LEVELLAND — With 19 years of head coaching experience in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference, the South Plains College women's basketball program will be led by a familiar face next season as Ara Baten has been named the next head coach of the Lady Texans.
Baten comes to Levelland after 13 seasons heading up the Odessa College women's basketball program where he led the Lady Wranglers to 20 or more wins in 11 seasons, including four consecutive trips to the Women's Basketball National Tournament. Odessa qualified for the Region V Tournament 12 times dating back to 2009 under Baten's tutelage, with a trio of Lady Wranglers earning All-Americans honors, in Morgan Holly (2014), Mariah McCully (2017), and Okako Adika (2020).
"Odessa is a great place and this was an extremely tough decision, but when a job like South Plains opens up, you definitely have to consider it, and I couldn't be any more excited to come to Levelland," Baten said. "I've been coaching in this league for quite a while, and South Plains has great facilities, great people, and I'm extremely excited and grateful to get the opportunity to come to South Plains College."
The Lady Wranglers proved to be one of the top programs in the country under Baten, who has amassed an overall record of 381-194, including a 274-123 clip at Odessa. Baten led the Lady Wranglers to the 2016-2017 Western Junior College Athletic Conference title and was named the WJCAC Coach of the Year that same season.
"We're ecstatic about coach Baten joining the South Plains College family, and for South Plains College to attract a coach of his caliber is a testament to Levelland," South Plains College athletic director Roger Reding said." Coach Baten is well respected throughout our league and knows what it takes to win in the WJCAC, and we're excited to work with him and he will be a great asset to our program."
A native of Andrews, Texas, Baten played for Hall of Fame coach Ron Black at New Mexico Junior College where he helped the Thunderbirds capture the 1991-92 Western Junior College Athletic Conference crown. Baten would then transfer to Eastern New Mexico University where he was a two-year starter for the Greyhounds, leading ENMU to a Lone Star Conference title and a berth in the NJCAA Div. II Sweet Sixteen.
Following his playing career, Baten would return to Hobbs where he spent six seasons as the head coach of the Lady Thunderbirds, earning Coach of the Year honors in the Western Junior College Athletic Conference during the 2002-03 season.
"We're going to try and recruit elite student-athletes who are committed to their education and also put a product on the floor South Plains College can be proud of," Baten said. "Coach Petree did a great job with this program, and we're going to try and continue with the tradition of excellence South Plains College is known for, and our ultimate goal is to come in here and compete for a national title."