Coach Williams drawing star hoopers from around the state to Hanna City
HANNA CITY — A drive from the city through miles of corn fields on Route 116 takes you through this quaint little town of more than 1,000 too quickly to appreciate it.
Those lucky enough to find the Hanna City Park District gym last Thursday could have found high school basketball stars from Geneseo, Bloomington, Metamora and Peoria instrumentally improving their game.
The gymnasium doesn’t have a regulation (or hardwood) court — or air conditioning. It does, though, have banners commemorating past state accomplishments for seventh- and eighth-grade basketball and track and field teams and a giant fan futilly battling the summer humidity from a random rain shower. And that’s where trainer David Williams works out high level high school and college players.
“They’re not for everybody,” Williams said. “I turn down a lot of people. I get a lot of people wanting to come to workouts and it’s just not for everybody.
“You’ve got to be pretty special to come in here and compete for an hour because no one’s babying you when you walk in here. Nobody is feeling sorry for you. It’s pretty brutal but if you can make it you’re going to get better. You have no choice but to get better.”
Thursday’s workouts included Illinois sophomore Da’Monte Williams and Peoria native Adam Miller, who was introduced to Coach Williams by the Illini guard from Manual a few years ago. Both Williams knew from the first workout Miller was special.
“I told ’Monte when (Miller) was in seventh grade, ‘he’s the next great one,’” David said. “In seventh grade, we knew his work ethic was unbelievable. He was in there handling it like a grown man at 12 years old.”
Now a 6-foot-4 junior at Chicago Morgan Park, Miller is a consensus top 35 player nationally and is ranked as high as 16th by ESPN. But that isn’t good enough for him. He works out with Williams every time he visits his hometown.
“I think that just drives me by far I want to go down as one of Peoria’s greatest, I want to say I was the best player out of Peoria and one of the best players to ever play the game of basketball,” said Miller, who played his freshman year at Manual with Da’Monte Williams before transferring to Morgan Park.
The workout consists of 13 fast-paced, high-intensity drills in one hour’s time. It ends on a drill called 21: A player must make a layup, dribble back to half-court with their off-hand, hit a mid-range jumper, repeat the dribble, and knock down a 3-pointer. All baskets must be made consecutively to get to 21 points and end the drill.
“I do a lot of research. I didn’t make these drills up myself,” Williams said. “The 21 drill I love because it pushes guys. Mentally you’re so tired after an hour in here and now if you miss a layup you go back to zero, and you’re on your weak side. ... It’s a mental drill because you’re tired and you think.”
Other drills mimic current and former NBA players like Kobe’s turnaround jump shot or Damian Lillard’s step-back jumper. Williams, who motivates players during workouts, makes sure nobody is cheating themselves but also jokes around.
“Everybody in the state knows Adam doesn’t like his right hand,” Williams said of his prodigious left-handed pupil. “The right hand has always been his Achilles heel.
“As we’ve progressed in levels, he has been able to use that right hand, and he’s gotten a lot better and I think his room for improvement is great. I think Adam has a chance to be really special.”
“I think he’s a top five player in the country in the class of 2020,” he added with unwavering confidence. “I’ve seen everybody play and I think, without a doubt, he’s top five in the country for 2020 and he may be the number one point guard in the country.
“He’s going to make money playing this game. At what level, you don’t know how far he’s going to progress, but he’s definitely going to get paid for playing this game.”
The southpaw has 15 scholarship offers, most recently receiving one from Arizona State. And Miller also holds offers from Kansas, Illinois and UCLA, among others. His ambition and Williams’ workouts have helped him become a top player.
“Dave gets on you about the things you can’t do,” Miller said. “He’s not a yes man. He’ll tell you the truth. So, you know, it’s better like that because he’s going to get on you about the things you can’t do and he’s going to make you a better player all-around.”
A lot of high school and college players, Williams notes, have jaw-dropping athleticism but lack the skill set to compete at the highest levels. That’s what the former high school, college and AAU coach set out to improve on 13 years ago.
He draws players such as Williams, Miller, reigning Journal Star Player of the Year Collin Dietz, Bloomington senior Chris Payton and blossoming Geneseo junior Isaiah Rivera, who has six scholarship offers from Drake, Loyola, Southern, St. John’s, Valparaiso and Northern Iowa.
“I teach everybody that this is basically your own one-on-one thing,” Williams said. “It doesn’t matter, I know a lot of people might get spooked out (because) ’Monte’s here, Adam’s here, Isaiah Rivera — who is a top 150 kid is here — they see that but you’re not working against them, you’re working against yourself.”
One thing the coach requires is a work ethic to join the exclusive group, which included a player like Dallas Morgan, a starter at Metamora and a reserve at Moberly Area Community College now entering his junior season on scholarship at Central Michigan University. Recent Metamora graduate Noah Persich was also working out before heading to Southwestern (Iowa) Community College. He has four years of eligibility left and could follow a similar path to a larger program.
Schedule of drills from Thursday's workout
Here is a list of drills that basketball skills trainer David Williams put together for Thursday’s hour-long workout.
-Dribble series, including several drills working on both hands
-Kobe series, of turnaround jumpers and fakes for a layup
-Closeout shooting drill
-Screen project series
-One free throw each
-Damian Lillard series
-Reverse pivot series
-Quick six (perimeter shooting)