Craven steps up with WRV boys basketball

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/15/2022 9:22:50 PM
Modified: 7/15/2022 9:22:36 PM

White River Valley has hired DJ Craven as its new boys varsity basketball coach, following the departure of Mike Gaudette for the Hartford High job.

Craven has coached youth sports in South Royalton ever since his sons, Dominic and Donovan, were old enough to play. For the last four years, he was the junior varsity head coach and an assistant under Gaudette with the varsity squad, which reached the VPA Division IV state championship game this past winter but lost on a buzzer-beater to Blue Mountain.

“I’ve taken away a lot from Mike,” Craven said. “Mike taught me that fundamentals are huge. I can start to see more of where kids are lacking in those fundamentals. He’s taught me to calm down and see the game and slow it down a little bit. We still talk some, I still pick his brain, and he’s still great to me.”

A 1999 graduate of the now-defunct Whitcomb High in Bethel — which merged with South Royalton in 2018 to form White River Valley — Craven was a three-sport athlete in high school and a basketball standout. He lived in Hartford for a time before moving to South Royalton when Dominic was in first grade, and he began coaching basketball and baseball soon thereafter.

Dominic graduated from WRV this spring and led the Wildcats with 16.1 points per game. Donovan, who just completed his freshman year, earned a spot on the varsity team and averaged 2.4 points per game, scoring a season-high 10 in a playoff game against Twin Valley.

“I started coaching (Dominic) when he was very little and fell in love with that almost as much if not more than playing,” Craven said.

Craven was hired by WRV’s new principal, Jeff Thomas, who coincidentally was the previous head boys basketball coach at Hartford. The school is still searching for a new athletic director after Heidi Wright left for Oxbow, so it is certainly a nice boost for the Wildcats to have a principal who is so familiar with athletics.

Thomas said he plans to be hands-on with the athletic department, even after the new director is hired.

“(Craven) is familiar with the program and the kids, and he has a passion for Wildcats,” Thomas said. “Going to Barre Auditorium and helping Mike Gaudette with that team was an important process that he went through. He’s kind of a young coach, but he has quite a bit of experience. He knows the game really well.”

WRV graduated a highly influential senior class that included Dominic Craven, Austin Tracy, Weston Trombly and Arliss Spaulding, and the Wildcats will also be moving back to VPA Division III for the 2022-23 season. Donovan Craven and fellow sophomore Braeden Russ, along with junior Tattin Griffin, are expected to be WRV’s centerpieces next season.

Craven’s first game as head coach will be against his former boss, as the Wildcats are scheduled to take on Gaudette’s Hurricanes in the opening round of the second annual Stretch Gillam Kickoff Classic in December. His last game, he hopes, is still many years down the line, especially with his youngest son, 6-year-old Cam, still a long way from enrolling in high school.

“I’m a Wildcat,” Craven said. “I’m a Bethel kid, my wife’s a South Royalton girl, we love the school, we love the towns. I would stay here as long as they’ll keep me.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.

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