50 Influencers: Tim Wills, always there with the assist

INA, Ill. (June 10, 2017) - Every year thousands of students make the commitment to come to Rend Lake College. Out of all those students, a few get the opportunity to represent the college on Warrior athletic teams. From that pool of former athletes, a select few have returned to Ina to coach or teach. But, only one man can claim the titles of student, athlete, coach, professor and athletic director.

Tim Wills

Tim Wills (RLC Class of 1984) started his journey at RLC as a two-year starter on a historic basketball team assembled by then-coach Mitch Haskins. The Benton native attended RLC on a Presidential Scholarship. As a player, Wills and his team found notable success, setting 10 school records. For its achievement, the 83-84 team was inducted into the RLC Sports Hall of Fame, Class of 2017. For his part, Wills earned All-GRAC, All-Region and “Most Dedicated” laurels.

As a Warrior, Wills put up some impressive RLC career numbers. He averaged 8.2 ppg (549 points), 44.1% FG (189-429), 81.4% FT (171-210), 112 rebounds (1.7 avg.), 443 assists (6.6) and 156 steals / recoveries (2.3).

Like many of his teammates, Wills transferred on to a four-year institution to continue his athletic career. He transitioned to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and led the Cougars in assists during the 1987-88 season with 127, averaging 4.5 per game, good for the 10th best single-season total in school history. He also sits at number 19 on the list of career assist leaders with 190 over his two seasons at SIUE.

It was with the Southern Illinois University system that Wills got his start in coaching, acting as an assistant at both Edwardsville and Carbondale under his two previous mentors.

He made his return to RLC in 1992 to take over head coaching responsibilities for the Warrior team he once played for and to begin a teaching career in Health and Physical Education. He also began his first stint as the college’s athletic director.

Wills acted as men’s head coach for 18 seasons (1992-2010).

His coaching highlights include his 1995-96 team that won 20 games and attained its highest national ranking at No. 5 in Division II and produced a Warrior first . . . a First-Team All-America designee in 22-year-old sophomore Bryant Lowe (Cairo). His 06-07 squad ran away to a 21-10 record and managed 8-8 in a conference monopolized by Division I opponents. The team netted three players on the All-Region XXIV D-II list.

All of this happened with Wills coming on board right after one of the most turbulent times for the program. Just the year before his arrival, the Warriors were placed on probation and dropped to Division II. An estimated two-thirds of the team’s games were played against D-I rivals with many more resources at their disposal.

In the head athletic office, Wills served from 1992-2008, stepping down for two years before returning to the role in 2010 where he remains today. He has continued to teach uninterrupted since he joined the college professionally 25 years ago.

As a first-year A.D., he was responsible for a No. 1 ranked Men’s Golf team that finished third in the NJCAA D-II Finals; a Softball squad that won its first Region XXIV crown and advanced to the National Finals; a Baseball team that was 35-14 and ranked in the Top 30, and a Women’s Basketball squad that netted GRAC “Coach of Year” honors for former assistant Ronnie Ressel.

As an educator and athletic director, Wills helped build the Learning Enhancement Center (LEC) on campus. The LEC was established to provide academic support and transition services to students. It acts as the central resource for academic help on Rend Lake College’s campus. Tutors are available to help students in core subject areas and workshops are conducted to provide transition assistance.

WillsTeachingWTim Wills teaching at Rend Lake College

From an athletic standpoint, the LEC promotes success among RLC student-athletes who are required to attend study sessions there. It is a proactive tool that has helped develop skills off of the court, field and track for many Warriors. Numerous athletes and teams at the college have been designated Academic All-Americans by the National Junior College Athletic Association under Wills tenure.

This isn’t the first time Wills has been recognized for his contributions.

He was honored with the Rend Lake College “Alumnus of the Year” award in 1996 for his accomplishments, hard work and dedication to the students and athletes of RLC.

“I can’t describe the feeling,” said Wills, when he received the honor. “You don’t expect to get anything like that . . . definitely flattering. It is most gratifying, considering it is only given once a year, there are many deserving individuals who could be considered and it is coming from a college for which I have the utmost respect.”

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