CSU women’s basketball pries new coach Ryun Williams away from South Dakota

It’s not everyday that a Division-I college coach willingly leaves his alma mater to coach a school more than 500 miles away.

But that’s exactly the decision Ryun Williams made when in May when he chose to leave the University of South Dakota and become the head coach for the CSU women’s basketball team.

“South Dakota’s a very special place. I mean that’s where I played, it’s my alma mater,” Williams said. “There’s great people there, fond memories of that place, but this is the best thing for me and my family.”

Williams took over as the women’s basketball head coach at South Dakota in 2008 and inherited a team that would be entering its first season in Division-I basketball.

Under the leadership of Williams, South Dakota put together two seasons winning 20 or more games and made an appearance in the WNIT just four years after it became a Division-I team.

“The fact that he did what he did here while we were in transition to Division-I, it was a very difficult time for most, just is a testament to how good of a job he really did do,” South Dakota athletic director David Sayler said.

“Last season when we were winning a lot of games, I kind of kept cringing to myself thinking, ‘I’m happy we won, but I don’t wanna lose Ryun.’”

While winning games at South Dakota, Williams also managed to make an impact both on and off the court for many of the players he coached.

Senior guard Tempestt Wilson has said that Williams helped her develop as a player and a person, even allowing her to get math help from his wife, Lyndy on occasion when she needed it.

“He was a great person off the court,” Wilson said. “There was a lot of things I could go to him for, and especially his wife too.”

Now Williams and his new coaching staff will bring their style of coaching to a CSU women’s basketball team that hasn’t made postseason play in seven years.

“You just kind of bring who you are and bring your system,” Williams said. “We’ve always had, I think, a winning style of play and that’s what we’re just gonna bring to these kids and make sure that these kids believe that they’re winners, that’s step one.”

It’s a system that focuses on playing tough half-court defense and one that the Rams have said they believe fits the personnel they are bringing to the 2012-13 season.

“This system that they have is set up to our strengths,” CSU forward Sam Martin said. “So it’s nice because we’re kind of getting to do the things that we’re good at instead of being put in situations where we’re like iffy.”

The transition into Williams’ style of play has been a work in progress and in order to be successful this season, the Rams will need to continue to grow each day in practice.

“What we’ve asked these girls to do is challenging,” Williams said. ”The try has been good, the execution hasn’t always been good, but there’s constant improvement…and if we can just keep getting better every single day and just come to work and try to improve every day, this group can play some good basketball.”

Women’s Basketball Beat Reporter Andrew Schaller can be reached at sports@collegian.com