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Card coach Williams enjoying first season despite transition and losses

In his first year as head coach of the Willmar boys basketball team, Matt Williams has faced some challenges. "I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, and my wife is an accountant, so the biggest transition has been the family aspect, adjust...

2316360+bbb Matt Williams file.jpg
First-year Willmar head coach Matt Williams discusses strategy with Cardinals guard Noah Slagter during a 65-58 win over Hutchinson on Dec. 3 in Willmar. (Photo by Tom Larson - Tribune)

In his first year as head coach of the Willmar boys basketball team, Matt Williams has faced some challenges.

“I have a five-year-old and a three-year-old, and my wife is an accountant, so the biggest transition has been the family aspect, adjusting to having less time” said Williams, who was the coach of Willmar’s sophomore team for six previous years. “They’re always the first ones to hug me after the game, win or lose.”

“I’m a husband and father first, a teacher second, and a coach somewhere further down the line.”

Oh, and there’s the basketball aspect of it too.

“I have a great staff that came with me from the previous coach, and they’ve really helped with the transition to head coach” said Williams.

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However, the Cards have struggled a bit in his first season at the helm. They are 5-18 with three games left in the regular season, 1-12 in Central Lakes Conference play, and are being outscored by just under 12 points per contest.

“The conference is really good right now, maybe as tough as it’s ever been,” said Williams. “There are a lot of tall, strong athletes and we have to play with absolute maximum effort to compete with these guys.”

“It’s frustrating because we see the potential, and we see the flashes and the stretches, but we haven’t been able to do it for full games,” Williams said. “It’s hard to know what buttons to push, how different kids are motivated, how a team can function together.”

He has some regrets, too.

“I’ve been watching a lot of film, and there are a lot of times where I look back and think ‘man, I should’ve done this instead’”

Without a single player over 6-foot-3 on the roster, the Cards have their hands full with some of the interior scorers of the conference.

“Our guys play and work really hard,” said Williams. “But we’ll have these stretches where we play great defense and force them to take the shots we want them to take, but then we’ll give up second-chance points.”

“We definitely want to get more athletic and spread the floor.”

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When looking at Williams’ future teams from a personnel standpoint, the discussion begins and ends with sophomore guard Noah Slagter.

Named All-Conference as a freshman, Slagter hasn’t slowed down in his second year. His scoring average of 15.3 points per game is more than double any other Cardinal, and he leads the team in assists and is third in rebounding. He’s already posted 735 points in his young career.

Williams says the key will be getting other creators besides Slagter on the floor. One of the places the team may be looking is their development program.

“Our freshman team is undefeated, and our 10th-grade team is 16-5 and running up and down the court and pressing,” Williams explained. “There still isn’t a ton of size, but those are groups we’re excited about.”

But ultimately, he credits his current team and group of seniors with making his first year as head coach a lot of fun.

“Even though our record isn’t very good, the kids are awesome” said Williams. “They’ve been really good and patient to me, and it’s been a really enjoyable year.”

You’ll have a chance to experience this great attitude for yourself at Meet the Cards night, which is after tonight’s final home game against Sauk Rapids. Players will sign autographs on team photographs.

Related Topics: BOYS BASKETBALL
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