Lady Chieftains prepare for hoops season with new coach

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

SHIPROCK − The Shiprock High School girls basketball team will have a new coach at courtside this season, and will be looking to return the program to a better place.

Robert McCaskill, who took over the Lady Chieftains program earlier this year from Vernetta Begay, coached the girls hoops team at Aztec High School for nine seasons, winning 80 games and losing 142.

During his tenure, the school endured not only the pandemic which shut down schools and their associated athletic programs, but also went through the shock of the Aztec High School shooting, which McCaskill admitted was a difficult time for all involved.

Navajo Prep's Amber Garcia (14) looks to go up for a basket while surrounded by Shiprock defenders in the second quarter of a girls basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021 inside the Scorpion Arena at Farmington High School

"As a program and as a school, there were a lot of challenges," McCaskill said. "I'm very thankful to the kids and everyone who was there for me and my staff."

More:Shiprock welcomes Larenson Henderson, Robert McCaskill as new boys, girls basketball coaches

Shiprock finished last season with a record of 7-21, finishing last in District 1-4A. The Lady Chieftains haven't had a winning season since 2018, when they finished with a record of 20-10 and lost in the Class 4A state semifinals to eventual champion Portales.

Prior to that, the Shiprock girls basketball team won the Class 4A title, defeating Hope Christian. The Lady Chieftains have won five state championships.

"The expectations here are always something we look at," McCaskill said. "There's a rich history here and we want to embrace that and face all those challenges."

Two players McCaskill expects big contributions from this season are Kaydence Platero and Hayleigh Bigman, who combined to average more than 13 points per game last season.

McCaskill is hoping that Platero, coming off a successful fall season as part of Shiprock's cross country team, will bring her experience to the basketball court.

"I've been working with girls from every sport, whether it be soccer, volleyball or whatever, and I'm pretty adept at working with multi-sport athletes," McCaskill said. "Having these girls with good footwork and good reaction time will help us succeed."

The Shiprock girls basketball team will open their season at home on Tuesday, Nov. 29, against Navajo Prep. For a complete look at their schedule, check out the Lady Chieftains official page at