The new head varsity girls basketball coach at Paso Robles High is a name likely to resonate with longtime Central Coast women’s basketball fans.
Heidi Wittstrom Sill, a former star for the Bearcats who also became a standout at both Cuesta College and Cal Poly, has been hired to take over Paso Robles’ program.
Wittstrom Sill, who has coached the Bearcats’ JV squad for the past six years, replaces Mike Gray, who stepped down from the position following this past season. An agribusiness finance and appraisal graduate from Cal Poly, Wittstrom Sill also works in the cattle industry in the North County.
“I’ve really enjoyed making an impact in the girls’ lives,” Wittstrom Sill said, “but I am excited to be in charge of a program and coach the varsity girls. This team has a lot of potential, and I’m excited to get the most out of them.”
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She said one of her main goals is to increase community involvement in girls basketball at the youth level.
The Bearcats finished 11-15 this past season, falling in the second round of the CIF-Southern Section Division 4AA playoffs, after beating Flintridge Prep 42-32 in the first round.
Two all-county honorable mention players from last year’s team, center Molly Donovan and forward Amani White, will be able to return for the Bearcats as juniors next year.
The PAC 7 featured two particularly strong programs this past year, newcomer and league champion St. Joseph, which went on to win the Division 3 state title, and runner-up Arroyo Grande, which was within five points of a divisional semifinals appearance.
Playing for current Bearcats football coach Rich Schimke as a prep senior in 1999-2000, Wittstrom was named a co-MVP in the Los Padres League. That season, she helped lead Paso Robles to its first outright league championship and a 20-6 overall record.
Wittstrom then took a year off from basketball before starring at Cuesta in 2001-02, helping to lead the Ed Musolff-coached Cougars to a postseason appearance, their first in four seasons.
“The coaches I’ve played for have all been different,” Wittstrom Sill said. “I was lucky to experience different styles, so I can pick and choose whatever best fits my team and personalities.”
The 5-foot-10 point guard was named first-team all-Western State Conference after leading Cuesta in scoring (14.3 points per game) and assists (3.6) as a freshman.
She then joined Cal Poly as a sophomore walk-on in 2002-03 but quickly earned a scholarship after impressing Mustangs head coach Faith Mimnaugh with her intensity and work ethic.
“It wasn’t very long,” said Mimnaugh, who called Wittstrom one of the fiercest defenders she’s ever coached.
“She’s one heck of a competitor,” Mimnaugh said. “She never quits. She’s such a hard worker, and I think she’ll bring that level of competitiveness to her troops.
“She’s got a great head on her shoulders,” Mimnaugh added. “Paso Robles is lucky to have her.”
Wittstrom started 56 games during her three seasons at Cal Poly, with her most productive year coming in 2003-04, when she averaged 6.7 points and 4.4 rebounds.
“I’ve been at an extremely structured level where expectations are high,” Wittstrom Sill said. “Playing Division I is a huge honor, and I was lucky to have that experience. So I’m hoping to just share my experience and what I’ve learned.”