The Chester High basketball program is treated like a precious jewel by the community in the small Southeastern Pennsylvania city.

That's why it was so important that the new head coach be a member of the Clippers family.

It appears that has happened.

Sources confirmed yesterday that Larry Yarbray, a 1988 Chester High graduate who was part of Fred Pickett's coaching staff this past season, will be named the new head coach.

Yarbray's name will be presented to the Chester-Upland School District for approval Thursday night.

Yarbray will be taking over a program that has been the standard in Southeastern Pennsylvania and throughout the state over the last 4 years. Under Pickett last season, the Clippers completed a historic year, finishing with a school-record 33-1 mark and winning the PIAA Class AAAA state title for the second time in the last 4 years.

This will be Yarbray's first head coaching job. He was an assistant on Pickett's staff for 10 years. Yarbray was selected from a group of three finalists that included Keith Taylor, a 1987 Chester High grad who had been an assistant coach in the Clippers' program for 16 years, and John Shelton, who coached one of the middle school programs in the Chester-Upland School District.

Chester ended this past season on a 25-game winning streak. Its lone loss was to St. Benedict's of Newark, N.J., one of the nation's top teams, at a tournament in Florida in December.

Pickett retired after the Clippers beat Norristown, 81-77, on March 15 for the state championship at Penn State's Bryce Jordan Center. It was Chester's sixth state title, and third under Pickett, who left as the only Clippers coach to win three state titles.

The team is losing four starters: Nasir Robinson (Pittsburgh), Russell Johnson (Robert Morris), Karon Burton and Kevin Green-Germany. But the Clippers do return one of the best players in the area in Rahlir Jefferson, a 6-7 junior forward who is receiving considerable Division I attention, which includes Villanova.

"Coach Yarbray will bring the same passion coach Pickett did and he'll keep up that same winning attitude with Chester," Jefferson said. "I'm happy there wasn't any outside coach coming to take over. We're going to be facing an interesting challenge next year for our team and for me personally. Coach Yarbray will prepare us for that challenge. I'm happy we have someone named. The anxiety of waiting was getting to be too much."

Yarbray never won a state title playing for the Clippers. He went up against the same team, and player, his junior and senior years, losing to Carlisle and Billy Owens in the PIAA Class AAAA Eastern finals both seasons. *

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