Hoops roots run deep in DeShone family
When Sarah DeShone was 3, her mom Barb put her in a cheerleader outfit, and her dad Randy, the basketball coach at Jimtown, promptly began to steer her interests. "They went to high school together," the new La Porte girls basketball coach said. "He played basketball and she was a cheerleader. Once I started talking, he taught me to say, 'basketball, yeah; cheerleading, yucky.'" The hoops roots run deep in the DeShone family. Randy coached at Jimtown from 1991 to 2011, and Sarah shares stories of how she was brought to practice as a baby in a play pen, her brothers Derrick and Brian, members of the 2004 team that won the Class 2A state title, keeping an eye on her. A few years later, Randy spent two seasons at Elkhart Central, coaching another son, Adam. Along the way, Sarah's own star ascended with the Jimmies, though her athletic path may well have taken another route had the option been available. "To be honest, soccer was my favorite sport, but Jimtown didn't have soccer," she said. "Basketball's pretty similar to soccer in a lot of ways. I just fell in love with it. I did all kinds of sports. I was always on the boys teams. I didn't like softball because of the chants, so I played baseball. (My brothers) beat me up so much. They never let me win, which was not OK. We're a majorly competitive family, no matter what we're doing. Everything is a competition." That hard-nosed upbringing served DeShone well as her own career began to flower. She scored a Jimtown-record 1,282-points in a four-year span (2007-10) that included 81 wins, a 2A state runner-up finish in 2007 and a sectional title the following year. "I like to think we were the public school state champs because we played Heritage Christian," DeShone said. A serious knee injury in basketball her senior year prevented her from earning 16 letters (cross country, basketball, track and tennis). In addition, she ranked 11th in her class and was involved in National Honor Society, Student Council and band. "I still have it around somewhere," DeShone said of her clarinet. "There's no excuse to focus on one sport. It's good for your body to do at least a couple, to get away and be on different teams. You can make it work if you want to. You just have to figure out the time. I still took 300 to 500 shots a day." DeShone went on to excel at NCAA Division II Ferris State, where she was all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association first team and Women's Basketball Coaches Association honorable mention All-American three times. When she finished in 2014, she ranked second in 3-point percentage (.397), third in made 3s (166), sixth in made free throws (269) and assists (379), eighth in scoring (1,419) and 11th in steals (154). After a year as a graduate assistant at Ferris State and another as a JV coach at Edwardsburg (Michigan), the 5-foot-7 guard spent a season playing professionally in Denmark. "I didn't really like being away that much," DeShone said. Upon her return to Michiana in 2017, DeShone took a teaching job and an assistant coaching position at Mishawaka. A year later, she became head coach there, coinciding with Derrick becoming boys coach at Concord. Her first foray into the head coaching ranks was a challenging one as the Cavemen went 9-39 in two seasons, a radical change of pace for someone so accustomed to excelling on the court. "I was used to being on successful teams in terms of wins and losses, but I grew so much the last two years," DeShone said. "I learned so much from those kids, that it's not all about winning and losing. The first year, it was easier to motivate because we were losing really close games. This year, we were getting beat by 30, 40 points. It was like, how am I supposed to motivate them to win the next game or to think we have a shot? I don't care if we were down five, 10, 20, 30, they'd play their tails off. They wouldn't give in. I'd put a sub in and they'd come into the game fired up and play as hard as they can." On the surface alone, the opportunity to move on to La Porte, which has won three sectionals in the last six years, seemed like a no-brainer, but when former Slicers coach Rob Walker encouraged DeShone to apply for the position, she was initially reluctant, saying no due to the rapport she had established with her Mishawaka players. "I appreciate those kids. They were awesome. They gave everything to me, to the program," DeShone said. "It was so awesome to see that from 16, 17, 18 year olds. They could've easily given in, but their resilience was unbelievable. They're special kids that I was fortunate to coach. I love Mishawaka. I could be having my worst day ever, then I'd go to practice and it would be all better. They understand it's a thing where you've got to be friends before you can compete. We didn't have the best skill but we had great chemistry. I didn't want them to feel like I gave up on the team, and I don't think they do." Walker got back to DeShone a second time, again urging her to throw her name in the hat, and after some thought and prayer, she decided to go for it. "She is one of the best defensive coaches in the area," Walker said. "I noticed it every time we played them. She had her team ready to play and she had us scouted well. Her teams always play with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. That will translate well when she coaches in the (Duneland Athletic Conference)." The La Porte School Board of Trustees formally hired DeShone on Monday. “Sarah brings enthusiasm, passion and a wealth of basketball experience and knowledge to La Porte,” La Porte High School Director of Athletics Ed Gilliland said in a media release.
La Porte returns Ryin Ott, Alanti Biggers and Lauren Pollock from its regional runner-up team with young talent waiting in the wings "It's nice to have people who trust you, respect you as a coach," DeShone said. "It's a 180 from a basketball standpoint. We'll probably have to work a lot less on things like jump stops and traveling. I'm super excited about their potential. My goal is to push them to their next gear, to do the best they can possibly do. If they want to reach the college level, I'll help them. I'm excited to step into (Walker's) big shoes and see if we can take it even farther. I want to build my own program, build up the feeder system and build something special in the years to come." In light of the new job, DeShone joked about not throwing away an orange Nike shirt during a recent quarantine closet clean-out. "The assistant coach is having a baby, so she gave me all her gear," she said. "I've got so much La Porte stuff already." Due to COVID-19 constraints, DeShone did the whole interview process virtually and was in the process of arranging a Zoom meetings with the team to introduce herself and set forth her initial plans. "It's incredibly weird," she said. "I really just want to go walk around the school. I drove through town looking at apartments. There's just a lot up in the air." DeShone also coached tennis at Mishawaka, one year of boys and two years of girls, and could work as an assistant in other sports at La Porte if she's so inclined. "I just like helping kids reach their potential," she said. "We're going to do what we need to do to be successful, but it's high school sports, it's supposed to be fun, too. It's where you make memories, life-long friendships."
Sarah DeShone comes to La Porte after two seasons as Mishawaka's girls basketball head coach. She had an accomplished four-sport career at Jimtown, where she broke the school record in scoring, then left her name in the record books at NCAA Division II Ferris State. (photos provided)