January 18, 2006 - It doesn't matter where or when the Fox 40 whistle blows, but when it does, you had better be ready. The girls of the Canyon Del Oro High School basketball team know this all too well, whether it's in the library or on the hardwood.
The whistle is the best friend of coaches everywhere, while its incessant tweet is in the nightmares of their players.
"I can walk into the hall at school, and they cannot even know I'm there, and I can (blow my whistle) and they'll jump into their stance," said CDO head coach Kerri Brown, demonstrating with a loud rip on her whistle that echoes off the concrete walls in the her office.
Whistle, coaches and players are teaming up for changes at CDO and its girls hoops program. In three years, the Dorados have climbed from also-rans to contenders, thanks in large part to hard working players, dedicated coaches and a time-tested system of fundamentals called the Triple Threat.
According to Brown, CDO is the only girl's basketball program in Southern Arizona to install the Triple Threat training program, and the results have been immediate. Through the first 21 games of the season, the Dorados are 18-3 overall and 3-0 in the Class 4A Sonoran Division.
Every practice starts the same for the Dorados, with the first 45 minutes dedicated to the Triple Threat. The program calls for rigorous drills, with and without a ball, that stress the importance of fundamentals, something the program had lacked for years.
The Triple Threat combines complex drills aimed at lowering a player's defensive stance, agility, pass catching, movement away from the ball and quickening their feet - with slides and fast feet and jump back drills similar to football.
During this intense 45-minute drill, not a single shot is taken at a basket by a player. It even comes replete with a motto that each player must ingrain into their psyche.
"The Triple Threat is the most fundamentally sound position in which you can dribble, pass or shoot," juniors Christa Goldie and Kelly Zimmer said in unison after a practice.
For all the hard work, sweat and "do-overs" for not getting it down properly, the players have taken to the Triple Threat and see its advantages.
"If we didn't have Triple Threat, I don't see us being as successful as we are now," said senior guard Kiki Johnson. "Everyone from the point guard to the center knows how to dribble the ball up the court."
But it's a lot more than dribbling exercises. Players are drilled into basketball shape by being taught proper mechanics, stances and passing techniques.
It may sound cliché, but a solid defense often spells a dynamic offense. Such is the case with the Dorados, who are running opponents out of the gym with their upbeat style of play and staunch defense. On Jan. 13, CDO was able to keep at bay a tough Ironwood Ridge High School team with a 42-38 win to keep its hold on first place.
Brown incorporated the Triple Threat after learning about it from former assistant and current CDO boy's freshman coach Jon Kimberlin. Kimberlin became wise to the Triple Threat while a protégé to Gary Ernst at Mesa Mountain View High School.
Using the Triple Threat, Ernst has won four 5A state titles at Mesa Mountain View and Chandler High School, and appeared in two more championship games. The Triple Threat isn't a new revolutionary program. Developed in the 1940s and 1950s, it is used by many 5A boys programs in the Phoenix area, said Brown.
Weslyn Kimberlin, Jon's daughter, is a starting sophomore point guard for CDO and is well-versed in its benefits.
"I think what makes it so tough is because you know how important it is," said Weslyn. "You want to do it so it makes it less tough."
To ease the transition, CDO has applied the Triple Threat to all of its programs, including on the 7th and 8th grade levels at Cross Middle School. The freshman and junior varsity squads will run the program for an hour and half each practice just to create sound fundamentals.
"I used to be horrible at ball handling," said senior Ariane Gruber, "so it's really helped a lot."
In three years, Brown has breathed life back into a CDO program that had four coaches in five years before she stepped in.
"I don't want to let the kids down," said Brown about her dedication to the program. Her motto is simple. "We're going forward; if you want on this bus, get on, because we're not slowing down."
A former CDO hoops player in her day, Brown is emphatic during practices, often joining in the drills with her players. The only difference is, she's the one with the whistle.