#1 Katie McWilliams Goes up for a Shot
It’s not too often that you see a 6’ 2” point guard/wing in high school girls’ basketball. To add to this unique situation, her dad is the head coach. She has helped her team get into a position to reach the state tournament. What’s even more exciting is that her team has a legit shot at winning the whole thing this year.
Katie McWilliams is a junior and plays basketball for the 8th-ranked South Salem High School Lady Saxons (Central Valley Conference) in Salem, Oregon. Watching her play you’d never guess she was 6’ 2”. The coordination is unbelievably flawless. It doesn’t matter which way she takes it strong to the basket, she’ll score with the left hand or the right hand. She has a three-point shot that has been refined to almost perfection. This young lady has worked extremely hard over the years – it’s noticeable when she plays. She’s the totally package that has major Division I colleges very interested.
Nick is her dad and head coach of the Lady Saxons – Dianne is her mom. Katie has two older sisters, Alie and Lindsey. Katie has a great relationship with her family and stays close. She’s been around the game of basketball with her dad for many years.
Katie was born in Hillsboro, Oregon. When she was a two year-old her family moved to the south Salem hills. Her neighborhood was pretty mellow, nothing too different. She always had friends to play with outside.
Her sisters played basketball when she was four years old and her dad was coaching boys’ basketball at the time. She saw fun in the sport and her drive began.
“Watching my sisters play basketball and my dad coach, I picked up a basketball one day and started dribbling – I loved it and started playing after that,” Katie said.
Her dad, Nick, started showing her the fundamentals of basketball. Then at The Hoop (a basketball facility) she met Rob Jensen, a youth basketball coach. He started showing her more basketball skill sets. She was involved in basketball leagues at a very young age.
“I remember signing her up for a basketball class, and then a basketball league through the Courthouse Athletic Club,” Dianne said.
She attended Sumpter Elementary School and then Judson Middle School. By this time Katie had developed such an accurate shot that she signed up for the Elks Hoop Shoot Competition – a nationwide free-throw contest. In this contest you have to win at the school level, district level, state level, and the regional level before advancing to the national championships. In the second grade she made it to the regional finals. In the third, fourth, and fifth grade she advanced to nationals in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her best performance at nationals was third place. Her best score overall was 24 for 25 – this was at a competition where she needed to make 15 out of 15 in the second round to beat another girl.
She had worked hard at developing a sound fundamental game for herself in all areas – not an easy thing to do and it required a lot of dedication. She earned a spot on several AAU tournament teams. During her sixth and seventh grade years she played with the Mid-Valley Monarchs and in addition to that, a South Salem traveling team. In the eighth grade Katie joined FAST – another elite tournament team that traveled.
“The coaches would talk to me and tell me about their team. I wanted to get into teams that gave me more looks and better opportunities,” Katie said.
This young lady has trained at 360 Shoot in Beaverton, Oregon. They have some of the best coaches teaching basketball skill sets including ball handling and shooting technique.
During the summer Katie currently plays with Oregon Elite – a traveling team from the Lake Oswego area. She plays against and with some of the most talented athletes around the nation.
“I’m so thankful to my parents. They provided me with transportation to and from games and practices. They come to most of my games and pay for everything. Whatever I need they are there for me,” Katie said.
Basketball has been an asset for Katie. She’s found motivation to challenge herself, not just on the court but off the court as well. She’s learned about “discipline” and how to work hard to arrive at a desired objective. Social skills are so important in life and she’s definitely acquired some.
“I’ve made a ton of friends because of all of the teams I’ve played on or against. We travel to so many cities to play in tournaments. Also with my team at South Salem – we are all friends and we want to reach the same goals,” Katie said.
Standing pretty tall among crowds, Katie would get stared at all the time. She found it uncomfortable – you don’t see too many 6’ 2” ladies walking around. With her tall frame and nice-looking features she’s had people approach her about modeling several times.
“I travel a lot for tournaments – at airports a lot of people would stare at me. It used to bother me more when I was younger, but now I’ve gotten used to it – it’s just who I am and I can’t change that. With some of my other teammates being tall it’s not as bad anymore,” Katie said.
This year she’s a junior and one of the captains on her team. The Lady Saxons are stacked with great players and a great coaching staff. Katie’s high school basketball career is a positive ride that she is enjoying with her teammates.
Katie acknowledges the advantages by being the coach’s daughter. She trusts him to the fullest. She can talk back to him (in a good way) where maybe with another coach she would not say anything. At home Nick and Katie think alike as far as basketball goes. She gives input to him and he listens. Their relationship is so great that it benefits the entire team as well.
“I feel so comfortable talking to my dad about anything. He actually listens to what I have to say about offense or defense – and there are times when he goes with my ideas on what may work best. I know my teammates and see certain things he may not see,” Katie said.
Katie is an unselfish player – she wears number 1 on her jersey and has the ability to score 30 points every game in the CVC. But she’s a team player and distributes the ball well. She has a stellar cast of teammates like #10 Jordan Woodvine, #22 Jenessa Bodine, #24 Evina Westbrook, #11 Holly Martinez Moorman, and #13 Naomi Wasser.
“I think our team is goofy at times – we like to have fun, but at the same time my expectations are that we focus during practice and get motivated before each game. We compliment each other and have the same goal in mind. We even have team dinners to bond,” Katie said.
This year Katie has a 3.89 GPA in the academic world. In basketball she is averaging 14 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists. For not playing four quarters that’s a heck of an accomplishment. South Salem girls are definitely in a different class in the CVC. Her game high this year is 24 points against McNary.
Katie is a kind-hearted person. She once noticed a girl being bullied. She stood up for her – she knew that was wrong and told the other person to not do that. I think the bully, looking up at her, must have taken Katie seriously. She’s always willing to help out a teammate if they need a ride home from practices or games.
Her dad, Nick, has coached basketball for 35 years. 28 years for boys and 7 years for girls. He played basketball for South Albany High School, Linn Benton C.C., and then Warner Pacific University.
Nick McWilliams and his Daughter, Katie
He has coached his daughter for many years and has instilled good values – not just on the basketball court but in life as well. The father-daughter relationship is so great that it makes it easy for him to be coaching his daughter. Before he started coaching Katie in high school, he met Brad Smith, who was coaching at Oregon City High School. Brad had a similar situation – he had a talented daughter playing for him.
“I asked Brad what it was like coaching his daughter. One thing I remember him saying really sticks in my mind. He said, ‘When you drive to and from practice or games, don’t bring anything up about basketball – that’s your time to be a dad.’ He did mention to me that if she brought it up first it was okay,” Nick said.
When Nick coaches he tries his best to keep the two separate – Katie is a player on the team or Katie is his daughter anywhere else. He treats her like the rest of the players. Katie respects his abilities to coach and is in full support of his coaching style. It makes it easy because of the common ideas they share – watching basketball games together and talking defenses and offenses.
“It’s easy to coach a daughter that has as much talent as Katie. Sometimes there’s envy, maybe someone hears that I’m running a lot of plays for Katie. Or maybe you see a kid react in a way that she’s my daughter – that’s why I’m running that play. I’ll admit that most of our plays are designed for Katie. What people might not understand is that I do that to benefit our team – it helps our team and our goal,” Nick said.
There have been times where the two haven’t agreed on something based on an offense or defense, or maybe a play. Sometimes Katie proves that her way would work better and Nick will go with it if he thinks it will help the entire team.
“Sometimes I rely on her for an opinion that will help me make a good decision. This year she has had more of an impact in that area – she knows the game well,” Nick said.
Nick expected to do well this year. He speaks highly of all his players. Players like sophomore Jordan Woodvine at 5’ 10” who has improved remarkably – great shooter and strong. Jenessa Bodine at 5’ 7” is another sharp shooter that has helped the team so much. Evina Westbrook at 5’10” an amazing athlete that passes the ball well – she’s only a freshman! To help the team more they have Naomi Wasser and Holly Martinez Moorman – if a team forgets about these two, they’ll knock down a three-ball.
“Our goal as a team was to go undefeated in the CVC – we’ve done that. We also would love to win the CVC tournament, win two playoff games, and advance to the state tournament at the Moda Center,” Nick said.
The last time Nick coached a team that won a state championship was in 1984 when he coached Santiam Christian School. Could he possibly lead the Lady Saxons to a state title this year? Time can only tell.
“Katie is a dream to coach. She has such a great understanding of the game. I remember when she was a freshman. We were playing West Salem – one of the toughest teams around. She was sick that day and West’s defense was executing a box-and-one on her – traps and all. She didn’t get many shots up, but it opened up her teammates for good looks. We won the game! She was so happy – ran over to me and jumped on me! It was more important for her to win the game than to score the most points – I was so proud of her,” Nick said.
Katie was busy last September, when college recruiters were allowed to talk to players. It seemed like there was a different coach at her doorstep every day. With her 6’2” frame, fundamental skills, and GPA, she has caught the attention of many Division I schools. Just to mention some … Stanford, Duke, Louisville, Nebraska, Gonzaga, and pretty much all of the PAC-12 colleges. The stack of letters continues – not bad for a junior.
“I haven’t decided on anything yet but I would love to stay on the West Coast. I want to stay close to my heritage. My family is pretty important to me,” Katie said.
Katie, Nick and Dianne, thank you for your time and for sharing such an amazing story. I enjoyed sitting down with all of you. I wish you the best of luck in the future.
Katie, what are you favorite subjects in school?
I like History and Science.
What are your hobbies?
I enjoy playing sports, hanging out with friends, listening to music – hip-hop, country, Christian.
Favorite NBA Team and College team?
I like the Blazers and Thunder. In college I like UConn.
Favorite WNBA Players?
Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker
What are some of your best moments?
My freshman year, I had a triple-double against McKay – 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. We won a Seattle tournament playing with the Oregon Elite traveling team. I was selected MVP at the Nike Interstate Shootout after winning the tournament.