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Grammer’s Prep Notebook: Klassen gets ‘dream job,’ succeeds Gin at Palo Verde

Palo Verde High School assistant basketball coach Chris Klassen (from left), Adam Hall and head coach David Gin exult over a win during the 2007 Class 4A Division II state playoffs.

Palo Verde High School assistant basketball coach Chris Klassen (from left), Adam Hall and head coach David Gin exult over a win during the 2007 Class 4A Division II state playoffs.

When longtime Palo Verde boys basketball coach David Gin stepped down after the 2008-09 season, there was no doubt in his mind who should be his successor.

Gin got his wish.

Chris Klassen, 28, who has been Gin’s top assistant the past three years and who also played for Gin, has been hired to build on what Gin has been accomplished for the past 19 seasons.

“He’s the perfect guy for the job,” said Gin. “He bleeds Palo Verde.”

Klassen does seem to have a bit of the East Side school in his blood. His father, Michael, swam at the school; his aunt, Sharon, played softball there for current athletic director Peggy Baker; and three younger siblings have followed him as Palo Verde since he graduated in 1999.

“This is a dream come true,” said Klassen, who followed his Palo Verde playing career by playing college basketball at Iowa’s William Penn University.

Upon returning to Tucson after college, Klassen worked for two years as a volunteer assistant at Palo Verde.

Three years ago, he was hired to coach the Titans freshman team and led them to a 14-3 record. The past two years as the junior varsity coach, Palo Verde has gone 30-6.

And as he began showing he, indeed, was a quality coach himself, Klassen was being encouraged by Gin to take the leap and pursue varsity head coaching vacancies.

“There were a couple of jobs opened he said I should go for,” Klassen said. “But I told him I’d rather wait it out here and maybe one day prove to him I should be the guy to take over for him when he stepped down. There wasn’t anywhere else I wanted to coach.”

Klassen is optimistic about the 2009-10 season, including coaching the class he first coached when they were freshmen three years ago.

He plans to use an up-tempo offense with aggressive, man-to-man defense “probably 80 percent” of the time.

Rodriguez having big year

Is any baseball player in southern Arizona having a better spring than Sahuaro junior Chris Rodriguez?

Voted by league coaches last week as the 4A Kino Region Player of the Year, Rodriguez is among the state leaders in several hitting categories.

The 5-foot-10, 170-pound outfielder has a .523 batting average, a .889 slugging percentage, three home runs, six triples, 26 RBIs, 12 walks, been hit by a pitch six times, has struck out just nine times and has stolen 26 bases in 30 attempts.

Rodriguez takes his eye-popping numbers with him into Saturday’s Class 4A Division I state tournament opener as No. 14 Sahuaro plays at No. 3 Canyon del Oro at 11 a.m.

Watkins to play in Tenn.

Mountain View senior volleyball player Cassidy Watkins has signed to play collegiately at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn.

Have news for the prep notebook? E-mail ggrammer@tucsoncitizen.com

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