EDH Athlete of the Week: Kristina WilliamsBy: Matt Long, Sports Editor
Kristina Williams has landed her dream job and it came much sooner than she expected.
Williams, 26, was named the head women’s basketball coach at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, a school she graduated from in 2013. Williams, also a graduate of Oak Ridge High in 2009, is thrilled to have been selected for the job, having served as an assistant coach at the NCAA Division III school the last two seasons.
“I always thought it would be cool to coach at my alma mater, but I definitely didn’t think it would happen this early,” Williams said. “Things happen and the timing was awesome and it’s been a whirlwind summer. I hoped to one day coach here, but I didn’t think it would be at the age of 26. It’s definitely earlier than I thought, but it’s a dream to be here.”
Williams is one of the best players ever to come through Lewis & Clark, as she ranks in the top-five in school history in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. She led the team in scoring all four years of her career, and led the team to a pair of Northwest Conference championships and three at-large berths to the NCAA Division III National Tournament. She hopes to do those things again as coach.
“My long term goal is to get us to consistently be competing at the national level,” Williams said. “When I was here as a player, we were moving in that direction, as we got there three years in a row. The last time we’ve won a conference championship and made the national tournament was my senior year, so I want that to become the expectation every year.
“As a short term goal, I’ve got a roster of nine freshmen, two sophomores and five seniors. That’s an interesting lineup, so I want to integrate those freshmen into the program and try to find a good balance on the floor of youth and experience.”
After graduating from Lewis & Clark, Williams spent a year as an assistant coach at Oak Ridge before moving on to pursue a Master of Science degree in Exercise and Sports Studies at Smith College in Massachusetts. There she served as an assistant coach on the women’s basketball team and later became the graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach before graduating in 2016.
The last two seasons, she’s been an assistant at Lewis & Clark.
“The biggest thing I like about coaching is the relationships with the student athletes,” Williams said. “Sometimes you start the recruiting process before their junior years in high school, and you open up the line of communication. It’s always exciting when they decided to play here and then you just help them grow and develop and connect them with all the things they will need when they leave here.
“Secondly, I love basketball. I love the X’s and O’s. I love building basketball IQ, and the mental strength it takes to be a college athlete. One thing Coach (Steve) White taught me at Oak Ridge was what it means to work hard, and that’s helped me with everything that I’ve done.”
Lewis & Clark is coming off a 14-12 season a year ago. Williams hopes to keep the program moving in the upward direction, as she begins her tenure.