Saying that “When mama calls, you come,” Alfred Williams was introduced as the Xavier men’s basketball coach during a news conference Tuesday in the Convocation Center.
“I walked these halls, slept in the dormitories and ate cafeteria food,” said Williams, who played with the Gold Rush from 2004-08 and was an assistant coach from 2009-15. “This is a great program that was built on the shoulders of giants.”
However, there are things Williams would like to change. One is having his team play more pressure defense and fast-break offense.
Another is increased success. Xavier, which went 21-13 last season under former coach Dannton Jackson, has had more 20-win seasons than any program on any level in Louisiana history. And, the Rush has appeared in six consecutive NAIA championship tournaments.
“Xavier hasn’t gotten past the first round since 2007, with the team I played on,” he said. “And, the last time a Xavier team advanced past the (NAIA) second round was 1973. We want to change that.”
The type of student-athlete the program recruits won’t deter much, he said, for a school with stringent academic standards.
“But I’d like to tap into our alumni base, which is pretty much global,” Williams said.
Recruiting, he said, is part of the plan to increase attendance, too. The Convocation Center seats 3,937. Athletic director Jason Horn said he doesn’t expect it to be filled, “but if we can average half that amount, we would be among the top in attendance in NAIA.”
Williams said he wants to reach out to the community around Xavier.
“And I want to recruit more local players,” he said. “But we have to engage the student body, be personable and invited them to games.”
Williams said he also will start a summer basketball league for middle school athletes, which will help familiarize them with the program and facility.
However, the immediate priorioty for Williams is recruiting. Four seniors from last year’s team have graduated, and Williams set his sights on retaining three players recruited by Jackson — power forward Evan Howard of Biloxi, Mississippi, Jeffery Dixon, who played at McMain High School in New Orleans and Delgado Community College and Khalil McCoy of Atlanta.
Howard was at the news conference, with Williams promising Howard’s father he will push him hard to get all of the ability out of him.
“I’ve spoken with all three, and all three have said they are on board,” Williams said. “And, I will be recruiting soon. There are a lot of good players out there.”
Before Williams left Xavier to take the head coaching job at Harris-Stowe State in St. Louis for one season, the Gold Rush had shared Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season championships in 2012 and 2013 and had won it outright in 2014.
Xavier finished third (6-6) in conference last season. More important, the GCAC tournament title and berth to the NAIA tournament were won by rival Dillard under first-year coach Mike Newell.
“I am aware of that,” Williams said. “They won the tournament, and I’m glad for them, glad for their athletic director, Kiki Barnes, that their program was able to experience success.
“Xavier has certainly had a lot of success, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Newell said he knows of Williams because he is a former Xavier player and assistant coach.
“He’s apparently paid his dues,” Newell said. “The administration there knows him best and obviously feels he can continue what Dannton did and take it to a higher level.”