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Arave's Untamed Style Has Broncos Running Wild
The former cowboy is no stranger to going against the grain, bringing a unique scheme to Blackfoot basketball
Published: 1/14/2021 12:11:07 PM

ORDER GAME PHOTOS | Photos by Randy Jones

Clint Arave isn’t the first coach to teach positionless basketball. But the roots of his concept, which were planted during his days as a professional cowboy, are surely uncommon.

The first-year varsity basketball coach has imparted his methods on the Blackfoot High School boys team and has the Broncos clicking midway through the 2020-21 season. If you go check out a Blackfoot game, and you'll likely see 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-6 big men knocking down 3-pointers out on the wing and a 6-foot-3 guard posting up in the key.

It might look odd at first, especially in East Idaho, where height often comes at a premium. But Arave went against the grain when he rodeoed, too, and learned that qualities are more important than prototypes.

“I kind of approached basketball the way I look at rodeo,” Arave said. “I look for certain attributes that I need and really, I don’t care (how it looks).”

Arave was a successful calf roper at Blackfoot High School, then Idaho State University and then the pro circuit. Most of his contemporaries zeroed in on small, quick, compact quarter horses to wrangle their calves, but Arave didn’t discriminate against bigger breeds if they could get the job done.

The same is true on the basketball court. Arave’s roster is loaded with eye-popping size: Carter Layton at 6-3, Cadon Dahle and Ja’Vonte King at 6-5, and Dylan Peterson at 6-6. On most Idaho teams, guys that big are coveted in the post. At Blackfoot, they play inside, outside, handle the ball and are excellent shooters.

They’ve teamed with heady guards and have Blackfoot at 7-4 through 11 games (2-1 in the Class 4A High Country Conference). Five of those wins have come against Class 5A competition.

“Everybody should have the basketball IQ to play every position,” Arave said. “I try to keep things pretty simple and pretty standard and just play basketball.”

In addition to his rodeo days, Arave draws inspiration from his time as a basketball player at Blackfoot High in the early 2000s. He likes to recall games against Century which, back then, was coached by Cody Shelley, who later mentored Arave and preceded him as Blackfoot’s head coach. At times, Shelley played his 6-foot-5 star Matt Stucki at point guard, creating matchup difficulties for Arave and Blackfoot. It forced the 6-foot Arave off the point defensively and brought Blackfoot’s post defender up out of position.

Arave has empowered his ball-handling big men to operate the same way.

“I was always like, ‘Man that’s so easy,’” Arave said. “‘Our post isn’t going to run and put pressure on him. Matt’s good enough to handle the ball, that’s really smart.’ I always felt like that was a really good concept.”

Arave believes that his system, which doesn’t pigeonhole players into pre-ordained roles, expedited the buy-in process in his first year at the helm. He saw it succeed in idyllic fashion during the Broncos’ 53-43 win Jan. 5 at Thunder Ridge.

In the fourth quarter of a one-point game, Arave got a 3 from Chase Cannon and two steals from Miles Toussaint — “my last two guys off my bench,” Arave said — before the starters came in and finished the job. Layton also had a rousing dunk to highlight the Broncos’ 23-point fourth quarter.

“It came from the contagious camaraderie of a team,” Arave said.



Arave’s rise to his varsity head coaching gig wasn’t exactly linear. He started coaching at Marsh Valley High School in the mid-2000s, first as the boys junior varsity head coach and then as an assistant on the boys varsity team. In 2015, he was hired to lead the eighth-grade girls program in Blackfoot, and he later joined Blackfoot High as an assistant on the boys freshman team.

In between, Arave was still rodeoing and completing his master’s degree. He rodeoed until 2017 — the same year he began teaching at Blackfoot.

He also joined Shelley’s varsity staff as an assistant that year. Following the 2019-20 season, Shelley resigned as Blackfoot’s head coach to become the school’s athletic director, and he had a hand in hiring Arave to replace him.

“You’re always looking for people with new ideas, younger coaches with enthusiasm (who can) relate to kids,” Shelley said. “When I got the job at Blackfoot, I recognized those things in Clint.”

Shelley and Arave coached the Broncos to a district championship and the state tournament last season, snapping a pair of long droughts. Blackfoot may have the right special mix of talent and uniqueness to do it again.

Even if it looks a little out of the ordinary.

“It doesn’t matter. It’s a special skill set that I’m looking for,” Arave said. “And if they have that, I just play them in a position.”


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