The Emory & Henry men’s basketball team has experienced extraordinary growth recently, and head coach David Willson is to credit for it. Willson has taken a team that would win about 5 games a year, to ODAC contenders. The year before Willson arrived at Emory & Henry, the Wasps only won 4 games. Willson’s first two years were a bit of a struggle, as he won a total of 9 games in his first two season. However, the Wasps quickly turned it around in the 2015-16 season, as they went 16-12, and made it to the ODAC Semifinals for the first time in a while.
Currently, the Wasps have a 16-7 record (10-4 in ODAC), and have clinched a spot in the ODAC quarterfinals played in Salem, VA. Some of the highlights this year include a 17-2 run to finish a game against Shenandoah, in which the Wasps won 67-63, and a big road victory at 16th nationally ranked (at the time) Virginia Wesleyan.
Coach Willson knows what it takes to win a championship. Wilson, a graduate of Hampden-Sydney College in 2004, was part of 3 ODAC championship teams with the team, and participated in 4 NCAA Division III tournaments from 2001-2004. While with the Hampden-Sydney Tigers, Willson played under head coach Tony Shaver, who was a point guard at North Carolina. After Willson’s senior year, Shaver took the head coaching job at William & Mary.
After his playing career at Hampden-Sydney, Willson took an assistant job with Shaver at William & Mary for a year. After his year in Williamsburg, Willson took another assistant job with Elon. He was an assistant there from 2005-2009.
In the 2007-2008 year, the Phoenix made the SoCon championship game, where they lost to a Davidson team led by star point guard Stephan Curry. After Elon, Willson took another assistant job with Furman. During his time in Furman, the Paladins went to their first postseason tournament in 10 years in the 2010-11 season. Willson was also recognized as one of the top assistants in the SoCon, according to FoxSports.com.
Willson has done a tremendous job rebuilding the Emory & Henry men’s basketball program. The 11-win difference was the third biggest improvement from 2014-15 to 2015-16 was the third biggest improvement in Division III, according to herosports.com. With the ODAC tournament approaching, Coach Willson will be hoping to add another ODAC title to his resume, this time, as a head coach.
– Luke Montalbano