How often opportunities present themselves is uncertain. Jason Carter knows that fact.
Carter was ready to move into a high school varsity head coaching position after spending three seasons as an assistant boys’ basketball coach. This spring such an opportunity presented itself at Newton High School.
“I applied. I decided to throw my hat in and see what would happen,” Carter said.
Carter was named the NHS Cardinal girls’ head basketball coach in late May. Coaching girls’ basketball is not new for Carter, who said he had more experience in coaching girls than boys despite the past three years on the Newton boys’ basketball coaching staff.
“I’m excited to be the new head coach for the Newton girls’ basketball program. We have three or four seniors expected to play this season and we have a good group of younger players,” Carter said. “We had a good core of players who came week in and week out to our summer open gyms.”
Carter said the Cardinal girls’ ranks were missing a few players in summer basketball activities because of the successful high school softball season. He said the Cardinals did not play in many summer basketball tournaments for several reasons.
“I was hired the last week of May and it was tough to schedule things. Our open gyms were attended pretty well. I was happy our softball team had the season it did,” Carter said. “It’s always good for all the girls when a team has success, showing Newton teams can compete for championships. You never know if you’ll be able to experience a state tournament run again.”
Carter and the Cardinals did have three different Sunday scrimmage dates against Knoxville and Chariton during the summer. He said it was a rough start as the players adjusted to his system, but as the summer progressed play became better.
“We went to Pella for a tournament and went 1-2. We were executing some of our stuff pretty well as players were getting in the right positions and we were getting open looks,” Carter said. “We were doing a lot of things right.”
Carter is no stranger to the Little Hawkeye Conference. He grew up and graduated from Oskaloosa High School. He played football, basketball and competed in track for the Indians.
His first coaching experience came as a volunteer assistant varsity boys’ basketball coach at his former high school. After graduating with an education degree from Iowa State University in 2006, Carter taught a year at Gilbert, Ariz., then moved back to his hometown.
Carter was in a long-term substitute position in the Oskaloosa district and was on the Indian boys’ basketball coaching staff. His first head coaching experience came a year later at Knoxville as the seventh-grade girls’ basketball coach.
“I was hired to teach at Knoxville and coached seventh-grade girls basketball. My second year there I was the sophomore boys’ basketball coach then the next three years I was the Knoxville High School varsity girls’ basketball assistant coach,” Carter said.
During that time, Carter was also a coach for the Iowa Lightning, a Des Moines-based girls’ basketball club team, for four years. He said the Iowa Lightning had girls from across Central Iowa and a lot of Little Hawkeye Conference players, including former Newton standout Kaylie Rhoads.
“So, I had contact with Newton before I was hired as a teacher here in 2015. I teach fifth-grade science at Berg Middle School,” Carter said. “I joined Bill Liley’s coaching staff for the boys’ basketball team that same year. It was a lot of fun and I learned a lot the past three years.”
When the Newton girls’ head coaching job opened with the departure of former head coach Brandon Sharp to Grinnell, Liley was still staying at Newton High as the boys’ coach so Carter decided to apply for the girls’ coaching position. Liley resigned the NHS boys’ coaching position in late July and return to Seattle, Wash.
Carter said it was an opportunity to be a head coach, he had experience coaching girls’ basketball and also has two girls.
“Although my daughters are still very young — kindergarten and first grade — the opportunity was there to get into coaching girls. It may not be there later,” Carter said.
Carter’s coaching staff is in place. Brady Carlow is the assistant varsity coach. Eric Vander Velden, who has been a Cardinal girls’ assistant basketball coach the past couple of years after coaching middle school girls’ basketball, is the junior varsity coach.
“Overall, our program is built on having good character and doing the right things on and off the court. We focus on the academics as well as being fundamentally sound on the basketball court,” Carter said. “Having a positive attitude throughout the program is being stressed.”
Carter said he and his staff want to get the players to work hard for each other. He said it was really important to develop fundamentals of the game from the ground up.
“Defensively, we’ll be working on playing team defense — 5-on-5. I’ve coached girls’ team when it was ‘I got my guy’ defense instead of collectively guard together. Defense is a big priority for my teams — moving their feet and not fouling while guarding,” Carter said.
“Offensively, we’ll run some set offenses. It’s about being in the right position at the right time and executing what we do. We have a lot to do before the season starts in November. The players have responded well so far and I’m looking forward to continuing to build a strong, competitive girls’ basketball program at Newton.”
Carter’s wife, Ashley is also a Oskaloosa High graduate who teaches social studies at NHS and is the Newton head volleyball coach. Carter also has been an assistant boys’ golf coach at Newton. The Carters have three children.
“I’ve always been involved and around sports. My grandparents took me to Iowa State basketball games when I was growing up,” Carter said. “I enjoy all sports but basketball is No. 1 with me.”
Contact Jocelyn Sheets at
641-792-3121 ext. 6535