“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23.
For Willie Williams, these words from the Old Testament are not only wise words for himself, but for the young men he gets to coach up every day.
As the athletic director and men’s basketball coach at Nebraska Christian College, Williams emphasizes faith in everything he teaches.
“For our team, we always try to have a ministry mindset. While we do have that ministry with basketball, we want them to be ready for whatever their ministry in life may be,” Williams said. “We want them to live for Christ.”
Nebraska Christian College is a Bible-centric school in Papillion. The school, which was established in the 1940s, moved from Norfolk to its Papillion location in 2006. After a decade in its new location, NCC merged with Hope International University, launching them to their next venture.
Nebraska Christian College belongs to the National Christian College Athletic Association, but also plays against NAIA schools as well. Nicknamed the Sentinels, NCC competes in four sports: men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s basketball.
Not only is Williams the coach of the men’s basketball team, he also is the athletic director. Considering athletics is only in its third year, Williams knows it’s a growing process, but is confident in the strides they’re taking.
“We have a 10-year plan that we have right now,” Williams said. “I like where we’re at and as we continue to progress, I think we have a bright future.”
One of the challenges for a growing team is recruiting. Some may view it an obstacle, but for Williams it’s a chance to find athletes who may not have gotten a fair shake.
“There are the guys that get kind of overlooked,” Williams said. “To me, it’s those types of guys that have something to prove and the guys I really look for.”
Williams’ 17-player roster features 11 players from Nebraska, including junior Isaiah Collier who played his high school ball at Lincoln Northeast. Collier said he embraced Williams’ vision.
“He showed me I could be part of the beginning of restarting the athletic department here and be part of that foundation,” Collier said. “And doing all of that while getting my education and growing my faith.”
Part of that foundation means being active in the community, which Williams and Collier have embraced. They said the community recognizes their growth and appreciates their effort.
“It’s really cool when people around town recognize us,” Collier said. “It shows that we are making an impact. Coach Williams has done a great job getting us connected to the Papillion community.”
Collier was on the first NCC team in 2016, which featured 15 of the 18 players as freshmen. However, Collier and his teammates took the challenge head on.
“It was fun. We were all new to this college life and it was a lot of maturing and learning, but we had a ton of fun,” Collier said. “That year was important in building what we want to become as a basketball program and learning what it means to be a Sentinel.”
Another obstacle is venue. NCC does not have a campus gym, playing its home games at D.J. Sokol Arena nearly a half-hour away on the Creighton University campus.
Williams said an on-site facility, however, is part of the school’s 10-year plan.
Despite all the learning-on-the-go, Nebraska Christian’s men’s basketball team started the season at 6-4.
“It’s a great opportunity to build the team from the ground up,” Williams said. “We get the chance to start something new and establish a culture We kind of embrace that.”