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Ceres High girls hoops program has new interim head coach in Heather Jones
CHS grad earns promotion following Tates departure
Heather Jones (left) has been promoted to interim head coach of Ceres Highs varsity girls basketball team. Jones, 24, directed the JV Bulldogs to a 20-1 overall record and perfect 12-0 mark in the WAC standings last season. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Ross Tate was promoted to interim head coach of Ceres High School's varsity girls basketball team during the summertime after second-year leader Vanessa Morris announced she was taking the 2013-14 season off to complete her education.

Tate recently stepped down to continue his schooling.

"I moved two weeks ago," said Ross, who's working towards his Master's degree in biotechnology at Fresno State.

Heather Jones, 24, will replace Tate.

"I'm so excited," said Jones, a 2007 Ceres High graduate. "It's definitely something I thought I would do at some point in my life. This is a dream come true. This opportunity is a blessing. It really shows that she (athletic director/former varsity girls basketball head coach Shawna Nunes) trusts me. I'm really looking forward to the season. It's going to be fun."

Added Nunes: "It's a very natural move. I think she'll do a fantastic job. But she's got some learning to do."

Jones earned 12 varsity letters during her athletic career with the Bulldogs, including four in basketball, track and field and cross country. She averaged 16.3 points and three steals per game while propelling Ceres High to an 18-9 overall record and Division-II postseason appearance her senior year. She made a team-high 35 3-pointers.

Heather re-arranged her class schedule at Cal State Stanislaus so she could coach.

"I'm just excited to be back at Ceres High," said Jones, who's working towards her teacher's credential. "I really want to build this program back up. I love the game of basketball. There is pressure. It's hard to live up to Nunes. Her and Phil de la Porte (former Ceres High athletic director/assistant varsity girls basketball coach) were the best coaches in the world."

Led by freshman point guard Nicole Bates, the Bulldogs returned to the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs following a three-year absence, posted a 11-9 record and finished third in the Western Athletic Conference (7-5) under Morris' guidance last season. Bates averaged a team-leading 15 points per game. She was selected to the WAC FirstTeam.

"My main focus is going to be defense," Jones said. "The girls better be prepared to get their legs burning. I don't want to toot my own horn. But I think the team will do very well. I have high expectations."

Kristen McClure will be Jones' assistant coach.

Heather and Kristen were members of Ceres High's 2004-05 Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II champion varsity girls basketball squad (24-8, 12-3).

Jones and McClure coached Ceres High's freshman girls hoops squad last winter.

The Bulldogs won the WAC title outright with a perfect 12-0 record and finished 20-1 on the year.

"We've known each other forever," Jones said. "We've been friends since the fifth grade. We work well together. We know the game of basketball. We're so excited for this opportunity. We want to give the girls what we were given."