New Hickory High Men’s Basketball Coach Announced

New Hickory High Men’s Basketball Coach Announced
Posted on 06/23/2020
daniel willis

New Hickory High Men’s Basketball Coach Announced

The new basketball coach is coming home to Hickory—said Hickory High’s Athletic Director, Coach David Craft. Daniel Willis, a 1997 graduate of Hickory High, is indeed, returning home. The selection of Willis was announced following the meeting of the HPS Board of Education on Monday night.

Currently the Associate Head Basketball Coach at The Citadel in Charleston, SC, locals might remember Willis as the Hickory High quarterback for the NC State Championship in 1996, with the most passing touchdowns in a season (24) and the most passing career touchdowns (45). Willis is a well-rounded athlete having also played basketball and baseball during his Hickory High career. He was the Western Regional MVP in 1996 and 1997 in basketball as well as All Conference.  In baseball, his team achieved the most wins in school history in the 1997 season and he played in the All Conference.

Earning his undergraduate degree from Lenoir-Rhyne University, Willis played basketball for Coach John Lentz at LRU, leading his team in saves in 1998 and he was honored as the LRU Athlete of the Year, 2001 and South Atlantic Conference Player of the year, 2001. He was twice selected as All-American and ended his career at LRU as the all-time leading scorer in conference history.

His career has been a whirlwind of coaching college athletics—not only serving The Citadel, but also Virginia Military Institute (Lexington, VA) as the Associate Head/Assistant Basketball Coach for ten years. At both institutions, Willis assisted in running every aspect of the programs. He recruited potential cadet-athletes, including making high school schedules to comply with NCAA rules and he served as the Academic Coordinator for the teams.

Willis gained experience with strength and conditioning programs for the athletes, including teaching players about nutrition, proper weight training techniques, and conditioning. He has also served as the NCAA compliance coordinator for basketball staff and teams; scheduled non-conference games for fund-raising events; prepared scouting reports and game plans for opponents; and served as a guest speaker for various events including The Citadel Brigadier Foundation.

While serving The Citadel, Willis accomplished notable growth for the program: Recruited Fletcher Abee - All-Southern Conference Freshman Team, 2020 · Four straight double figure win seasons in first four years (16-19), first time since Norm Sloan 1957-60 · Wins in consecutive years in Southern Conference Tournament for the first time in school history, 2017-2018 · Highest RPI in last 9 years, 2019 · Lew Stallworth -2 nd Team All-Southern Conference, Set the single season school assist record, 2019 · Zane Najdawi – 1 st Team All-Southern Conference, Only the 4th Citadel player in history to garner 1st Team All-Southern Conference honors, 2018 · Preston Parks – Southern Conference Freshman of the Year, first freshman to lead the league in scoring since Stephen Curry, 2017 · Led the Country in Scoring 89.8 ppg, 2015-16

Additionally, Willis also achieved great results while serving VMI: Set 5 NCAA All-Time Records: 3-Point FG Made (442), 3-Point FG Made Per Game (13.39), Steals in a Season (490), 3-Point FG Attempts (1,383), 3-Point FG Attempts Per Game (41.9) and Lead the Country in Scoring 6 of 9 seasons · Most Wins in School History 151, which includes 2nd and 3rd most wins in a single season in VMI History 24 (08-09), 22 (13-14) · Final Four Team of Post Season Tournament, 2014 · Played in 3 Big South Tournament Championship Games, 2006, 2009, 2012 · Beat Kentucky in Ruff Arena (111-103), 2008 · Stan Okoye – Big South Player of the Year, 2013 · Coached 13 players currently playing or have played professional basketball.

Prior to joining the coaching staff at VMI, Willis served as the Assistant Basketball Coach for Tusculum College in Greeneville, TN and as the Assistant Basketball Coach for Western Carolina University. Additionally, Willis served as the Assistant JV Coach at Hickory High, 2000-2001.

Willis has been recognized in the Sports Hall of Fame for Catawba Valley Sports (Class of 2020), Lenoir-Rhyne University (Class of 2014) and South Atlantic Conference Hall of Fame (Class of 2010).

With an undergraduate degree from LRU in Sports Management (minor in Business Administration), Willis earned his Master’s in Physical Education from Western Carolina University.

“Hickory is an outstanding city where I was born and raised and spent 23 years of my life,” said Willis. “It is a special place in which I still have deep roots and relationships today. Now with extensive coaching and teaching experience—I am looking forward to leading the basketball program at Hickory High, building a positive and valuable relationship with the Hickory community,” said Willis.

“We are excited to welcome Daniel Willis back home to Hickory,” said Coach Craft. “He brings a professional background that will enhance our program, serving as a great asset for both teaching and coaching the students at Hickory High. He is passionate about basketball and we are excited that Willis will be joining our Tornado Team as the Head Basketball Coach.”



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