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, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Xavier basketball needs what Toni Garcia brings

 Toni Garcia has a unique type of goal for Xavier Prep’s basketball team.

As the team’s only senior, she would like nothing better than to help the Gators win the 6A Conference state championship and make the claim that other seniors before her could not.

“Yes, I would like that very much,’’ she said.

It all starts on Tuesday (Nov. 30) when Xavier travels to face Mesa Westwood in the regular-season opener. After another road game at Phoenix Sunnyslope on Dec. 3, the Gators will play their first home game on Dec. 6 against Phoenix North.

Although you might not see her name among the team’s scoring leaders, what you will notice is a player with an unrelenting work ethic. She steps into the lane and under the basket, doing whatever she can to get rebounds, putbacks after Xavier misses and positions her body in such a way that seldom will allow an opponent to get a clear path to the hoop.

A player that every team needs.

Toni Garcia will have a leadership role in addition to her solid work ethic on the court (Photo by Don Ketchum).

Asked about the road she has taken to reach this point, Garcia says, “It has all gone by so fast. I remember the tryouts for the freshman team. I wanted to have fun with it and it has been. It has been kind of crazy at times. I remember being around 5-7 or 5-8 and was hoping to grow a few more inches.’’

She did just that and now checks in at around 5-11.

“I’m taller than some of the girls (opponents) and that helps me with the rebounds and the putbacks,’’ she said.

When she was a freshman, Garcia was quiet. Now her senior role involves speaking up as she did when the team gathered in a circle during a recent practice.

“I think coach (Jennifer Gillom) wants me to speak up,’’ Garcia said. “You know, “Be heard,’ pick them up.’’

Gillom said Garcia learned from older players in the past and can use that this season.

“We also think she has more potential on the floor,’’ Gillom said. “She can probably score more in the right situations, like maybe a 15-footer, also taking it to the basket.

“She wants to help the other players to get in a habit of wanting to do well. To hold each other accountable, like, “I’m doing my part and you do your part.’ ’’

Said Garcia, “We played as a team in the past, but this season, we seem to be doing that even more. We have 14 individuals coming together.’’

Spoken like someone who yearns to achieve her goal.

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