Sand Devils fans will have their first opportunity to see the Lady Sand Devils’ new coach in action this week when Page hosts the Holiday Classic on Dec. 2-4.
Celeste Claw inherits one of the most successful high school basketball teams in Arizona history. During the five years that Ryan Whitehorse served as head coach, the Lady Sand Devils had an 84% winning record and played in the 3A North championship game every year, and won the championship three of those five years.
Prior to Coach Whitehorse, the team was coached by Justin Smith and Aaron Anderson, the architects credited with building the Lady Sand Devils’ ongoing winning dynasty. Smith and Anderson led the Lady Sand Devils to its first state championship title in 2012. Smith added a second state championship 2015.
Though this is Coach Claw’s first time coaching, she brings with her an impressive basketball résumé. When she was in high school, she played varsity for the Lady Sand Devils all but her freshman year. She was the starting point guard for the Sand Devils her sophomore, junior and senior years, and in that position she played a key role leading her team to the state championship title in 2012 – the championship that began the Lady Sand Devils legacy of winning that continues today.
It’s fair to say Coach Claw is inheriting a team with a legacy of winning she helped establish when she was a player for the team a decade ago.
During her high school career, Claw was named a Navajo Times All Star Player of the Year 2012 and All American 2012.
Coach Claw grew up in LeChee, Arizona, and attended PUSD schools. After graduating from Page High School, the talented point guard shot her basketball career to the next level, first playing for Chandler-Gilbert Community College and finishing her college career with BYU-Hawaii, where she introduced the Seasiders to their first taste of Rez-ball.
BYU-Hawaii belongs to the Pac-West conference, and they described her style of play as a “fast-paced, run-and-gun, full-court-press style of game.”
Spend a few minutes digging into Coach Claw’s history, and you’ll soon find that those who know her describe her as a “playmaker.”
They specifically described Coach Claw gamesmanship style as “a pure point guard, who looks to pass first and shoot second.”
“Don’t blink. That blur going by is Celeste Claw, the quickest player in the conference,” said a PacWest reporter, reporting on Claw’s playing style for the Seasiders.
Coach Claw says she is very aware of the big shoes she has to fill as she takes over as the Lady Sand Devils head coach, and adds she is receiving a lot of support from the community and other coaches.
Coach Claw says she has reached out to almost all of her former coaches – including Justin Smith and Aaron Anderson – getting advice on various coaching subjects. She says she and former coach Ryan Whitehorse have talked a lot in the weeks leading up to the beginning of the season.
After graduating from BYU-Hawaii with a degree in exercise and sports science, Claw moved back to Arizona and started working as a performance specialist for EXOS, a prominent fitness company in the Valley. She led people in warmups as an intern before becoming a full-time member a few months later.
A year later, she became a performance coach for the Blue Cross-Blue Shield Association and held the position for the next two years.
Coach Claw says she is looking for “heart and hustle” from her players.
“I’m looking for passion from my players,” she said. “When I see that passion and see the kids hustling and running out, it’s a lot more fun to coach them, and it’s a lot more fun basketball to watch. Our defensive end is where we’re focusing right now. That’s what Page is known for, the Sand Devils Defense. I’ll make sure my players are efficient at that and good things will come.”
Coach Claw says she hopes to bring her point guard mentality to her coaching style: Look for the most effective way to assist her on-court playmakers, and trust that they’ll finish.
Coach Claw’s assistant coaches are Ambrose Henderson, Carlos Begay, Jordan Tsosie, Malarie Williams and Squeak Reid.