The562’s coverage of Long Beach Poly athletics in the 2022-23 school year is sponsored by Poly alum Jayon Brown and PlayFair Sports Management.
One of the brightest young coaches in the city, and the next link in the chain of great coaches at Poly, is moving into the NCAA ranks for the upcoming basketball season. Reuben Williams, a 2016 Jackrabbit alum, has accepted a graduate assistant position at the University of Arkansas, where he’ll get a good look at the highest levels of college hoops. The Razorbacks are a consensus top ten team in the nation for the upcoming 2022-23 season, and the MGM Sportsbook currently lists them as tied with Kentucky for second behind Duke for betting favorites to win the national title.
Williams coached at Poly the last two seasons, and was a big part of Poly’s run to the CIF-SS championship game last year, where they fell short.
“Coaching at Poly for (Shelton Diggs) the last two years has been the best education, because Shell really empowers the people who work for him,” he said. “My previous experience was more hands off–at Poly I got to do a lot, and getting that experience on the court and getting confidence in my voice was really important.”
Diggs gave Williams high praise for the job he did coaching alongside he and longtime Poly assistant coach John Atkinson.
“Reuben did a wonderful job assisting me the last two years,” said Diggs. “He is passionate, energetic, and hardworking. He will do great at Arkansas.”
Williams acknowledged that it was hard to leave his alma mater, but said that coaching in the college ranks has always been his job.
“My goal growing up was always to be the coach at Long Beach State,” he said. “When I was younger I had a vision board and ignorantly I said I wanted to be a head coach before I was 30. I’m 24 now, and now I know not to rush it–just worry about getting better and preparing myself for success.”
He went to the NCAA Final Four in New Orleans this year, a common networking site for coaches looking for college kids. There he reconnected with Gus Argenal, who he coached with during a GA stint at Cal State Fullerton. Argenal, now with Arkansas, called Williams a week later.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “I was hoping to get a look at a Mountain West college, I wasn’t thinking the SEC.”
Williams graduated from Cal State Fullerton shortly after that conversation, and the next day he and his girlfriend got in his car and drove 24 hours to Arkansas, splitting up the driving shifts.
“I got here right away and got straight to work,” he said. “I don’t want to waste a single minute of any opportunity that comes my way, that’s always been my philosophy.”
Williams said that while it was hard leaving Poly, it made it easier going out with this year’s senior class, who he’d known since they were freshmen. After winning a CIF-SS title at Poly as a bench player, he wanted to win one as a coach, and while he was disappointed in losing the title game, he was proud of helping his alma mater get to the championship game.
“I didn’t make any money coaching in high school, but I treated it as a full-time job,” he said. “I enjoyed giving back to the kids and to Poly, it’s a special place. But also at a school like Poly you have 30-40 college coaches through every year, so as a young coach it’s a place with a lot of opportunities as well.”