Stetson men’s basketball senior Willie Green is enjoying the most successful season of his career in 2013-14. With multiple 20-point games, including a 30-point outburst in the Hatters’ home opener, Green leads Stetson in scoring and is among the Atlantic Sun Conference’s top scoring threats.
It hasn’t been an easy road for the Orlando native though. Green has played for three programs and has had five head coaches in five seasons of collegiate basketball.
“The coaching changes, moving schools, and my changing roles on teams, it all motivated me to work harder,” Green said. “I had to get better each and every year.”
A highly recruited student-athlete of high school, Green chose to begin his career at Western Kentucky University. After not playing in the Hilltoppers first few games, Green and the coaching staff decided it was best for the freshman to redshirt what ended up being his only season in Bowling Green.
“The most difficult thing about that year at WKU was not playing,” Green said. “It was an eye opener for me. I’ve never been on a team where I haven’t played. I was better than I had ever been and I still wasn’t playing, so I couldn’t understand it for a while. However, it did motivate me to work a lot harder.”
Things didn’t work out the way he wanted them to in his first season of college basketball, but although Green knew WKU wasn’t the right spot for him, he didn’t give up on his goal of competing at the NCAA Division I level.
“My initial thought was, ‘I have to play D-1 ball,’” Green said when discussing his decision to leave WKU. “I knew I could play at that level so I didn’t want to sell myself short. When I had the option of going to Junior College or going straight to another D-1 program and sitting out a year, I knew I couldn’t sit out again.”
Green chose to move closer to home by attending Daytona State College, where he could play basketball for a season before transferring to another Division I program. The year off from game competition left him with a bit of rust on his game, but again, Green continued to work on improving.
“Taking a year off took a toll on me,” Green said in reference to his redshirt season at WKU. “I had to adjust back to the speed of the game. I was working hard, but there is no greater teacher than the experience you get on the court.”
Former Stetson head coach Derek Waugh was in attendance at Green’s very first practice at Daytona State, and that stood out to him more than anything when he finally made his choice on what school he wanted to continue his career with.
When Coach Waugh was replaced by Casey Alexander before the start of Green’s first season with the Hatters, the sophomore was prepared to play for what was already his fourth head coach in just three seasons.
With all the changes, and all the challenges he has faced during his time playing collegiate basketball, Green has leaned on the support of his family.
“The support of my family has always been there,” he said. “They would come all the way up to my Western Kentucky games to see me and I wasn’t even playing. Being here now, at Stetson, my mom comes to every single home game.”
During his first two years in DeLand, playing alongside leading scorers Adam Pegg and Chris Perez, Green continued the role he has played for most of his life. He was a rebounder, a shot blocker, and an occasional scorer.
Following the 2012-13 season, one of the most successful for Stetson in a number of years, Green knew that the loss of Pegg, Perez, and Joel Naburgs meant that he was going to have to step his game up on the offensive end if the Hatters were going to be successful.
“I took it upon myself to work on my offensive game even harder this summer,” he said. The hard work paid off. Green continues to shine as the Hatters’ most dangerous offensive threat, scoring almost at will in the post, knocking down mid-range jumpers, and continuing to excite crowds with his high flying dunks.
When Coach Alexander left and Head Coach Corey Williams took the helm of the Hatters, it didn’t faze Green at all. After all, a new coach was quite normal for the senior at that point. It was, however, Williams’ appointment that Green credits much of his success to.
“Once Coach Williams realized I could do a few things in the post, he put me in position to make plays,” Green said. “He ran more plays for me, and the more success we had, the more plays he has run through me. I give all the credit to Coach Williams, because he’s put the ball in my hands.”
Through all of the trials and tribulations Willie Green has gone through since signing to play collegiate basketball at Western Kentucky, one might think he’d do things differently if given the opportunity to start over.
“I wouldn’t change a single thing,” he said. “I’m a firm believer in everything happening for a reason, so changing anything may have taken me down a different path. I might not have even been playing college ball this year. I’m thankful for the position I’m in, and it was all worth it in the end.”