Academy of Art University Athletics has announced Richie Willis as the new assistant coach for Art U Women’s Basketball. Carrying recent coaching stints of more than five years each with 602 Lady Nation Basketball Club and Cactus Shadows High School, Willis will join Head Coach Krystle Evans and her staff ahead of the Urban Knights’ 2021-22 season.
“Richie has a gift of working with and connecting with young adults,” Evans said. “He knows how to develop basketball skills while also developing character. Under his leadership, his Cactus Shadows and 602 Lady Nation teams were always championship contenders. I am thrilled to work alongside such an exceptional person.”
As the director and head coach of the 16U Division of the 602 Lady Nation Basketball Club since 2016, Willis has been responsible for everything from practices to community service projects to administrative duties within the program. Following a philosophy rooted in hard work, Lady Nation went 12-5 in All-Star Girls Report circuit competition last summer and had nine of its players go to pursue collegiate basketball careers, including ART U’s own Brooke Rodgers.
Alongside his work with Lady Nation, Willis served as the varsity girls basketball head coach at Cactus Shadows High School from 2012 to 2021. His teams compiled a 163-88 overall record in those nine seasons with the Falcons going undefeated in league play on four occasions.
Prior to his two most recent roles, Willis spent one year as the head coach of junior varsity girls basketball and head assistant coach of the varsity team at Tolleson Union High School in 2011-12. The varsity squad went 25-8 overall that season, reaching the playoffs.
From 2007 to 2011, Willis could be found on the sidelines at Verrado High School, also as the junior varsity girls basketball head coach and varsity head assistant coach. The junior varsity contingent went 9-7 in his final season while the varsity team steadily improved its record over that time.
“I’m excited to join the Academy of Art Women’s Basketball program simply because coaching at the collegiate level has been a dream of mine since I started coaching the game of basketball over 15 years ago,” Willis said. “Every practice is an opportunity to continuously improve skills and develop confidence that will help these student-athletes on and off the basketball court. I want to provide incredible growth for players by using this platform and ensure they receive the highest level of training and opportunity to be successful way beyond their basketball years.”
A four-year starter and three-time Frontier All-First Team student-athlete who led the team in assists and steals three out of four seasons, Willis earned his bachelor’s degree in business technology along with an associate degree in physical education/secondary education from Montana State University-Northern in 1990.