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FARMINGTON – Matt Melvin demonstrated he can turn a basketball program into a contender in a hurry.

Starting the year in the middle of the pack coaching at Heights Middle School last year, Melvin elevated them to be among the top programs in the area.

Of course, upon being named Navajo Prep's next boys basketball coach, he knows the full gravity of taking over one of the big, rising programs in New Mexico.

“I understand what I’m stepping into. We expect to be successful from the jump,” said Melvin, who's also coached summer league ball the past two seasons. “There’s no beating around the bush. There’s been very clear talks. Everything’s going to have to click from the (get-go). Prep is built to go now. We have the bar set very high.”

Melvin takes command of a team that won 74 games in the last four years under former coach Rick Hoerner. Hoerner stepped down after this past season to relocate to Portland, Oregon.

Melvin, a 2001 Farmington High basketball graduate, played back when Hoerner was an assistant coach during the Marv Sanders era.

“I’m super excited. I thought it was a heck of an opportunity. They’ve been one of the most competitive teams in our area the last couple years,” Melvin said. “Shoot, I can’t wait to get started.”

Prep athletic director Rainy Crisp said Melvin comes off as Rick Hoerner 2.0 based on how he coaches.

“He thinks at more of the intellectual level of basketball. He’s one that will study (the game),” Crisp said. “It’s still going to be a challenge, but I know Matt’s ready to meet those expectations."

Melvin also has the luxury of inheriting much of Prep's core group, including Thomas Montanez and Treston Yazzie.

“That only makes the team stronger,” Melvin said. “Having upperclassmen, guys of their stature, you’d much rather take that scenario than guys that aren’t very experienced. I think for sure it’s going to be a great help.”

Melvin, who will be a contract coach this winter, values defense and being well-conditioned to handle any and every scenario.

“We’re going to give you a bunch of different looks. We’ll do anything from coast-to-coast presses to half-court traps,” Melvin said.

Melvin said there’s going to be nights where you’re just off on offense and shots aren’t going in, which really reinforces the need for strong defense.

“You swing it with defensive turnovers. You intercept a pass, it’s a fast-break layup. Pressure creates turnovers,” Melvin said. “If you’re hard to score on, you’re still in the game.”

On the other end, Melvin said he wants to push the ball and attack the basket for high-percentage looks.

He also stresses making the easy, simple pass to help limit turnovers.

“The easy pass becomes a great pass. It’s a big thing for me,” Melvin said. “The careless, inexcusable pass is my biggest pet-peeve.”

This is Melvin's first head coach opportunity at the high school level, but he embraces the challenge of leading a team that's in win-now mode.

“You don’t want to peak in the first week. It’s a marathon. The end goal is to be the last team standing,” Melvin said. “I think there’s a ton of talent (at Prep). I definitely want to pick up on that and continue that.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577.

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