By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Former South Salem Saxon Head Coach Nick McWilliams and Athletic Director Brian Armstrong talked about the quiet leadership that the Saxon’s Morgan Winder had on the court during her time in the Saxon colors.
Current Head Coach Adrian Lewis echoed that idea as well as he said that fellow seniors Josie Ferry and Alexia Hicks were the vocal leaders on the court while Winder was a little more mute and rather lead by example.
“It’s going to kill me next year, again I’ll cheer for Morgan, Whitworth we’ll see but I’m a Willamette-Grad at heart,” smiled Lewis about Winder going to one of his rival schools. “It’s awesome to see, Morgan’s the one who led by example. I don’t need five girls who hoot and holler and yell and all that.
“We need most girls to lead by example and exemplify that the fullest, it’s going to be hard to replace her. Not only with her leading by example, she was our leading rebounder, leader in points a void we need to fill next year.”
McWilliams talked about seeing the now soon-to-be-Saxon Grad as a middle schooler hustling after the ball on defense and hustling up-and-down the court. McWilliams said that her defense reminded him of Dennis Rodman’s defense.
By her High School career, she was working up through the ranks and eventually got the nod by her sophomore year to play on the Varsity team for good after dominating on the Junior Varsity level that season where the Saxons won their second-straight State Title and she didn’t look back.
She hit a game-winner against Sierra Canyon her junior year in the Nike Interstate Shootout after receiving a bullet pass from Evina Westbrook under the basket in double-overtime. Battled through a tough collision and battled with what Coach Lewis called ‘The Twin Towers’ against Marist a year later where she averaged 11.3 points a game and 5.8 rebounds a game for South Salem, leaving it all on the court.
Winder talked about how important it was for them as seniors to help the transition from the legendary coach in McWilliams to the bearded giant in Lewis as she pointed to how important off-the-court activities were to go along with the on-the-court success.
“I’m not a loud person so I lead by example in the classroom, we encouraged everyone get those grades up and also in the community too. We did some projects as a team together, we went to people’s houses and picked up yard scrapes. We really tried to bring the team together this year,” said Winder. “It’s super important because we want the community to know who we are. We’re a basketball team but we’re also a really proud group too.”
Off the court, Winder’s academics got her on the verge of receiving her IB (International Baccalaureate) degree from the High School as well as a High School dipolma and recently traveled to Atlanta with DECA while juggling the United Sports that South Salem has recently started with special needs students and getting them involved with sports.
Something she hopes to carry over to college as well as adding on helping lay the foundation at South with the new coaching staff at Whitworth.
“I’ll be graduating with a IB certificate, that means I’ll be testing in four classes,” said Winder. “I’ve been in the IB program the four years at South so it’s just taking more vigorous classes. It’s been a great experience.
“Right now (Whitworth) is in a transitional period, they’re getting a new coaching staff so I feel like it’s really important to build the program kind of like we did this year and I’m just going to be looking up to the upperclassmen there and try my best to help the team up there.”
And as she took to the podium, Winder explained that her school list was long, roughly six-to-eight schools before running into Whitworth. It fits her perfectly she said in her speech, the food, the snow and the fact that she also adds basketball is something awesome.
Whitworth isn’t too far away and she’ll be facing some Oregon teams like Lewis’ Alma Mater Willamette University as well as a few other Oregon Division-III colleges not too far away from Salem for her family and friends to go up and visit the five-ten guard.
Soon enough, after she thanked her coaches, friends and family, Winder sat down and made it official as she signed her Letter of Intent to play for the Pirates with her parents behind her and the North Library exploding into applause.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald