Dexter Williams thought he was done coaching high school basketball.
But it was about two years ago when he got a call from Trinity Christian Academy asking him to consider coaching their boys’ team and becoming the Lions’ athletic director that made him think maybe he wasn’t done.
He’d had plenty of success at Liberty, leading the then-new school and program to two state championships. Then he decided to get into administration, which at the time meant he had to step down from coaching.
He was an assistant principal at Liberty then principal at Tigrett Middle. Then he got back into coaching for a couple years at Milan High, coaching the Bulldogs before going home to Atwood and becoming principal at West Carroll and eventually superintendent of West Carroll Special Schools.
“Wherever I’ve been at my career – no matter the situation or the circumstances – I feel called to be there,” Williams said. “Liberty, Tigrett, Milan, Atwood, wherever, I’ve felt genuinely called to be everywhere I’ve gone.
“And I feel called to be here.”
And Williams is enjoying his current calling.
He inherited a Lions program that’s been competitive at a statewide level for much of the past decade but falling short of the state tournament.
As the program has transitioned to Division II and playing against nothing but private schools for championships, the journey may look different than previous journeys Williams has traveled before, the goal is still the same.
“Coaching here is definitely different than coaching Liberty, but when you’re coaching a team of high school basketball players, you’re still trying to make shots, get back on defense and go after loose balls,” Williams said. “Am I different in how I coach that here from Liberty? Maybe, but we’re still going to play as hard here as our teams did at Liberty 15 years ago.”
Lions Will Wysor and Brayden Waller said that’s the mentality Williams has brought to the program.
“We’re not going to be the fastest team or the biggest, and we may not even be the better shooting team,” Wysor said. “But you’re not going to outwork us.
“Coach Williams won’t allow us to be outworked by anyone, and we’ve grown to agree with him. We won’t allow it either.”
Williams came in about a month after the previous season ended and his predecessor, Ken Northcut, announced his resignation.
A lot of the offseason schedule had already been set, and Williams still had to get to know a lot of the players.
But this past offseason, Williams had a little more say in what summer camps and tournaments the Lions would play in, and they spent a lot of time in Memphis. But from Day 1, they worked a lot more than the players expected on defense.
Brayden Waller has played AAU ball for Williams since he was in third grade, so he knew what he was getting into when he transferred to TCA from Jackson Christian.
“He always had us playing a grade up against bigger kids whenever he could,” Waller said about playing AAU ball. “And it worked. It made us better.
“And he worked in the summer to get us prepared to play against some good teams in the season.”
The Lions entered the week tied for the lead in their Division II-A West district that consists of the four teams in Jackson plus Fayette Academy and Tipton-Rosemark. They were coming off the win where they stayed ahead of University School of Jackson and are about to go through the district schedule again with Sacred Heart looking for revenge for a Lions’ win at Sacred Heart to open district play. And TCA has vengeance on its mind as they’re set to play at Jackson Christian in the coming weeks.
“We can’t look ahead at any time because there are some good teams in this district,” Waller said.
Wysor said that hard-nosed style of play is the Lions’ key to success and a possible district championship.
“Coach wants us going after every 50/50 ball, and we want to win every 50/50 ball,” Wysor said. “If we’re going after those and getting back on defense, we’re giving ourselves a chance to win every night no matter how we’re shooting, and we feel like we have a chance every game no matter who the other team is.” Brandon Shields, firstname.lastname@example.org