Courtney Newton is coming home.
The former Flowery Branch and University of South Carolina player has been named the Lady Falcons’ new girls basketball coach, pending board of education approval. She will replace Hazel Hall, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
Newton spent her first year as a head coach at Lexington High in South Carolina this past season, helping the Lady Wildcats double their win total from seven to 14 behind all-state performer Destinee Langford.
Newton takes over a Flowery Branch team that went 21-6 with no seniors in 2014-15.
“I’m excited to be able to get on the court with them and learn more about them and see what we can accomplish,” Newton said.
The 2007 Flowery Branch High graduate had a chance to learn from one of the game’s biggest names — South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley. Although Newton was hampered by injuries during her Gamecocks career, the added time on the bench gave her an opportunity to pay more attention to Staley’s leadership techniques.
“I got to really sit back and watch her coach and see that aspect of it,” Newton said. “I saw how she prepared us not just physically, but more than that, mentally. I knew I wanted to coach one day.”
Newton pointed to Staley’s ability to prepare and lead with passion as important coaching traits she gleaned. Staley’s way of knowing how to motivate each player in a unique way also caught Newton’s eye.
Flowery Branch athletic director Jimmy Lawler said he and principal Jason Carter got more than they expected in a coach by bringing Newton back into the Falcons’ program.
“She didn’t interview like someone who just finished their first year of coaching. She interviewed like a veteran of coaching,” Lawler said. “She’s professional. She’s organized. She has a plan. She completely blew us away in the interview.”
Newton was a starter in 30 of 32 games and a captain for South Carolina during her senior campaign in 2011-12, which saw the Gamecocks reach the Sweet 16. That was the first of four consecutive 25-win seasons that saw South Carolina make the Final Four in 2015.
Lawler liked the way Newton responded to the adversity of knee injuries in both high school and college.
“Each time she persevered and was able to overcome those injuries and finish out her career on a successful note at South Carolina,” Lawler said.
Those are the kind of “life skills” Lawler said will enhance the basketball learning Newton is able to impart to her players.
Newton, who earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and an Education Specialist graduate degree in counselor education from South Carolina, will be a guidance counselor at Flowery Branch High.
Newton can remember the pride she took in wearing a Lady Falcons jersey, from when she helped Flowery Branch to the state quarterfinals as a freshman to averaging 24.6 points and 7.8 rebounds as a senior. Now she gets to share that passion with the program’s current players.
“I want these girls to be proud to be a Falcon,” Newton said. “And I can’t wait for the community to see us play and see what we can accomplish.”