Connor Williamson has returned to the New Mexico Military Institute as the head coach of the high school boys’ basketball program. The NMMI alum (HS ’07, JC ‘09) is hoping to bring some stability to the Colt basketball teams.
“I know that there’s been a lot of turnover in the last couple of years,” Williamson said. “So I hope that I can be the start of a solid foundation here – one which basically teaches our kids the same system. From the starting player on the varsity squad, all the way down to the C-team, the goal is to get everybody to buy into our system and to love coming to practice. We want to create a positive environment for the kids here, one that will hopefully continue on for years to come. I’m excited about being given this opportunity.”
Williamson is a former Colt and Bronco basketball player who played four years for the Colts’ high school team, then with the junior college Broncos from 2007-2009.
Williamson’s father Clyde also coached at Roswell High for more than 20 years, both soccer and basketball, and was an assistant coach for the Colts while his son was on the team, so the Roswell relationship goes back even further.
“We had some rough years,” Connor said regarding his high school seasons. “My sophomore and junior year, we won a combined total of two games, then my senior year we finally got some stability - had the same guys for a couple of years - and we got to the state tournament. It was a fun year.”
He also saw success as a Bronco, but again it took time and hard work.
“I red-shirted my first season under head coach Reggie Franklin and got to know the speed of the game,” explained Williamson. “At the beginning of my sophomore year, I wasn’t a starter. But I continued to work hard, and earned my way into a starting position; so that felt pretty good.”
But Williamson’s route to the coaching position wasn’t a straight line.
After graduating from NMMI, Williamson moved to Arizona, where he was hoping to play basketball for Arizona State. While that didn’t work out, he got both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in biomedical engineering, and continued to work out on his own.
“After I graduated, I still wanted to be an athlete. I was training the whole time, but didn’t know what I was going to do. I thought about going overseas to play but without an agent and game film, that would have been a rough road. So I kind of just stumbled onto the decathlon.”
He began training in the 10 sports (100-meter dash, long jump, shot put, high jump, 400-meter dash, 110-meter hurdles, discus, pole vault, javelin, and 1,500-meter run) and three months later finished second in his first heptathlon, behind an NJCAA champion and future Olympic competitor.
Williamson continued training on his own at Paradise Valley Community College in Phoenix, and at a pole vault camp a few years later, started talking to the PVCC coaches about training in the other decathlon events. And the next day, he got an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“The coach came back and told me I still had college eligibility in track and field. I said, ‘Really?’ and he said, ‘Yes, and we’ll give you a full scholarship.’ so I said okay.”
In his first year as a Puma, he won the NJCAA D1 National Championship in men’s decathlon, tallying over 7000 points. The next year was a little tougher.
“My sophomore year I kind of choked a little bit and no-heighted in the pole vault at nationals which messed up my repeat title,” he said. He also missed qualifying for the US Nationals by a mere 100 points, and still might try to qualify in the future. But for right now, his focus is on the Colts and teaching them to play solid basketball.
The new coach has also gotten to work with some pretty high end athletes.
“Throughout my decathlon training, I was also a strength coach for NFL players, training at a private state of the art facility in Scottsdale, Performance Enhancement Professionals. I had the privilege of working with athletes of the highest caliber including James Harrison, Tim Tebow, Terrell Suggs, and many others.”
Since Coach Williamson has returned he’s already been hard at work with the team. He’s already met with a number of the players.
“There’s a couple of guys who were working out in the off season, and it’s looking good,” he said. “We’ve got a few guys coming back from last year: SOME guards who can handle the ball; a 6-4 post, then there’s another new 6-8 cadet that looks really promising, too. It could be a really good year.”
But no matter who’s on the court, Williamson wants to instill his brand of basketball on the Cahoon Armory floor.
“I hope that when people leave a NMMI game, no matter if we win or lose - hopefully we won - but they’re going to say things like, ‘Wow! That NMMI team is classy. They play hard.’”
“It starts in the locker room. It starts in the early season. Just making sure guys work hard in practice; being accountable; pulling each other to a high standard,” continued the coach. “And we’re going to be disciplined. We’re going to take good shots. We’re going to be patient on offense and we’re going to pressure people on defense - full court pressure. That’s what we can do here at NMMI. We have kids who are in shape. We’re going to get them in basketball shape and we’re going to try to outwork people.”
Basketball season is still a few months off, but Williamson is hard at work planning, hiring assistant coaches and talking with his former coach, Sean Schooley, who helmed the Colts last year.
“I’ve spoken with coach Schooley multiple times this year, just getting a feel for last year’s team and how he thinks things can be improved,” he said. “He’s been a lot of help for sure, passing the torch. It’s definitely a fresh start and it’ll be good.”
“We are happy to have Coach Williamson leading our Colt basketball program,” added NMMI athletic director Jose Barron. “He was a successful five- sport Colt athlete, a solid player for the Bronco basketball team, was our high school and junior college valedictorian, and served on the regimental staff his last year as a cadet. This is the type of individual that I want our cadets to strive to be like.”