the region schedule. They when most games by 50 or more. I don’t know how it can even be fun.