New CSU women’s basketball coach Ryun Williams started his college basketball career in 1988 on the Carolina blue and gold floor of the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome at Sheridan College in Wyoming.
Seven years later, Sheridan gave him his first head coaching job, and Williams swept that same floor before every practice.
“You don’t have many resources,” Williams said. “It makes you appreciate what you have now.”
CSU hired Williams in late May, and he has spent the last month adapting to his new situation and getting to know his team.
“Since he can’t do that much basketball stuff with us I think it’s been really helpful for him to get to know us as people first,” junior guard Hayley Thompson said.
“You want to get to know them as young ladies and start developing a relationship you can trust,” Williams said. “We can’t work with them individually, which is kind of a bummer. It would be great to get these kids on the floor and see what we’ve really got.”
The Rams will return 11 players from last year’s team, only losing seniors Kim Mestdagh and Kelly Hartig to graduation.
“My sense from talking to the kids and watching film from previous years is we have kids that are hungry to be successful,” Williams said. “I like this group. There’s good basketball in this group.”
Historically William’s teams have built their success on defense. Last season at South Dakota, the Coyotes ranked second nationally in blocks per game (7.3) and eight in field goal percentage defense (33.2).
“They do a good job of getting in your half-court, they don’t let you run up and down,” South Dakota State coach Aaron Johnston said. “They do a good job of slowing things down and playing at a pace they’re comfortable with.”
This style benefits CSU’s size on the front line, where they are lead by senior Megan Heimstra and junior Sam Martin, a second team all Mountain West performer last season.
Martin and Thompson will remain team captains as they were scheduled to be under former coach Kristen Holt.
“Both Sam and I are honored that he’s choosing to keep us as captains,” Thompson said. “I think our team was comfortable with the dynamic of the team as it was before so I’m glad we’re keeping that.”
Williams’ task moving forward will be to take a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2004 and turn it into a Mountain West title contender. The team told Williams in their first meeting that they think they are good enough to win the conference next year.
“Those kids must have a confidence. They went through that league last year, they beat every team in the Mountain West,” Williams said. “They have a better feel for that, perhaps, than me.”
Both Williams and the Rams have high expectations of themselves for the upcoming season, and Johnston thinks he’s the right man for the job.
“Ryun’s a really energetic person. He has a lot of enthusiasm and passion for basketball,” Johnston said. “I think that’s what Colorado State needs with so many of the good things they have. They need someone who can spark an interest in women’s basketball, get people excited about it, and Ryun certainly has the ability to do that.”