By Caitlin Slater
The picture is of father, long-time Valley coach Sammy Duane Sr. sitting behind his son who’s working towards setting a new legacy in his first year as head coach at Perry.
Duane Jr. comes from 12 years of success, coaching at his alma mater Corona del Sol. After leading the Aztecs to four consecutive state titles he expressed his greatest challenge this year is bringing the culture Corona had to Perry.
“I’m bringing my whole philosophy that I had at Corona to Perry,” Duane said.
Ex-players such as Dane Kuiper, Casey Benson and Tanner Millyard have spoken to the team on what it takes to be an excellent player at an excellent program, the commitment level that’s needed and share some of their experiences on winning, being a good teammate and adding to the whole culture of the program.
“The year’s going real good,” Duane said to Sports360AZ.com before starting their second game in the Visit Mesa challenge. “It’s a good school, our players are great kids and they’ve been very coachable.”
Coming into a whole new atmosphere, Duane understands the time and instruction needed when starting fresh.
“We stop a lot and teach a lot,” Duane said. “We coach them hard but they are doing a good job of listening. We are just trying to teach them what it takes to be at a championship level and what it takes to be at a good program. We are trying to do that at all three levels Freshman, JV and Varsity.”
The overall transition has been great according to Duane and some of the leadership on the team has voiced what they like best about the new coach.
Senior small forward Rajhan Billingsley told Sports360AZ.com, “This coach, he is there for you on and off the court. He definitely knows what he’s talking about and I’ve really learned a lot in the little time I’ve been with him.”
With resolutions ringing in the new year, Duane sets his goals on growing this relatively young team by getting them playing at their highest potential.
“Our goal is to get better every game and to be playing our best come playoff time,” he said. “I think if we can be playing our best playoff time then I think we can surprise some people.”
This legacy will not happen over night. It takes time and persistence from players and fans that’ll buy into the Perry basketball program.
Bellingsley shared how easy it has been for him to buy into a program like Duane’s.
“He brings this confidence and when you’re around confident people you become confident yourself. He brings it at practice every single day,” he said. “Top to bottom, he’s just such a great coach and I like him a lot.”