Bio

DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for AIA365.com, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Gillom heads Arizona Sports Hall of Fame class

 At last, a vote that people can agree with!!

And the beneficiary is Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom.

On Wednesday (Aug. 10), the former Phoenix Mercury star and Olympic gold medalist (as a player and coach) was one of six people to be voted by the public into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held Nov. 1 in north Phoenix.

Gillom said on Thursday (Aug. 11) that she was told by an official from the Arizona Sports Commission, the driving force behind the Hall of Fame, that she was the top vote-getter.

“It was overwhelming learning about this honor, and getting all of those votes was special in itself,’’ said Gillom.

Xavier Prep basketball coach Jennifer Gillom, who will be join the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 1.

Other inductees include former Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, late sports journalist Pedro Gomez, formerly of The Arizona Republic and ESPN, former Northern Arizona University basketball player Peggy Kennedy, long-time Chandler Seton Catholic girls basketball coach and former Arizona State player Karen Self, and sports philanthropist Michael Kennedy.

Among the previous inductees, Gillom is very pleased to join late former XCP and pro golf star Heather Farr (2013), current Xavier vice principal for activities and athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor (2018), and former WNBA colleague Ann Meyers Drysdale (2021) in the prestigious Hall of Fame, which will grow in number from 126 to 132 with the newest selections.

A native of Mississippi who studied and played at the University of Mississippi, Gillom has made Arizona her second home for about 25 years.

“To be recognized by people in my second home has become quite an honor,’’ she said. “This is huge, and what a blessing.

“People are showing how they feel about you as a human being. My mother (in Mississippi) was ecstatic about this when I called her.

“All the things that have happened here with the Mercury and Xavier (separate coaching stints from 2004-10 and again from 2017 through the present day). I have been inspired in my life and I want to inspire others, be a positive influence.  It has been great coaching the girls here at Xavier.’’

Tickets for the event can be purchased beginning  Sept. 1 at www.azsportshof.com.


Saturday, July 30, 2022

Martin's memorial offers tears mixed with smiles

 There were tears, to be sure, but also plenty of smiles on the faces of the several hundred attendees at Saturday’s  (July 30) Celebration of Life for Laurie Martin, Xavier Prep’s late tennis coach who passed away on June 6 at the age of 59 when she fell at a family residence near Show Low.

The memorial was held at Founders Hall on the Xavier campus, and was viewed by about 100 more people on an Internet Live stream.

If anyone lived a full life, it certainly was Martin.

The theme of the day was, “Live Like Laurie.’’ Tables were decorated with some of her family photos and lavender wristbands with the theme printed on them. People could sign a card conveying a message to the family that will be part of an upcoming memorial book. Life-long photos of Martin flashed on screens around the room, along with a few brief videos in accompaniment to some of her favorite songs over the years.

RIP, Laurie Martin

She spent her early years in southern California but established roots when she moved to Tempe, where she graduated from McClintock High School and was active in numerous school activities. She also went on to graduate from Arizona State.

Some of Xavier’s administrators who worked closely with Martin were on hand for the event, including XCP President Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, XCP Principal Sr. Joanie Nuckols and Vice Principal for Activities and Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

The crowd was told that Martin had a positive impact on everyone she met, and were asked if they thought they could be considered her best friend.

Winsor came forward and presented a “mini-biography’’ of Martin, who worked at Xavier for 17 years and produced five state championships and several state runner-up finishes.

Martin also drew praise for her example of family life with husband Stan (nearly four decades) and daughters Amanda, Courtney and Natalie and son Tanner, along with grandchildren.

“Her four children were her biggest fans,’’ Winsor said.

Son Tanner praised his mother, calling her his “Super Hero with Super Powers.’’

“She had a tireless work ethic,’’ he added, also mentioning her family dinners on Sundays.

Daughter Amanda, who with her sisters is a Xavier alumnus, played and coached tennis with her mother for the Gators and worked in the school’s human resources office before getting married, spoke of the birth of her first child when she was living out of state.

“My mom hopped on a plane – she did that for all of us – and came to where I lived when I had an emergency C-section,’’ Amanda said. “She used some of that energy of hers to decorate our house for Christmas.’’

Laurie Martin started a “no-cut’’ program for freshman players that would win her several awards for that maneuver. Every year, that program would draw at least 70 players.

“But she put her players first as people,’’ Amanda said. “When she first told people about the no-cut, they thought she was nuts. But look how that turned out. She wanted the players to gain some lifelong friends.

“And she lived her life with the utmost integrity.’’

Daughter Courtney called Laurie “a phenomenal grandma. I hope to be half the grandma she was to us. She had this commitment of living every day to its fullest.’’

Daughter Natalie said that her mother would be proud.

“She died knowing that we are all doing well,’’ Natalie said.

Natalie is amazed by her mother’s physical conditioning, including some noteworthy dance moves. She asked the attendees to stand and go through some of the moves, which got everybody laughing.

Former Xavier players Meg Yuan and Jordan Craft spoke of being coached by Martin, a part of what they estimated was about 2,000 players she coached at Xavier over her 17 years, producing a 271-16 record.

Laurie Martin also has been involved over the years at the national level through the United States Tennis Association, winning awards, and worked closely with Tracy Becker, a long-time friend and former teammate at McClintock. Becker listed many of the highlights with USTA.

Personal remembrances

As The XCP Files author, I would like to include a few remembrances of Laurie Martin.

Laurie always was good-natured and carried herself in a professional manner when I would come out for a match or write a feature story.

*In the early days of her no-cut freshman program, and when The XCP Files started, we would chat and combine those subjects. She touted the benefits of her program even then, and when she would go to national meetings of tennis officials, she would mention The XCP Files and told them how the coverage helps the development and maintenance of the school’s athletic programs.

Some of the other coaches were somewhat envious, as in, “Gee, we kind of wish we had that at our school.’’

I always appreciated that she would go to bat for me like that.

*At the Gators’ matches, you need not look too far to know where she was. Wearing her trademark straw hat, and sitting in a big folding chair for road and state matches, she would encourage her players with two simple words, “GO ZAVE-YURR.’’

*Another thing with the voice. It wasn’t screaming loud, but it got her point across. I would hear that same voice when she would give lessons on Wednesdays at courts across the street from our home (we both lived in the same Tempe development at the time). The voice was unmistakable as she instructed her adult players.

“She’s out there,’’ my wife, Carol, would say.

*Laurie and I shared an interesting fact: we both had a grandson with a creative, noteworthy first name – Wyatt. And I always tried to ask her how her Wyatt was doing.

*During this spring’s state doubles tournament, Xavier’s Ryan Kershner and Dani Dyer captured the championship. I went to Martin for a comment for my story, but she graciously suggested that assistant coach Ford Oliver should provide his thoughts, giving him a little “publicity.’’

That showed a lot of class.

So, in honor of Laurie, the next time you go to an XCP match, say, “GO ZAVE-YURR.’’

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Flag football on the way to becoming a big deal

 Before you know it, it will be 2023, time for the Valley to host a big football event.

VERY BIG.

But no, it won’t be Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, on Feb. 12.

So would you believe . . .

How about Xavier Prep’s participation for the first time in a club football season?

Now we’re talking.

The Gators also will play about eight or so games next spring, with home contests on Petznick Field’s artificial surface that is being refurbished after about a dozen years of wear and tear, with completion expected by the end of the summer.

It is another example of Xavier athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor and her staff to come up with as many opportunities for her athletes to thrive and perhaps earn scholarships at the college level, a primary element of Title IX, a national push by administrators such as Winsor to bring greater notoriety to women’s sports.

Flag football will be listed as a club sport, as is another spring team at XCP, lacrosse. Winsor doesn’t believe it will have any bearing on the girls to succeed – they just want to win. The eventual goal, of course, is to be recognized as a full sport by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

“Kids have played the sport here at Xavier in the past (in physical education classes) and it was well-received,’’ she said. “After the (flag) announcement was made, we got several calls from kids who told us how excited they are.’’

Teams will have a roster in the low 20s, with games featuring 7 on 7. That should give the coaches the necessary flexibility they need.

Winsor already has lined up a coach.

He is Mike Patterson, who for the past eight seasons has been an assistant coach and assistant defensive coordinator for neighboring Brophy Prep’s traditional football program, and will continue in that role.

Patterson’s daughter, Mikayla, will be a freshman at XCP this fall and is expected to play for the Gators.

Coach Patterson said he has worked with “linebackers, defensive backs, everything’’ over the years. It will be refreshing for him to be involved with a full game plan.

“Sister Lynn and I met and want to move the program ahead. I think we have the same mindset,’’ Patterson said. “I’d like to have a few fall camps going, and if the girls come out and they like it, maybe they can get the word around (to interest others). Xavier has had a lot of talented athletes over the years.’’

One thing that team members should be able to do is run. That is one of the primary aspects of the game, such as defending against an opponent and chasing them down and reaching out to grab the flags.

Individual expenditures perhaps are not as draining as they might be for some sports. The primary cost would be for cleats and mouth guards. The teams will wear uniforms, provide footballs and flags, with the possibility of smaller protective headgear, not full helmets like the boys wear.

So which schools would serve as opponents for the Gators?

The Chandler Unified School District had most of its schools involved last season, Chandler High, Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha, Gilbert Perry and Queen Creek Casteel, along with Arizona College Prep. Two Ahwatukee schools, Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, should be in the mix, as well as some of the Gilbert district schools. Patterson said Chandler Seton Catholic could be a possibility.

The season will run from the first week of March through mid-April. That means a lot of figuring out which Xavier teams will have which days and times for practice and games at Petznick – flag football, softball and lacrosse. Patterson said it is possible his team could possibly work into a schedule that includes Saturdays.

Field upgrades would include new water cannons to keep the artificial turf cooler, LED lighting, safety padding on the poles, among other items.


Sunday, June 26, 2022

Xavier hoops players become the Girls of Summer

 It will be about 4-5 months before the 2022-23 basketball regular season begins and we start to get a true idea of how good Xavier Prep’s Gators can be.

If you use the Gators’ performances as a measuring stick in three summer events, the latest wrapping up on Saturday night (June 25), there is a hint of optimism in the air.

Xavier finished 7-2 in the annual Thunderbird Summer League that culminated on Saturday night with a 51-35 victory over Phoenix Sunnyslope in the Blue Bracket title game. Xavier also was 2-0 in a recent Section 7 tournament appearance at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, and was 3-1 in the Lady Extravaganza tournament at Goodyear Millennium.

“This gives them (players) more confidence going into the season,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “They can do it together if they stay focused and are more consistent.’’

Consistency will have to come out of necessity, given what appears to be a season-long knee injury to junior guard Sarah Miller, who emerged as one of the state’s top young talents last season.

Miller’s absence, plus junior point guard Dom Nesland’s intermittent participation in the summer due to club ball, gave an opportunity for some players who might not see as much playing time under normal circumstances to develop their skills in summer games.

That would be sophomore Lucy Sanford at the point, junior transfer Jasmine Olivar at guard, and a possible key reserve in the backcourt in sophomore Izzy Cerniglia, who seems very intent on earning herself a varsity roster spot.

Junior forward-guard Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich made strides at both ends of the floor. She always has been a strong rebounder and defender, and now she is finding more ways to make an impact on offense.

Sophomore post player CeCe Mlat continues to evolve, and senior forward Gabby Trbovic has shown evidence that she is capable of being a big asset on offense.

Trbovich has been a decent shooter, sometimes hot and sometimes cold, but had not seen a consistency that the Gillom and the Gators have needed.

That was until recently in the T-Bird. In the last three games, she combined for close to 40 points, many of those on threes from along the baseline or the top of the key. She also has shown more aggressiveness with her rebounding and defense.

“She is a senior now and I think she realizes, “This is it for me’’ and knows that it’s time for her to step up,’’ Gillom said. “When she is shooting well, that helps spread the defense.’’

When the Gators flip the switch on defense, they play much better.

“You have that good defense and the offense follows it,’’ Gillom said. “We have been emphasizing that the whole summer.’’

So now the players will be able to relax a bit with a few pool parties and family vacations. And Gillom has plans to keep her summer routine intact.

That would be going back home to visit her mother out of state.

“Always good to see mama,’’ she said.


Saturday, June 25, 2022

XCP's blue hoops crew rises in Blue Bracket

 Call it coincidence, but Xavier Prep’s blue-clad Gators are nearing the championship game of the Blue Bracket in the Thunderbird Summer Basketball League.

The Gators stepped up in a big way on Friday night (June 24) with a 59-31 victory over Catholic rival Phoenix St. Mary’s to advance to Saturday’s (June 25) semifinals and, hopefully, title game.

Xavier (5-2 in the league) will face Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep at 4 p.m. in Thunderbird’s practice gym, next door to the main facility. A victory over Notre Dame would put the Gators in the title game at 8 p.m. in the main gym against either Anthem Boulder Creek or Phoenix Sunnyslope.

“We had a great effort at both ends (of the floor),’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom. “When we are playing like that, we can be hard to beat.’’

It also helps when the Gators get some productivity from their inside players instead of perhaps having to rely too much on their backcourt.

In this case, Xavier got 12 points from senior forward Gabby Trbovic and six from sophomore post player CeCe Mlat, who also had key blocked shots and rebounds.

“Those girls were huge out there tonight,’’ Gillom said. “That really helps us a lot.’’

Trbovic scored five of the team’s first seven points of the game, with her “patented’’ baseline shot as well as a give and go with senior guard Sienna Cherwinski.

Cherwinski led the Gators with 17 points. Junior guard-forward Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich contributed 11 points.

Xavier totaled five three-point baskets, two each by Trbovic and sophomore point guard Lucy Sanford, and one by Cherwinski, who had missed some time previously due to summer school commitments, according to Gillom.


Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Hoops campers get comprehensive guidance

 The early summer is not a time for Xavier Prep’s Jennifer Gillom to get much relaxation. But that can be a good thing.

For most of June, the varsity basketball coach is multi-tasking. She leads the school’s varsity team in the evenings at the Thunderbird Summer League, and for two hours in the early afternoons for the week of June 20-23 puts younger players through their paces at XCP’s annual summer basketball camp in the Activity Center.

She has a good group of potential Gators for the camp, and gets assistance from some of her current Xavier varsity players – Lucy Sanford, Maureen Ulrich, CeCe Mlat, Gabby Trbovic, Gosi Alilonu and Annie Kopp.

There are about eight campers who will be entering their freshman year, eight more who are close behind in the eighth grade and a handful of younger players.

“There are some out here who have potential,’’ Gillom said.

It starts from the moment the players come through the door.

“Young players these days are more fundamentally sound than they were in the past,’’ Gillom said. “That is good. You don’t have to worry that much, just be able to work more on more advanced concepts and things they will be able to understand.’’

Some of the players will be ticketed for the JV-B (younger players/freshmen) and others for the JV-A (sophomores and perhaps a few juniors) this coming winter.

“We have ball-handling, shooting and running drills,’’ Gillom said. “We need work with our shooting form. We also are scrimmaging.’’

And there are various contests/drills to see which group can complete its task before anyone else. This draws enthusiasm for the varsity players such as the 6-foot-6 Mlat, a sophomore who ran along the sideline yelling encouragement and jumping into the air to give high fives.

“CeCe is really enjoying herself,’’ Gillom said, laughing.

“The thing about these older girls is that I think they are learning, too, and can pick up things they will be able to use in games later on, and to make good decisions.’’

Gillom prefers to play at a faster pace on both ends of the floor.

“I told ‘em I like to play the transition,’’ she said. “Get the ball out (from the basket to the wings) quickly and then score quickly. They are picking up on it. And to do this, you have to be emphasizing the footwork. These are things that they can practice the rest of the summer.’’


Xavier wins another, old hoops opponent awaits

 Xavier Prep’s basketball team wrapped up its “regular season’’ schedule in the Thunderbird (High) Summer League on Tuesday night (June 21) with a 43-31 victory over Phoenix Pinnacle, and now the Gators’ attention turns to an “old friend’’ with which they had a rivalry for many years.

Xavier (4-2 in the T-Bird) will meet fellow Catholic school Phoenix St. Mary’s as the summer league playoffs begin on Friday (June 24) at Thunderbird. The teams will have an 8 p.m. tipoff, with the winner moving on to the next round on Saturday (June 25) against Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep or Phoenix Horizon. Tipoff for the Saturday game is 4 p.m.

“We don’t know much about them (St. Mary’s) other than they are another team we are capable of beating,’’ said Xavier coach Jennifer Gillom.

St. Mary’s was on a three-season roll in the 2000-teens, winning state titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The last time Xavier defeated the Lady Knights was in the 2017-18 season with Gillom as coach. Xavier also earned victories in 2016-17, 2014-15 and 2013-14.

St. Mary’s is now in Arizona’s 4A Conference, while Xavier remains in 6A. Xavier has not won a state championship, but has come close, with back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2018 and 2018 under Gillom, in 1986 under John Chambers and in 1977 under athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Senior forward Gabby Trbovic energized the Gators early in the second half with a 3-point basket from the right corner. Xavier led by nine at that point, but Pinnacle came back within 28-26 when Xavier called a timeout.

Another corner trey by Trbovic got the Gators going again, and Xavier went on a 13-0 run to take control of the game.

Trbovic finished with a trio of threes and led XCP scorers with 11 points. Junior Jasmine Olivar had nine and junior Maureen “Mo’’ Ulrich and sophomore Lucy Sanford had eight each.

Asked what helped the Gators make that late push, Gillom said, “Defensive intensity is the key right now. We also want to go hard after rebounds, never let them (opponent) get comfortable.’’