Half a season into his first year as head coach of the Xavier University of Louisiana Gold Rush, and coach Alfred “AJ” Williams said it’s been “fun.”
“You ever know what to expect when you’re in this position,” Williams said.
During the first half of the season, Williams said there were a few obstacles he and the Gold rush had to overcome, such as getting everybody on the same page with the same goals. Thankfully, the Gold Rush are starting to turn the corner, according to Williams, and are playing hard for Williams.
“That’s all I can ask for,” Williams said.
After coming off a trip to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Championship tournament and being the runners-up in the Gulf Coast Atlantic Conference to cross-town rival Dillard University, the Gold Rush are currently sitting on a 3-11 record.
According to Williams, it was a “tough” first half for the Gold Rush. The returning players had to adjust to new teammates and a new coach, and the new players had to adjust to a different playing style. Injuries and academic standing also played an important role to the Rush’s first half.
Before the season started, the Rush were down a few players. Wesley Pluvoise-Philip went out with a foot injury to conditioning, Monte’ Lambert also went out with a foot injury during conditioning. Khalil McCoy, Elex Carter, and Chris Ward were also out.
Lambert and McCoy are still injured and have been medically redshirted. However, toward the end of the first half, Pluvioise-Philip, Carter, and Ward returned to the game, adding “much needed depth” in the front line, said Williams.
“We learned a lot in the first half,” Williams said, “like how to win, how to play at a championship level.”
Williams added that the first half prepared the players for conference play. He now feels as if they can withstand leads.
Stand out Games
Each game is a learning experience, and Williams noted that there were several games that taught him something new about the Rush.
Against William Carey, Williams said the Rush had a good showing for 30 minutes before hitting a wall. The next few games they weren’t consistent, playing up and down, but it was during the game against Jackson State Nov. 11 that Williams realized how good the Rush could be, despite only 9 players suiting up.
From there, each game was about identifying who they were as a team as they waited for injured players to return. Once those players got back in the game, Williams said the Rush were able to “reidentify” who they were, and that was how they became successful again.
Break out Players
Part of the Rush’s success is their players. Currently leading all scorers is Jalen David with 11.3 points per game. Following behind him is freshman Mike Williams with 9.7 ppg and Seth Jackson with 9.1 ppg.
Mike and David are two players Williams had a break out first half of the season.
“Being a freshman, Mike Williams has been able to put up some big points in some big games,” Williams said.
He stated that Mike had a slump towards the end of the first half of the season, hitting a freshman wall, but has found his niche on the Rush team and is starting to find his rhythm again.
On the other hand, the junior/community college transfer, David, has been developing throughout the year, according to Williams.
“He’s definitely coming in at a crucial point in the year,” Williams said.
So what next?
According to Williams, the second half of the season will be spent learning from his mistakes as a coach, and having the team learn not to kill themselves during the game. Williams noted that when the team had either a lot of turnovers, or they didn’t rebound as well as the other team, they didn’t have success in the game.
Another area Williams noted the Rush had to work at were free throws.
“I feel like those are areas we can control,” Williams said. “If we focus, we can manage those three areas. We’ve had success when we’ve managed those areas.”