In the Broncos 82-71 win over the Eagles of Eastern Michigan Markus Austin tied the game up to start the second half on a quick 3-pointer. But Bronco point guard and team captain Rickey Willis wanted to make sure the Broncos got off to a good second half start.
After a basket by Joe Reitz, Willis stole the ball from EMU's John Bowler and fed Ben Reed for the easy lay in. Next Willis would pick up a Darryl Garrett turnover and turn it into a 2-pointer of his own and just like that a tied game was now a six point lead forcing the Eagles to call a timeout to slow things down.
"He's the leader on our team," said Reed. "He gets the ball to where it needs to be and it's great to see him score like that."
Throughout last night's game Willis' shot looked natural and easy. But it wasn't that way throughout the whole season. "Rickey doesn't shoot the ball great on the break," said Hawkins and that's just the kind of shot Willis was taking early in the season. "When he gets into the half court then he needs to start acting more like an off guard," and that's the kind of shot that helped lead to last night's 16 points.
Shooting isn't the only thing coach Hawkins has Willis working on. The other is running, and lots of it. "We just run, run, run and eventually someone's going to break down and hopefully it's not us," said Willis. "Coach just keeps telling me to run, if I'm going 1000 miles per hour he still tells me to run."
"Every once in a while Rickey will downshift," said Hawkins. When Willis is bringing the ball up the court he will look where his open lanes are and where his teammates are and according to Hawkins, "when that happens he downshifts and that lets everyone else catch up. We talk about trusting your instincts, just get it and go. Don't let these guys catch up."
Off the court attitude may be one of the most important qualities Willis bring to this Broncos team. "What you see on the court isn't all of Rickey," said Hawkins. "He represents Western Michigan well off the court and he's a Bronco whether he's on the court or he's off the court; he leads. I don't know if he's capable of a bad mood, he always has a smile."
"We wouldn't have 15 wins if it wasn't for Rickey," added Reed.
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