Basketball and Chemistry

Basketball and Chemistry

Williams College Athletic Director Harry Sheehy, former Eph head men’s basketball coach, has often stated, “that some of the best teaching on this campus takes place between 4:00 and 6:00 PM,” referring to the “division of the day” when Williams and teams gather for practices.

Given Sheehy’s statement, second year head men’s basketball coach Mike Maker might want to think about looking into teaching in the Williams Chemistry Department when he tires of patrolling the sidelines in Chandler Gym. Maker’s Eph hoops program revolves around chemistry – team chemistry.

Maker served as an assistant for a number of years in Division I before getting his first head men’s coaching opportunity at Williams. He knows both sides of the coaching equation.

“In Division I your life as an assistant is not your life,” according to Maker. “The toughest part for me was that I was never in control of my personal life,” said Maker. “I never celebrated a family holiday in Division I, because I was always coaching, recruiting or planning, whatever the head coach needed. It dawned on me a few years ago when we lost my older brother Billy. It hit me that I did not have a balance in my life.”

“We are so fortunate to have the two assistants we have right now – Ryan Wiersma and Shaun Morris – they have a passion for basketball, possess outstanding character and they represent Williams in the best way. I have no idea what I would do without them.”

Both Wiersma and Morris are in their first year at Williams and Wiersma, though a rookie coach actually has a few weeks seniority in the Berkshires over Morris who is in his fifth year of coaching l. Wiersma, or “Sma” as he is known around the basketball team is a 2009 graduate of Eastern Kentucky University, and Morris, a 2003 graduate of Lycoming College served the past four years on Pat Kennedy’s staff at Towson University

Ryan Wiersma

Wiersma is the offensive coach and Morris is the defensive coach and under Maker’s approach they do more on the floor in a game than just sit there and look nice while holding a clipboard. In fact, this has been a huge adjustment for Morris. The assistants actually get to call out offensive plays and defensive switches and other in-game adjustments, some of which are just reminders of items that were in the detailed scouting reports they prepare.

“I only have one rule for my assistant coaches,” said Maker. “Don’t out dress the head coach. I’ve fired Shaun 30 times already and I think I’m going to have to fire him again on Friday… he’s killing me with his suits.”

Wiersma is also charged with breaking down all the film of Eph opponents, creating an offensive game plan for the upcoming contest and he serves as the Ephs recruiting coordinator. “Ryan has an awful lot on his plate, but he has great instincts and I’d be lost without him,” noted Maker.

“We were so lucky to get Shaun at the 11th hour when Kevin App went back to his alma mater Cornell,” stated Maker. “Shaun is mature, experienced and has great organizational skills. Both of them have great relationships with our players. They are just so good at communicating with our players and in our program team chemistry is everything.”

Wiersma has a quick wit and a sense of humor that has entertained Maker over the year. “They both get after me about my phone and my computer, because I’m way behind in technology. They have been known to change my computer screen, especially with something negative about Notre Dame football.” One day Maker showed up at his office door to find a huge Purdue logo attached and a note from “Sma” that proclaimed the Boilermakers were #1 in football in Indiana.”

“Coach really loves Notre Dame football and I like to tease him about rooting for a really bad team even though I know coach is going to stick to his guns and keep rooting for them,” Wiersma said.

Both Wiersma and Morris agree that without a doubt the best part of their day isfrom 4-6:00 PM when they get to be with the players. “We have some really good players on the court and all of them are amazing people off the court,” noted Wiersma.  Morris points out that, “we have some very talented players and not just in Division III, but what makes them so special is they are focused on team success and the bright futures they are going to have outside of basketball down the road.”

Morris, who was a high school teammate of Drew DeMuth ’03 a 1,000 point scorer for the Ephs, played at Lycoming on a team that advanced to the Sweet 16. He wanted to see how good Williams was because he knew what it took to make the Sweet 16. Morris was pleasantly surprised to see the talent level of the players. “We have some really good players who could be good players on any level in college.”

Every college assistant basketball coach gets bleary eyed over the amount of video tape they watch to prepare scouting reports on the team’s next opponent. “Sometimes you just get to a point where you have to stop watching tape of a team, because you start second guessing your plan,” said Morris. “What we do is scout as a team. Ryan breaks down the games into offense and defense and then he and I watch the clips and then coach watches them and then the three of us get together and make a plan for the game.”

“In my two years here we are 4-4 in outstanding quality assistant coaches,” stated Maker and when Harry Sheehy and Dave Paulsen were here they turned out some very good assistants. It is my responsibility to respect these guys and the time and effort they have put in and support them by teaching them everything I can and helping them get to whatever level they want in the future.”

Morris and Wiersma both appreciate the responsibilities that Maker has entrusted them with.  “He gives us a large amount of responsibilities and he trusts us,” noted Morris. “He’s working hard to try and shape our careers. This has been an unbelievable experience working for coach and being with this team.

“You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with,” Maker said. “I think you can see from where we are right now how good these two young men are. I would recommend both of these guys for any job they go after without reservation because they have given so much to this program and they are quality individuals.”