New players, a new coach and a new year have the Chokers feeling optimistic about improving on last year’s record.
Things did not go as planned for the Chokers last season as they struggled to an 8-21 record overall and finished 3-11 in conference play.
With only a handful of sophomores on the team, The Chokers will lean heavily on first-year head coach Kevin Williamson.
Williamson is taking the helm of a college program for the first time after being an assistant at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. During his two years in St. George, Williamson was part of a program that went 37-18 and won the PacWest conference twice. His team also made an appearance in the NCAA tournament.
Williamson said he is excited to shape the direction of a college program for the first time in his 10-year coaching career.
“When you’re trying to come in and run a program, there are a lot of things you have to work through and figure out,” he said. “That’s kind of what I’ve been doing, I’m trying to figure out where my team needs to fit in with what other teams have done in the past.”
Last year’s Chokers struggled on both sides of the ball, failing to keep up with their opponents’ scoring in some games but they also lost a fair share of high-scoring games.
With four players 6-foot-7 or taller on the roster, Williamson said he expects the team’s length to be an asset.
“The size is very unique. We just played in our first jamboree out in Clackamas and I saw nine different NWAC teams, and we are one of two teams with that much size,” he said. “For my style of play I really like to pound the ball inside.
Even though the Chokers opened the season against Clackamas, players will still be competing for time on the floor when the team plays its non-conference games in the early part of the schedule.
While certain players have made their case for playing time in offseason practices, it may take a while before the Chokers settle on the rotation of players that will take them through the season.
“I have no idea what my rotations are,” he said. “I have a clue with about three of the guys who may be in the starting lineup if they continue to be consistent, but then there’s a whole rotation up for grabs. There’s still a couple of starting spots open and there’s still an entire rotation of backups.”
One player who will likely see a lot of time on the floor is freshman center Will Weems. He will be a big part of the team’s success as he figures to get a lot of looks close to the basket in Williamson’s offense.
Point guard Russell Tillery is one of the few returning sophomores and is also likely to start for the Chokers. Tillery’s passing ability will be key in an offense that hopes to focus on ball movement to create open shots all over the floor.
Williamson said he has the pieces in place to play some fast-paced, exciting games this season.