TSU hoops coach pulls from broad range of experiences to fill staff

Tuesday, May 29, 2012 at 2:50pm
Staff reports

More than six weeks after being named Tennessee State’s men’s basketball coach, Travis Williams announced his first coaching staff on Tuesday.

The 39-year-old Williams hired Ben Betts, Rodney Hamilton and Brandon Johnson. All three assistants have Division I coaching experience, and two graduated from Georgia State — Williams’ alma mater.

“I wanted to hire guys with great experience coaching on all levels and fit the criteria to carry on what we have started here at TSU,” Williams said in a release by the school. “I felt very comfortable hiring Ben, Brandon and Rodney.”

Betts will serve as the recruiting coordinator and is a former Division I head coach. He led South Carolina State from 2003-06 and was as an assistant there from 1990-97 under former TSU head coach Cy Alexander. Betts has also been an assistant at College of Charleston, VCU and Oklahoma, working with head coach Jeff Capel at the last two stops. He spent five years at OU and helped Capel coach future NBA first-round pick Blake Griffin.

In 2011, he left Oklahoma and spent a year as the director of basketball at the Spectrum Sports Academy in Roanoke, Va.

“We are getting one of the highest character people I know in the business with Ben Betts,” Williams said. “His recruiting reputation speaks for itself. His basketball smarts and relationships are going to be a great asset for our program.”

Hamilton took a different path.

He spent the last three years as the head coach of Indiana Tech’s women’s basketball program. He guided the Warriors to a No. 15 ranking in the NAIA — the program’s first ranking in nearly 20 years.  Prior to Indiana Tech, he spent two seasons on the staff of Ohio Valley Conference foe Southeast Missouri State. Before that he served as assistant and associate head coach at Crichton College, an NAIA program in his hometown of Memphis. He played college ball and graduated from Georgia State University in 1998 — three years after Williams.

Johnson is also a Georgia State product, graduating in 1997. He has coached at four schools, including a head coaching stint at Atlanta Technical College in 2001-02. From 2004-09, he was an assistant coach at Auburn. He sat on the same staff as former TSU coach John Cooper, who left in April for the vacant job at Miami (Ohio).

Since 2009, Johnson has been an advisor for John Lucas Basketball Resources.

“These individuals bring a great level of professionalism, integrity, work ethic, recruiting and coaching experience,” Williams said. TSU returns all but two lettermen from a team that went 20-13, placed second in the OVC and reached the postseason for the first time since 1994.