Terrell Lester

Sports Editor

Wren Baker is cutting his workload in half.

He announced today that he is stepping aside as men’s basketball coach at Rogers State University to concentrate on his role as director of athletics.

Baker, who turned 30 on Aug. 4, said associate head coach Lloyd Williams would be his successor.

In the dual role as head coach and as director of athletics, Baker formulated the game plan that launched the university’s entrance into the world of intercollegiate athletics.

RSU competes in men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, softball, men’s and women’s soccer, in addition to rodeo. In the 2007-08 academic year, RSU became a full member of the Sooner Athletic Conference and was eligible for post-season play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

Baker said today that RSU is considering the possibility of adding more sports.

When he was hired in February 2006 to put together an athletics program, Baker said he supervised a staff of three employees.

Today, Baker said that number has risen to 15.

The explosive growth, and success, of Hillcats athletics played a major role in Baker’s decision to commit full time to that department.

In addition to his coaching duties, Baker has overseen fundraising initiatives and a number of facility upgrades over the past two years.

He met with RSU President Dr. Larry Rice and expressed his desire to give up his basketball duties.

Williams, 30, was the obvious replacement choice, Baker said. Williams, who helped recruit the core of RSU’s first men’s basketball team, was Baker’s first hire. They have worked closely together, recruiting, scouting, scheduling, coaching.

Baker gave Williams much of the credit for last season’s success. The Hillcats finished at 20-11, narrowly missing the NAIA national tournament when they lost to USAO in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament semifinals.

All but one starter return from that team.

With such an experienced lineup coming back, the 2008-09 Hillcats would be expected to be ranked among the league favorites. Qualifying for the NAIA national tournament, in only the school’s second season of competition, would be a strong possibility.

Baker resisted any temptation to continue in his dual role of head coach and athletics director, saying that would be construed as a selfish move on his part.

“Coming back because I wanted to coach a good team was not the right thing to do,” Baker said.

“I made a decision based on the direction of the university and where I think our athletic program is going.

“Also, I’d like to leave Lloyd in a situation where he is able to have some success early in his coaching career, just like I was.

“Part of the reason I was able to have that success was because of his work.

“I think Lloyd is going to take that team and do amazing things with it.”

Williams, like Baker before him, will be making his head coaching debut at RSU.

“This is a dream come true,” Williams said.

“I remember turning down professional offers to go play basketball. I always told my dad, I don’t want to be the X or the O. I want to draw the Xs and Os.

“Now, I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

“I feel like turning down those opportunities are about to pay off a little bit now.

“I’m excited about the opportunity.

“I was in shock when coach Baker told me. But then, I immediately started thinking about all the things I have to do,” Williams said.

The selection of Williams as head coach gives RSU a rare basketball double.

His wife, Amy, is the head coach of the RSU women’s basketball team.

“We couldn’t ask for a better situation,” he said.

“My wife and I love this university and the community and we’re very excited to have the chance to coach alongside each other in such a great environment.”

As Baker made the announcement that he was turning the reins of the basketball program to Williams, he did so with a smile.

“The program is in good hands,” Baker said.

“We are very proud of what’s been accomplished by all of our athletics programs in a short period of time,” Baker said. “This is another step in the right direction as we aim to build a proud tradition of Hillcat athletics.”

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