Having the opportunity to play in the McDonald’s All-American game is a huge deal. It’s a prestigious honor, as the top 24 girls in the country are selected each year out of more than 900 nominees. Having the opportunity to coach in it, though, is something is something that even fewer people have a chance to do, as there’s only two coaches selected each year.
When Seton Catholic Prep head girls basketball coach Karen Self was named as the McDonald’s All-American coach for the West team, it was a huge, but wonderful surprise. Self, who has been the coach of the Sentinels since 1992, has led the team to numerous region and state titles throughout the years. She has an overall record of 723-147 and has coached numerous collegiate athletes and even a previous McDonald’s All-American.
“I honestly was so shocked and surprised. I had no idea that was even a possibility. I thought they were joking at first,” Self said, laughing.
“I got an email, and I saw who the email was from and I know who she is, so I thought, ‘well maybe they want to ask me about some Arizona kids,'” Self said. “Literally, I was in absolute disbelief.”
While Self was surprised about the opportunity, many of her players are not. They believe she’s more than deserving of the opportunity and that her record shows why she’s earned the prestigious honor.
Sophomore Lexi McNabb, a starter for the Sentinels, says she’s glad Self is being recognized for her coaching abilities.
“Honestly, I think she really deserved that,” McNabb said. “I think it’s a really good fit and I think those players will get to learn a lot from her, especially her defensive philosophy, and that will really help them when they get to college.”
Amanda Barcello, one of the state’s top players in the class of 2021 and a rebounding machine, echoed McNabb’s sentiments. Amanda is just one of a couple Barcellos who have played under Coach Self at Seton Catholic and had immense success on the court.
“I believe she deserves it. She’s worked so hard in all these years she’s put in for the girls and put in for the team. She’s coached both my siblings and me, and I think it just shows how hard of a worker she is and how much work she puts into this,” Barcello said.
Barcello wasn’t the only one to talk about Coach Self’s work ethic and commitment to her players. Junior Bella DiGiovanni also talked about how much time and passion Self puts into the program.
“I think it just shows how hard of a worker she is and how dedicated she is to helping other people. With us, everyday, she’s constantly encouraging us and helping us with our game and I think she should be recognized for that because she does a fantastic job of it,” DiGiovanni said.
While the girls are ecstatic for their coach being recognized on such a large scale, they’re also looking forward to what they’ll be able to learn from Self after she returns from coaching at the All-Star game.
“I think she’ll come back really happy and smiling and say, ‘This is where you all want to be, so we’re going to work even harder to get to that spot,’ and I think that will help us a lot,” McNabb said.
“I think her coaching all of these big high school stars, she can take a lot of pointers from their game and help improve ours because some of them are similar to us,” DiGiovanni said. “I think just seeing them play and how they interact with each other can really help our team chemistry and help us come together as a team, as well.”
Nearly of the girls selected to take part in the game are committed to large DI programs across the country. Self said that amount of skill and potential on the court is what she’s most excited to see, as the girls will be performing at such a high level.
“There’s so much talent out there, do I actually coach them or do I ask for their autograph,” Self joked.
Self will travel to Houston at the end of March, where she will participate in a number of things related to the event. The McDonald’s All-American game will be take place on Wednesday, April 1st and will be broadcast live on ESPN and ESPN2. But before she travels to Houston or starts focusing on the All-American game, she’s still locked in on this season for Seton Catholic, as the Sentinels are sitting in a great spot to make another run at the 4A state title.