Willis Hall

Willis Hall

Year: Senior

Position: Forward

Ht: 6-6

Wt: 235

Scoring: 1,137 points; 27th all-time in CofC history

Rebounds: 838: seventh all-time in CofC history

Career double-doubles: 14

The arc and rotation of the ball tells Willis Hall everything he needs to know.

The College of Charleston senior forward shoulders his way past one Delaware defender and works his way closer to the basket. As the ball hits the rim and bounces toward the baseline, Hall sidesteps a second Blue Hen defender and maneuvers his way into perfect position for the rebound.

At 6-6 and 235 pounds, Hall isn't the biggest, strongest or the most athletic player on the TD Arena floor, but he might be the smartest and most tenacious.

It's a blue collar work ethic that was ingrained in Hall at an early age by his mother Cynthia.

Cynthia Hall would get out of bed an hour before dawn, preparing the house and getting ready for work and the start of her 14- to 16-hour day. To make ends meet, Cynthia would work two or three jobs, trying to make a better life for her family.

"She'd get up about four or five in the morning and go to bed way after we were asleep," Willis Hall said. "She's a saint. She just never stops from the minute she gets out of bed to the time her head hits the pillow. She worked as many as four or five jobs when we were kids to make things work.

"She demanded things from me and my brother that had a huge effect on me in everything I do in my life from school work, to the weight room to basketball. I am the way I am because of her."

Hall, a fifth-year senior, has certainly left his mark on the Cougars basketball program. He'll finish as one of only seven players in Cougars history with more than 1,000 points (1,137 points, 27th all-time) and 800 rebounds (838 rebounds, seventh all-time) during his career. He has 14 double-doubles, including nine this season.

But dry statistics don't tell Hall's story or measure his value to the Cougars team and program.

"If I had 10 more Willis Halls, I don't think I'd lose a game," said College of Charleston coach Doug Wojcik. "He's one of the most competitive people I've ever been around. He's a coach's dream. He gets every ounce of his potential out of his ability. He leaves everything out there on the floor. He's a hard person not to like."

Hall, who broke Seth Curry's career scoring mark at Charlotte Christian High School, had been a prolific scorer in high school, but quickly learned that it wasn't going to be so easy at the collegiate level. He got an early indoctrination into college basketball his freshman season. With Cougars forward Jeremy Simmons out of the lineup, Hall was pressed into the starting lineup in his first collegiate game against Coastal Carolina. Hall finished with a gritty 10 points and 11 rebounds and learned a valuable lesson in the process.

Hall had been forced to guard Joseph Harris, the Seahawks starting power forward, the entire game. The Seahawks had run very few offensive plays through Harris, but he still had managed to finish with a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds.

"(Harris) went to town on me," Hall said. "He wasn't the most skilled player in the world, but he worked his butt off on every possession. He was able to score despite the fact that the offense wasn't going through him. I felt like if that guy could get something done, then so could I."

Playing alongside high-scoring Cougars guard Andrew Goudelock, Hall realized that getting to the offensive glass was going to be his best chance to score and be productive. He perfected his footwork, worked on his upper body strength and studied where the ball would end up when shots were missed.

"By the end of my sophomore year I could tell if one of Andrew's shot was going in or not the instant it left his hand," Hall said.

Just before the start of his junior season, Hall tore the ACL in his knee and missed the entire season. In typical Hall fashion, he turned a negative into a positive, working on his shooting form and adding another dimension to his game.

He would spend hours in an empty TD Arena honing his shooting. Hall would get a chair or bench, move it to the 3-point line and sit on the edge with his feet on the floor. Already in a seating position, Hall would smoothly lift off the chair or table and shoot 3-pointers.

A career sub-30 percent shooter from 3-point range in his first two seasons, Hall has become one of the Cougars' top outside shooters. Over the past two seasons, Hall is 58 of 143 from 3-point range (41 percent).

"I think that shows you the kind of dedication Willis has to the game and to this team," Wojcik said.

There have been some tumultuous times since Hall first stepped on campus in 2009. Former head coach Bobby Cremins, who had recruited Hall, retired, and the Cougars went from the Southern Conference to the Colonial Athletic Association.

But there have been plenty of highlights as well. There was the win over North Carolina his freshman season. There was the NIT run the Cougars made during his sophomore year that included a home win over Dayton and an eventual loss to Wichita State. Playing in the Southern Conference tournament finals against Davidson and beating nationally ranked Baylor on the road last season. He scored the game-winning basket in the Cougars' season opener against Charlotte this season.

There's little that Hall would change about his time with the Cougars.

"I've loved every minute I've been here," Hall said. "This school and this city have given me so much. I know I'm going to miss it when I'm done."