On Dec. 17, Killeen girls head basketball coach Latisha Williams took several deep breaths, shook her head and said to Killeen’s assistant coaches and other friends surrounding her, “This season, this team of mine will be putting a lot of gray hairs on me.”
That comment from the 36-year-old Williams brought a lot of laughter. She had been standing on the gymnasium floor at Shoemaker High School and the Lady Roos had just defeated Shoemaker 52-40.
Fast forward one month: On Friday night, the Lady Roos upped their district record to 5-4 with an impressive 56-40 home win over Harker Heights.
Afterward, Williams said, “Yes, I do remember making that ‘gray hair’ remark after the Shoemaker game. During that game, we had a lot of moments when we played so good and then a lot of moments when we weren’t playing well at all. So, I was trying to be funny when I said that — but I was serious, too.”
Now, because of her team’s Friday night performance, Williams said, “I won’t need to get my hair dyed. I have an appointment in a week with my stylist. My hair is naturally black. But our girls played great, very consistent. So there definitely will be less gray hairs to cover up.”
There’s a chair on the bench for Williams when she’s coaching the Lady Roos — but that chair is mostly for decoration. From the beginning of the national anthem until the final buzzer of a contest, Williams is usually standing while cheering, strategizing, imploring her team on, pointing out errors, and, on occasion, having a conversation with a referee.
Williams clearly loves coaching basketball.
“But it is very challenging,” she said. “You put so much into it because you want your girls to be successful. Nobody likes losing but coaching is more important than just wins or losses. As a high school coach you’re, first, a teacher — and you are teaching life. You’re dealing with teenagers. I want to use athletics to teach our girls to be more well-rounded people. You must motivate them to make good grades and keep talking to them about what they’ll want to do after they graduate high school. What is so fulfilling for me is to see girls I used to coach come back to visit and they’ve earned their college degrees and have families of their own and are doing well in life.”
Williams was a three-year varsity starter and first-team all-district point guard for Killeen. She graduated in 1995 and then played for Southwestern University in Georgetown.
She teaches P.E. and German at Killeen and has been the head basketball coach the past 10 years.
Williams knew this season would present a unique challenge.
“I have never had a team this young,” she said.
Williams is currently employing a nine-player rotation. Four are sophomores, two are freshman, one is a junior and just two are seniors. Three sophomores start.
“I definitely have to keep reminding myself that some of our girls just turned 15,” Williams said. “I’ve always had one or two young players on varsity. But this many? Never. It makes things challenging to keep our team consistent. But I like to keep on our girls so they won’t lose their own focus.”
The Lady Roos entered Friday’s contest on a three-game losing skid. They were facing a very talented Heights team. In terms of earning a postseason berth, this young squad of Williams was clearly in a must-win situation.
“And our girls came through,” said Williams. “I could tell early on that our girls were so fired up and that helped keep me fired up, too.”
Killeen led 28-23 at halftime, and then played their best quarter of the season. In the third frame, the Lady Roos did not allow a field goal and outscored Heights 22-4. It was a coach’s dream: a near-perfect quarter, a near-perfect eight minutes of ball.
“Yes, it was a great quarter and it all started with our defense,” Williams said. “When we play defense that good, it creates some easy transition baskets for us. Now, if we can only just play like that for four full quarters. …”
That would definitely keep those gray hairs away.
Contact Allan Mandell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7566 and read his blog on KDHPressbox.com