CRESTVIEW — After a three-year absence from basketball, Kathy Combest is back on the sidelines coaching the sport that has defined and shaped her life.
Crestview’s Combest era opened Monday at Navarre. Combest will lead her team onto the floor of the Crestview gym at 7 p.m. Friday, when the Bulldogs host Niceville in a District 2-6A game.
Combest said the team will be a work in progress as she juggles lineups and player groupings, namely who does what best in certain situations.
“I’m still trying to figure out what’s the best pairing and who’s going to what and who is going to come in for somebody,” she said. “I did that with volleyball last year and this year with volleyball it was easier. I’m thinking (that seeing) them playing (in games) will help me a little bit, too, in deciding who plays better together.”
Like Crestview, Niceville opens the season with a new coach, and Combest said the scouting report on the Eagles is sketchy at best.
Combest spent most of the last three years watching her daughter, former Baker star Chelsea Combest, play college basketball and hasn’t seen a lot of high school ball in that time.
She does know that Choctawhatchee will again be strong behind Brittany Brown, a Florida State commit.
“I think after the first half of the season I’ll have a little more of a handle on things because you play everybody in district (in the first half of the season) and then you play them again,” Combest said. “We are going to watch film and try to show the kids what the other teams are doing.
“We are going to do a lot of teaching about the game because we only have two seniors: Kerry York and Jasmine Horn.”
Combest only has two juniors on the team, too, so the team will comprise mostly sophomores.
What the Bulldogs lack in experience they should more than make up for with size and athleticism.
“We’ve got three girls that are 6 (feet) or taller and seven athletes that can run the floor and jump,” Combest said.
First-year assistant Matt Sanders, a former Bulldog football and basketball player, and volunteer assistant Mike Stewart will aid Combest.
“I’m excited about the staff,” she said. “Matt was a basketball player … he is enthusiastic and energized. I like that he’s eager to learn.
“Old dogs can learn things from new dogs and new dogs can learn things from old dogs so I’m excited about him. And Mike has just always loved the game. We’ve always talked the game for years so I knew we thought the same way.”
After spending the summer working on basketball’s basics, the Bulldogs were busy putting together their offense and defense in the preseason.
“I think that because we did those fundamentals in the summer, they are catching and dribbling and shooting the ball better and that makes some of the things we do a little better,” Combest said. “They still have to learn the nuances of the game — about why you do this and when you do that — but that’s true for any ball player.
“It’s just like the other day and one of them said, ‘I didn’t know there was so much to it, about why you do this and why you did that.’ I said, ‘To be a good ball player you need to know the whole game.’”